Thursday, October 04, 2007

Get ready for this jelly

I'm getting hips. And boobs.

Or maybe I should say they're making a reappearance. They did appear once before--briefly--in my late 20s. That was when I got my first office job, and I gained about 25lbs. I was heavier then than I'd ever been in my life, and than I'd ever be again--until this pregnancy.

I hated those extra 25lbs. If there were a way to sneak up on extra weight and throttle it, I would've done it with a clear conscience. I whined and moaned and cried when people commented on it. (Yes, there are people out there who feel it's their duty to comment on your physical features. See, I was raised to believe that you can compliment people, but you must never, ever comment on their appearance. It's insensitive and can be so hurtful.)

The truth of it, though, was that I'd become a slothful lazyass and I was eating like a hog. It wasn't the fat being mean to me; it was my own damn fault.

When I clued into that reality, I realized that my body was completely under my control. I just had to retake the reins. So I started running again and toned down the pigouts. I lost the 25 lbs in about 6 months and kept it off for 5 years, until about 3 months ago in fact.

For my post-chub years, it hasn't been about "being skinny." It has been about being strong and healthy and not feeling like I am carrying 10 wet blankets on my back all the time. In taking control of my body, I started to love and appreciate my body in a way that I thought was only possible in infomercials and New Age cults. I started to love the spider veins, even. Because my body is strong and still pretty agile for its age. Because it lets me do things like run up stairs or hills without being winded. Just as important, it's how I see myself in my mind's eye and who I believe myself to be, physically speaking.

So now I'm carrying a baby. I've had to accept the fact that I'll gain back those 25lbs I hated so much. I've already gained about 3lbs (whoop-dee-doo), but anyone who's been pregnant knows that it's the accompanying loosening of the ligaments that makes you feel chubby earlier. And the gassy bloating. Your brain sends out muscle-relaxing hormones so that your uterus and abdomen and intestines can stretch to phenomenal proportions to accommodate the baby.

My boobs alone have probably added at least one of those 3lbs to my weight. This, I am having trouble adjusting to. I must admit, I don't really like having knockers. Knockers are always there, leading you around, pre-announcing your arrival, distracting gas station attendants, etc. It rubs against my predilection for understatement.

My hip bones are widening. I've got an extra little layer of fat forming on them. I'm getting curves; something I don't normally have much of. My waist has gone on vacation.

But you know what? I'm okay with all of this. A pregnant body is beautiful, end of. There's something in those curves that makes humanity smile on a visceral level. Because we know we all came from one of these bodies.

But what about the postpartum body? It's part of where we came from too. It's the collection of battle scars we left on our mothers--de-perkified boobs, permanently widened hips, maybe that mommy innertube that just never goes away. How do "we" as a society treat that body? Not particularly well. In fact, we're really hard on that body, aren't we?

And some women are even encouraged to cut into that body, suck out its fat, bloat it with silicone, slice off its folds. This article from today's talks about the "mommy job"--a newish genre of plastic surgery where mommies are encouraged just after giving birth to go under the knife to rid themselves of these pesky battle scars and go back to the body they had in their youth.

I'll admit that I was starting to fall into the "Oh God please don't let this baby make me fat" mindset. I get worry lines when I consider my rump in the mirror each morning. I totally understand the terrifying prospect of a permanently changed figure. I am as much a member of our society's impossible cult of youth and physical perfection as the next person.

So I hesitate to judge, and yet, if I'm honest, it just doesn't make logical sense to me to cut oneself to fit an impossible mold. Isn't the mold the problem? Shouldn't we be attacking the mold?

I read quotes like this from a mommy job recipient, and I'm very disturbed:

"There is more pressure on mothers today to look young and sexy than on previous generations, she added. “I don’t think it was an issue for my mother; your husband loved you no matter what,” said Ms. Birkland, who recently remarried."


Is she saying that husbands today won't love their wives "no matter what"...especially when the "what" is a postpartum body?

Maybe instead of going for "breast implant surgery, a tummy tuck on her lower abdomen and liposuction of her upper abdomen," Ms. Birkland should've just slapped her ex-husband. With the extra mommy weight behind it, it would've been a good hard slap.

But when I read quotes like this one by Ms. Birkland's plastic surgeon, I start to understand the mindset behind mommy jobs:

“The severe physical trauma of pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding can have profound negative effects that cause women to lose their hourglass figures [...] Twenty years ago, a woman did not think she could do something about it and she covered up with discreet clothing...But now women don’t have to go on feeling self-conscious or resentful about their appearance.”

"Severe physical trauma of pregnancy, childbirth and [most confusingly] breast-feeding" ???

I mean, I've had some gas and, well yes, I'll admit it...I've been constipated, okay? And I've had all-day morning sickness for weeks on end. But that's not the same as being run over by a Mack truck, which is what I think of when I read the term "severe physical trauma". As for the "severe physical trauma" of breastfeeding--? Unless you give birth to a fully toothed vampire, I don't understand how it could be characterized this way.

He's pathologizing weight gain. That's all it is. He's turning a natural part of the childbearing process into a hideous disease so that he can prey on the "victims" and get rich. It's shameful.

Boobs sag, whether you have a baby or not. It's what they do. And by the way, even fake boobs sag. The skin sags around the implants, and it's not pretty. Scrotums sag too, you know. We just don't show those around in public, normally. It's called gravity.

Midsections thicken, whether you have a baby or not. Butts spread like baking bread. It's ageing. It's natural. It's normal. It's not "severe physical trauma." It's not a spouting head wound, for God's sake.

After I have my baby, I'll be chubby for a while. And the world will just have to be ready for my jelly. And I'll have to be ready for it too. And I may even need to embrace it and give it a permanent home. Because I'm setting an example for my child. And I don't want him or her to grow up thinking that procreating and getting older are unnatural.

I don't mean to sound self-righteous or anything; it's just that the "spirit" of our culture makes me so scared for my child sometimes. We seem to be going so horribly astray. I hope that by refusing to hate my body, or speak of it as though it were an awful diseased thing, I'm helping fight that derailment just a little.

Thanks for listening to my rant.

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