Vanity Fair ran an article about Marilyn Monroe, in which she was quoted as saying:
“There isn’t anybody that looks like me without clothes on.”
I don’t know if she was being existential, ironic, or just plain silly, but I thought about this quote for months. I’ve adopted it as my new motto of empowerment on those days when I feel not-so-awesome.
I have obsessed about my weight since I was eleven. I’m not going to get into all of the years of disordered eating and self-loathing in this post, but when I look back on photos of myself, I can’t believe I thought there was anything wrong with me. I was a fox– long, lean, lithe, and curvy in just the right places. I could shimmy into tons of really cute clothes, and heads would turn.
These days, you could describe me as “pillowy” rather than “willowy”. I’m not one of those lucky women who lost all their baby weight breast feeding. My body feels the need to hold on to all its fat stores until after baby weans. Also, I was not one of those women who’s breasts shrivel up to half their pre-baby size after nursing. Mine remained a DDD cup, which would have been awesome if my husband were a boob man, but he recently said to me, “Don’t be gross; boobs are for babies,” when I asked him if he noticed the unholstered rack on a woman who passed us by. It is good that my hips and ass are in proportion to my gigantic jugs, because he likes those just fine.
My pregnancy with Jack passed with nary a stretch mark, but in my last trimester with Emily, I looked in my mirror to see my belly button surrounded by a spiral of stretch marks. The pink whorls were hideous, fascinating and hypnotic. Since having Em, they have changed to a silvery shadow around my navel, a translucent tie-dye. I could slather vitamin oil onto them to make them fade into obscurity, but I actually contemplated having them tattooed. I’ve grown to love these delicate fingerprints of my final pregnancy.
It’s normal for women to grieve the loss of their pre-baby body. I went through all the stages of grief– denial, anger, depression, bargaining– before I got to self-acceptance.
While watching me button my jeans the other day, Jack stated, “Mama, you have a big, big belly.” Then he wrapped his arms around me and nuzzled said big belly. At 12 months, Emily is still passionately nursing, and worships my body as a shrine of sorts. I am a place where my children snuggle, snack, and climb. To them, I am warm and safe, a place of comfort and sweetness.
So, if my husband and children can accept and love my body, why can’t I? I would like to have a bit more core strength so that my back didn’t feel quite so elderly, and I always want to make sure that my heart and body are in good health. But, ugh, I really would rather go for a brisk walk with Em in her stroller than pound it out at the gym. I see moms who spend hours in the gym and they look ahh-maze-ing for it. I really respect and admire their discipline, but I’ve gotten to the point where firm abs and buns just aren’t a priority for me.
Marilyn died alone in a nearly unfurnished room. By most accounts, she was unhappy and lonely, despite being the most admired sex-symbol in the world. She fought a war within herself of depression and was reported to have wild weight fluctuations because of anti-psychotic medication. From these facts, I deduce that fame, fortune, and a 20 inch waist can’t buy you love or joy.
My body is ahh-maze-ing in its own way. It created two gorgeous, perfect babies, then nourished them with warm, sweet milk. Mine is a body that is loved, cherished even. There isn’t anyone in the world who looks like me without their clothes on, and I have the stretch marks to prove it.