I often joke about my uterus deserving a participation trophy: it tried, bless it, but it really wasn’t totally up to the task. My first child, though term, was so small that he was barely on the growth chart (he was, and is, developmentally fine – he was just small for gestational age). My second pregnancy lasted eleven weeks and one day. My third time, I made it to 31 weeksbefore delivering two babies, by dramatic emergency c section, whose combined weight was less than my first child.
I have stretch marks, but because all my children were so small, I don’t have the dramatic diastasis recti or saggy skin on my stomach that is the aftermath of a healthier twin pregnancy. I’ve mostly lost the weight I gained and am at the same weight now as when I first got pregnant. I don’t really have much to complain about, really.
Of course that’s not stopping me. I have recently stopped breastfeeding so the last hope I had of blaming the babies is over and I am coming to final, depressing terms with my body. This is what I’ve got. It works. I can run and jump and swim and dance, and I so grateful for that. But when I do any of those things, I shake and jiggle and flop, and that’s a little harder to appreciate.
I went to get fitted for a bra recently, because my shape has changed in my post-breastfeeding life. The woman assigned to do my fitting told me, with a sour face, that my breast tissue was wide, wrapping around my rib cage more than most women’s. And I wanted to snap ‘yes, I know, they’re pancakes. Now get me a damn bra that fits anyway!’
She brought me a few options, including a hilariously awful old-lady bra in hot pink (so bad I sent a pic to my sister with the caption ‘fml.’) In the end, though, I bought a sports/yoga bra and ran out of the shop; a different woman at the checkout said ‘oh these are brilliant – though of course you can’t wear them during the day’
And I wanted to weep with frustration. Even worse, I have worn it exclusively since – I don’t have a *better* option.
I had thought in the past that I might like to get plastic surgery. Thirty-four is too young to be done feeling happy with your body, and all the cardio in the world isn’t going to change the fact that I breastfed three kids. When I think about it now, I tell myself that as a mother of daughters I need to set an example, but really I’m just too cheap and pain-averse to do it, not to mention too lazy. And my husband thinks I’m being ridiculous, which is…good, I guess? He says ‘You don’t have teenager breasts. You’re not a teenager!’
In the last few days, my son has taken to saying ‘silly old mummy!’ – a phrase he learned from Winnie the Pooh. When I told him I didn’t feel old, he said that I was objectively old and I should get used to it (I paraphrase). Maybe my discomfort with my body is an outgrowth of the fact that I may not be objectively old but I am objectively middle-aged and that, well, sucks. I don’t want to be a teenager, but I don’t love watching my body deteriorate either.
I spent a lot of time wishing that I could have carried my girls longer: every extra day, we clawed back the chance of infant mortality or cognitive impairment. Extra baby weight or diastasis recti was a small price to pay for a diminishing chance of major developmental delays. My medical team was thrilled that we got to 31 weeks, but I still wish I could have done better, even a year later, when everything seems to have turned out fine. It doesn’t keep me up at night anymore, but if I could trade my physical presentation for my daughter’s health, obviously there’d be no choice. Since that is a given, I feel guilty that I have spent so much time in the last few months being frustrated with something I can’t change and wouldn’t want to anyway. If given the opportunity, I’d want exactly the kids I have and I’d want to breastfeed them again, and if pancake breasts are the price, well. That’s that, isn’t it?
BUT SERIOUSLY I wish I could have it both ways. Surely that’s not too much to ask.