Making Peace With My Body.

March 8, 2014 at 2:20 pm | Posted in Stuff Outta My Head, The End of Trying | 6 Comments

There is is again: The people who have gotten their Golden Tickets feel the exact same way I do.

Do you see? We’re not alone, any of us.

Even though I despair sometimes that we didn’t get to complete our family, it doesn’t mean that people who have completed theirs don’t have the very same thoughts I do.

We are all in this being human thing together, it seems.

______________

For those of you who have been reading me for a long time, it won’t surprise you when I tell you that infertility has done a number on my body image. First it was the fact that we couldn’t get pregnant. Then I got pregnant, and had a ton of stretchmarks. Then I lost weight.

It’s my midsection that has taken the brunt of the self hate over the years – unsurprising, really. When I look in a mirror, all I see are scars: stretched out skin, silver stretchmarks, loose belly… and broken, hateful uterus.

Needless to say, for the past, oh, 9 years, I’ve never shown my belly in public. There was one year I bought a bikini, but then chickened out every time we went to the beach. (Yes, that’s right, I never actually wore the bikini. And then the next season I donated it.)

Since having Lucky, I’ve lost 35lbs. I am in the best shape of my life. I still do not show my belly, no matter how hot the day I run. Just doesn’t happen.

So this winter has been hell on my joints and muscles. I’m cold, quite literally, all the time- it doesn’t matter how many layers I wear. My skin is dry and tight. I feel achy and creaky and stiff and cold and… well, OLD.

I miss warmth. I need HEAT.

Yesterday morning, I finally decided that it was time for me to warm up – and I went to a hot yoga class. I have done bikram yoga on and off now for the past 15 years, and I love it. It’s the same 26 poses in a 90+ degree room for 90 minutes. You sweat SOOOOOO much. It’s awesome.

Interestingly – despite the fact that I am cold ALL THE TIME – I have assimilated to the cold. Because when I first got into the room, it was suffocatingly warm. I started sweating almost immediately. I was dressed in biking shorts, a sports bra, and tank top… and I was worried I was going to overheat.

And as I sat there, I watched woman after woman come in, dressed only in sports bras and tiny shorts. With only a few minutes to spare, I decided, hell with it.

I took my tank top off.

There I was, in only a sports bra and tight spandex shorts. For the first few poses of the standing series, I felt naked. I alternatively wanted to avoid my eyes in the mirror, but could not stop looking at my gut. I had all sorts of awful thoughts: how wide it looked, how my stomach hung over the waistband of my shorts, how pale my skin was, how my thighs – even in marathon training – still rub together.

But then.

The thing about yoga is that you HAVE to be in the present; you have to focus on your muscles and breathing and the poses. And as our teacher led us through the rest of the class, I was sweating hard and felt my muscles and joints opening up and smoothing out. My aches and pains went away.

I was finally WARM.

And I can’t tell you the moment it changed… because I don’t even know what happened.

But. All of a sudden, looking at myself in the mirror didn’t embarrass me. It made me proud; to see where I’ve been. I might not be the most flexible one in the room. I have stretchmarks and extra fat and skin on my belly. I have a uterus that isn’t hospitable enough to give me another child. I have thighs that rub together.

But I also have muscles in places I never knew you could have muscles (with soreness today as proof!). I can run 10 miles comfortably, all at once. My husband and I share a love of cooking and good food. I carry my almost-6 year old upstairs every night because he “wants to snuggle.”  My uterus might not be hospitable enough to carry another baby, but it nutured my Lucky for 37 weeks and 2 days. This body fed that little boy exclusively for 6 months and gave him nourishment until he weaned at 9 months.

And you know something? I have spent too many years hating this body, watching myself in mirrors and critiquing the way an article of clothing fits; how it stretches over my belly and hangs in the butt and how my pants ride up over my calves that are too muscular to be classified as “skinny.”

It feels like I need to break this particular habit I have, of looking in a mirror and hating what I see. It’s LEARNED behavior, you see – years of telling myself I’d be happy if I just lost a few pounds and maybe then my belly wouldn’t be so poochy and I could walk along a beach in a bikini without feeling self-conscious.

Pretty much ever since puberty, I’ve not felt comfortable in this body of mine.

And it’s time to take it back.

So I spent 90 minutes without a shirt in a hot yoga class.

And I’m going to do it again next Friday.

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6 Comments »

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  1. I think everyone has a different Golden Ticket, and part of being human is we never really feel like we’ve nabbed it. Other people look at our lives, and maybe we have THEIR Golden Tickets, so they think we have it all, but meanwhile we still mostly see what we’re missing.

    I read an interview with the author of a new memoir that ties her life to George Eliot’s Middlemarch, and she talked about coming back to the book in mid-life, when 40 was approaching, and she was starting to realize that she couldn’t reinvent herself, that some doors were now forever closed.

    Everyone feels it.

    As for the hot yoga, I’m really proud of you. I wish you so much luck in embracing your body. It is so fucking hard to break out of the self-hatred loop that we are all programmed into by society. I say this as someone who is currently refusing to buy pants although I really really need them because I weigh five pounds more than a weight where I deem it acceptable for me to buy clothing- I am SO far away from body acceptance. I think I was actually best with my body when I was very pregnant (mid-second to third trimester) with E. because I was just so happy to be in that space and have things go well. I remember thinking I was still fat before we did that IVF, and when I look at the photos now, I was unbelievably skinny.

    I don’t know how to look in the mirror and not see a fat person looking back out at me. But I hope I’ll get there one day. You are on your way.

    xoxo

  2. I love love love this.

  3. I think Bikram yoga sounds like it would be great for sore muscles, but I overheat and faint pretty easily, so I’m never going to try it (I stopped counting after my seventh faint — my mom and her brother are fainters, too).

    I hate my C-section belly. My incision opened about a week postop because I picked up something heavy, and D had to repack it every day for 2 weeks. So it’s uneven on one side. And I hate, HATE how this affects my swimsuit wearing. I have some really cute bikinis that I’m far too self-conscious to wear. And swimsuit shopping is so depressing. Once I browsed for swimsuits with a gay male friend, and he was aghast at the ugly tankinis and one-pieces compared with the cute bikinis. My close friend who has had gastric bypass surgery has just had plastic surgery to repair the loose skin (also C-section belly), and SHE can wear bikinis, so I’m awfully jealous right now.

  4. Oh, friend, we are on the same wavelength (as you will see when I publish my upcoming post). It is SO freeing to just ‘be’ in the skin we are in. I think that bed rest began the paradigm shift that I am finally seeing now. I was SO envious of people who were up and around, walking of their own volition, doing whatever they wanted to be doing while I was remanded to bed. I never take actually getting up and moving for granted any more. And, as I have friends, younger than I, who are diagnosed with breast cancer, I really don’t.

    You ARE the amazing YOU!. Your body runs which gives you so much health and strength and determination (as someone who has tried to love running and just doesn’t, YOU have that golden ticket that I don’t and won’t and that is OK).

    The self loathing gets old and is completely unproductive. What is productive is posts like this and experiences like these that bring us closer to the physical self-acceptance we deserve as women, as mothers, as human beings.

    This weekend, I did two Cardio Barre classes. And, I usually never look around at anyone as I am so focused on breathing and my own form (so as not to hurt myself), but these two classes I did. And, as I looked at the much younger, much thinner women around me, clad in their coordinating Lululemon outfits, you know what? I KNOW that each one of them has their own albatross. It might not be body image or weight, but we ALL do.

    I LOVE you and can’t wait to have lost 35# myself, but I will get there when I get there.

  5. Self-loathing is an awful thing. While mine isn’t directed at my body, I’m angry at life for being so unfair and it feels so pointless to be angry at a nebulous thing. I end up just being angry and mean at/to everything/everyone (mostly my husband…)…which isn’t really helpful. I hope some day to feel the way you felt in that moment in bikram yoga….just accepting. It is what it is. Hating your body or life or the way things turned out won’t change anything. But, I’m not there yet.

    As a person outside your body, though…and not in your head….I can tell you that people look at you and see a fit, active person with rocking legs. :> One of the things I love about my crossfit gym is that all the women there are REAL. A lot of them are mothers with baggy bellies and a little extra padding and they are STRONG. So many runners are just skinny minnies with absolutely no fat and it is hard to compare yourself to those types of people. Don’t get wrappe dup into that runner’s mentality. I know that’s not the source of your emotion, but I think the bikram yoga women are good for you to see.

  6. Oh, I’ve had more than my share of body image issues over the years, too. I’ve always felt fat- even when I was under 100lb. Infertility certainly heightened my feelings of not being good enough, but like you, I now know that I can’t blame infertility for how I feel. Only I can make me feel this way. I desperately want to be able to let go of the insecurities, and I’m trying, but it’s a work in progress. I think it’s an amazing step to be able to take off that tank top in yoga class… Maybe I’ll get there someday. 🙂

    On a funny note- I’m totally ok with wearing a bikini. It’s jeans that I struggle with. That damned muffin top. No matter how hard I work, I can’t seem to get rid of it. Argh. You’re not alone.


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