By Danielle Gambino
To my husband, after I’ve had babies,
Can you remember the time we took that vacation. To a tropical island. We joked and laughed and drank fruity frozen cocktails. I wore a bikini and we had sex in the middle of the afternoon. It seems like forever ago. Before my stretch marks and C-section scar. Before I worried all the time about whether or not our babies ate enough vegetables and if they were going to sleep through the night. I can almost remember the confidence I had. Just yanking off my pool dress. Tossing it on the chair like I never needed it.
I cling to that pool dress now. Like my life depends on it, I cling to that dress. Just like I cling to the memories of that vacation. Of how I felt so free and comfortable in my own skin. My skin feels different now. Almost unrecognizable. Like I am stuck in someone else’s body. Someone whose body is out of control. Mood swings. Loose skin Hot, then cold, no hot. Very, very hot. Stretch marks. Whose body am I wearing? Why are they so hormonal? Where is my fruity cocktail???
I didn’t expect these changes. Honestly. I thought I would bounce back. I was young!
I was supposed to give birth and hit the beach the next month. I wasn’t supposed to look like this. Or feel like this. I was supposed to look like I was 24 again. The same girl who you dated for years before we got pregnant. The girl who never cared if we left the lights on. That girl never came back. She took my confidence. She ran with my flat stomach. She took all the good parts of me and now she’s gone.
And so I cringe. I cringe sometimes when you try to touch me. When you walk into the bathroom after I shower I panic. Don’t look. Don’t see me like this. I feel so different now. So shy and unsure of myself.
I see all those confident moms proud of their “stripes” and of how they look post-partum, but I feel embarrassed. I feel uncomfortable in the body that I was left with. After the two pregnancies. After waking up three times a night for months at a time. Each time eating a cookie on the way to the nursery because it made me feel better. And I deserved to at least feel a little better if I was missing out on all that sleep.
I was left with a body that won’t fit in any of my designer jeans. Jeans that now crowd the corner of my closet. Jeans that I won’t give away because I still have faith in myself. I still pray that the old me comes back. Maybe I’ll wake up one day and see her in the mirror. With her wrinkle-free forehead and perky boobs.
So meet the post-partum me. Two times over. This is how I feel.
But you? You tell me otherwise. Day in and day out, you tell me how beautiful I am. How you don’t even see the extra 15 lbs. You turn your head when I eat the entire bag of potato chips. You never judge me. Never speak a word of my mood swings. You love me just the same. If not more. You have the confidence in me that I lost. You carefully push me to be the best version of myself. This new version of myself. And so I have to wonder. If you can love her…why can’t I?
So that’s where I’m at. Trying to love myself once again.
Trying to make this new person the best person. Trying to accept the different parts of me and to appreciate my body for what it has done. It isn’t easy for me. I’ll be honest. It is hard for me to accept these changes but I am going to try.
And so I thank you. For loving me. No matter what I look like or how I feel. Thank you for always thinking I am the prettiest. The best. The sexiest. Even when I don’t feel like it. I am going to work hard on loving myself the way that you love me. Because the way you love me is the greatest way of all.
**This post appeared originally on Mini’s Mama blog.