Around this time two years ago, I went on a girls trip. My daughter was six months old, the same age my son is now. I was uncomfortable in my skin that weekend, none of my clothes fit right and I had a bad haircut trying to cover the frizzy post-partum hair growth. I thought I hid my emotions well while I was with my friends. I busied myself as the hostess, I made jokes and laughed with everyone. But when I got home, I looked through the pictures and I burst into tears. I didn't look like myself. The conflict and fatigue was written all over my face in every photograph. My shoulders were slumped in the candids, as if making myself physically smaller could hide the turmoil within.
I remember making an appointment at the salon and saying to my stylist that I needed something new and fresh, that I was feeling ugly. I knew even then that it wasn't about the hair.
By the fall, my clothes felt a little better and I had made peace with my bangs. I went to a wedding, then a reunion, then a movie premiere, and I knew I was doing okay. Looking back now I can see that in the spring I was still feeling the effects of pregnancy, delivery, and everything that comes after that. I give that Laura in May 2010 a lot of grace.
May of 2012 feels like deja vu. My baby is just half a year old. I am uncomfortable with my body and my emotions. Things are a little better, this second time around. I understand myself and my hormones a little more. But many days I still don't feel exactly myself.
It's not about a number - I have never owned a scale. It's not really about things sagging or widening or lines appearing overnight. When I was much younger, I would read magazines and there would be a woman who was thirty-something, and she'd had a few kids, and she was lamenting her body changes or her face creases. And I thought, "Well what in the world does she expect? She's getting older and life is taking its toll. It's not rocket science, lady." Now here I am, similarly surprised by nature.
I wish that the simultaneous messages of "getting your body back after baby" and "embracing your curves" didn't fight each other all day in the media and in my mind. I hate feeling shallow enough to want both. I wish that "life is short, have a brownie" and "your body is a temple" were on the same side of the argument. Maybe they are, if I twist them just so.
The line is fuzzy on whether motherhood changed my appearance or time did. There are a lot of things that are blurrier than they used to be. From experience, I know that time will balance my hormones and balm the sharpest parts of my heart.
Time, the same thing that is working against me is also working with me.