My husband was on call on Sunday and would be working all day and far into the night, so I’d made plans to pop some popcorn and join millions of others and tune into the Oscars once the girls were asleep. I figured I might also do some free weights and fold some laundry while stargazing. I’m really out of the pop culture loop lately, so I didn’t even know who the big contenders were. Nor have I ever been the kind of person to throw Oscar parties or to even watch the entire red carpet event. My husband and I have watched bits and pieces in the past, but I can’t remember the last time I watched the whole thing from start to finish (college maybe?).
The main reason I wanted to watch it last night is because of the fashion. I’m a sucker for those glitzy dresses, the piles of curls, the flashy gemstones, the false eyelashes, and the shoes – oh, the glorious shoes. All that glamour in one place, the bright flashes of color and the sparkles – there’s something magical about it all.
But sometimes there’s something disheartening about it, too. Gathered together are all these perfect, beautiful women – a handful of them naturally that way and others who have literally bought their looks whether by investing in a home cook and personal trainer or resorting to plastic surgery or self-imposed starvation – and I’m tempted think that this kind of physical perfection is the norm, and there’s something wrong with me. Even when I’m above all that, this much is obvious: There’s a premium price to pay to be that beautiful.
Yesterday I woke up feeling frumpy and then grumpy. At just over 13 weeks pregnant, none of my regular clothes are fitting me well anymore, but maternity clothes don’t look right either yet. I feel like I’m going to burst out of the seams of everything. My husband keeps commenting on how he loves my new curves. This is the first pregnancy where I feel like I’ve really popped out all over (even my arms seem softer and less defined somehow).
At my most recent prenatal appointment, I started to complain to my midwife, but just hearing my vanity spill out in words when I was so grateful for this healthy pregnancy prompted me to quickly apologize, too. She knows my eating disorder history. It’s very important to be open with your provider about these things. My midwife doesn’t require regular weigh-ins from me because she’s seen how my typically low blood pressure shoots up just at the thought of stepping on the scale. She’s very sensitive to my irrational thoughts and past and understands that once you’ve had an eating disorder and a distorted way of looking at yourself and your body, it’s always with you. Most of the time after you’ve found recovery, you’re at peace with your body, but pregnancy is a time of great change and sometimes the physical, hormonal, and emotional changes can tap into that forgotten part of yourself who made your body and your weight a god to be worshiped, thinness a goal to be pursued with evangelical fervor.
After I apologized for being so ridiculous, she smiled and told me to stop being so hard on myself and that we all have demons who keep coming back to haunt us. Then she reminded me that with my past two pregnancies I was throwing up daily (I wasn’t sick much at all with my first). This time, while I’ve still felt strong waves of nausea, especially later in the evening, I haven’t been throwing up as much (just a few times a week), so the weight gain has been more steady. This is a good, healthy thing. This is a sign of new life being knit within me.
But it’s still not easy for me. I especially hate the in between stage of pregnancy when you don’t quite look pregnant and people might just think you need to lay off the potato chips. Then again, I remind myself over and over how many women who are dealing with infertility or who have suffered from multiple miscarriages would give anything to have a bigger bum, a thicker waistline, and/or vanishing ankles if it only meant they could carry a child and hold him in their arms one day.
So suck it up (and suck it in), Kate, and stop your complaining, your grasping for control. Let go of the number on the scale. Let go of this absorption in self.
Given some of my negative body thoughts on Sunday morning, I wondered if watching delicious eye-candy parade across my television screen would be the best decision for me. It was such a perfect day here – a blue sky dappled with clouds and warm sunshine. There was even a hint of humidity, and it’s only February! So here’s what I decided to do instead of taking in all those perfect starlets. The girls and I visited Nana and Pop and brought Pop a little care package since he has surgery today (keep him in your prayers, please) for a recurring case of diverticulitis. Then we came home and had quiet time. For dinner, we ate sandwiches outside in our backyard and then played with the dog. The sunshine and warm air loosened our limbs and freed me from thoughts about tight pants and a behemoth behind. After dinner, I nursed sweet Mary Elizabeth to sleep with my body, my beautiful, life-giving, and life-nurturing body.
Then I invited the older girls into the bed with me. I still popped that bag of popcorn, but I ate it along with my girls in a big, comfy bed while reading stories in a dim light.
We ended our bedtime routine talking about God and reading a simple book that encourages children to be in awe of all of creation – from the smallest ant climbing on a blade of grass to the glowing sun. All of this was created by God because God is good and God is love. And so are we. But unlike the smattering of stars across the night sky or the dancing butterflies, we share in His image. We are beautiful. We are good. We are lovely in every way no matter how we look on the outside.
After we read together and prayed, I cuddled close to my children, and I went to sleep at peace with my life and at peace with myself.
This morning I knew I made the right decision. My body may not share the measurements of a Hollywood star. My life is not a show-stopping, glamorous one, but it is magical all the same.