I recently read an article on the Huffington Post by Emma Gray titled, “23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing.” Luckily, it was written by a woman because if a man tried to pull that off, the entire female readership of Huff Post would be hunting his ass down. But no, this was written by one of our own, so I think we owe it to ourselves to hear her out. A quick perusal of the article indicates that I’m doing many things wrong. For example, I have flagrantly and repeatedly done all of the following: apologized too much, obsessively untagged every unflattering photo of me that ever existed online, felt like an imposter when I’ve accomplished something in my professional life (it took me years to be able to refer to myself as a lawyer without smirking), held on to toxic friendships (of course I’m not talking about you) and complained about my body as part of my constant mental monologue and, out loud, to others.
This last infraction is a big one, especially for those of us who are the parents of girls. Much has been made recently about how a mother’s body image affects that of her children. I know I need to be better about not putting myself down in front of my kids and I’ve been making an effort to do so. However, Biggie and Smalls don’t read this blog (mainly because Mommy has a potty mouth) so I’m reserving the right to break the “rules” just this one time.
Many parents choose to celebrate their children by getting a tattoo in their honor. Now, it’s no secret that I have a few tattoos. So, occasionally, someone will ask me if I have a tattoo for my kids to which I invariably reply, “Hell, no!” Those two darling girls have already branded my body in so many different ways, I feel no need to give up any more real estate to them. And, luckily for you, dear reader, one of the things I do best (remind me to add this to my resume) is over-share. My natural inclination, when I’ve done something wildly embarrassing is to, first, swear I will never tell another living soul about it and then, second, immediately post it to Facebook. I just cannot hoard a good story, even at the risk of my own pride.
As most of you know, after having a child, no matter whether that child was conceived and carried by you or not, your body will never again be your own. At the very least, it will be subject to the opinions of, and a running commentary by, a tiny person who should just mind his or her own damn business. Which reminds me of a great story. My friend A, was once taking a shower with her daughter who was about 4 years-old at the time. Her daughter looked up, put a hand under each of my friend’s breasts and tapping them lightly as if she were trying to gently put them back into place said, “Can’t you get these things to stand up?”
So, in commemoration of my vow to stop publicly criticizing my body (trying to control my thoughts is a losing proposition), and in the spirit of Shit My Kids Ruined, here is an inventory of my body parts noting any damage caused wholly or in part by childbirth and motherhood. My feet are bigger and my legs are more veiny. The area north of my lady bits now bears a charming c-section scar, though I suppose that’s a fair trade off for not peeing on myself when I sneeze. The things I was hoping would get bigger (my not-at-all womanly hips and my flat butt…curse you, Dutch ancestors!) didn’t and the things I really didn’t want to get any bigger (my boobs) did. And, while my boobs didn’t shrivel up and fall off after a total of two years of breastfeeding as I had feared, like my friend A, they’re not exactly in the same position and it takes a little more effort (expensive bras) to get those things to stand up again!
My daughters also seem to feel that my body is here solely for their amusement. (My husband does too, but that’s a whole other topic.) The girls like to play with my boobs while I’m reading bedtime stories, jiggle my squishy belly and play “booty drums” on my arse. Seriously, it’s like having a never-ending unpleasant date with a handsy college kid.
Which brings me to the two parts of my body most profoundly changed by motherhood…my brain and my heart. As for my brain, well, let’s just say the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be. I walk into a room and promptly forget why I’m there, I have the concentration of a toddler, I can’t remember the names of people I see on a weekly basis and the stories I tell no longer necessarily contain a beginning, middle and end. I would describe a conversation with one of my other 40-something, mom friends as more of a dusty, unraveling tapestry than a road map. Granted, some of these things may be due in part to entering my 40s, but since these changes began at the same time as my first pregnancy, this is my story and I’m sticking to it. When this mental downward slide began, I mentioned my concern about it to my psychiatrist. He told me not to worry, that I was a busy mother of two young children and a swiss-cheese brain was just a natural side effect. This gave me no comfort until he said, “If you’re aware that your mind is a little fuzzy and you forget things, all is well. It’s when you start forgetting the things you’ve forgotten, then it’s time to worry.” Luckily, I’m fully aware that I’ve become a bumbling idiot. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.
It is, however, my heart that has taken the most shrapnel in the process of becoming a mother. My favorite quote about parenthood is “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” (Elizabeth Stone) It is the absolute best possible description of the transformation that occurred the moment I became a mother. Like my stomach, my heart is now squishier and, like most of the rest of my body, my daughters have claimed complete ownership of it. I am no longer the pragmatic law student who could help defend a medical malpractice case involving a baby without blinking an eye and even just the trailer of a movie about a child abduction now has me running to the lobby for more popcorn. My newly squishy heart is also the cause of the Seven-Year War between it and my brain over whether to go back to work and seek my fortune out in the “real world” or stay home and bathe in every wonderful, maddening, hilarious, heartbreaking, mundane moment of motherhood.
All I can say is that, as the years fly by and my body becomes more and more of a science experiment, I will do my very best to give it the honor and respect that it deserves. And if I ever hear of Emma Gray of the Huffington Post complaining about those extra 10 pounds or mentioning her budding jowls and chin hairs, that bitch is going to have some explaining to do. (Sorry to call you a bitch, Emma. I’m not a “professional” writer and sometimes I stoop to using expletives when I’m at a loss for words. I hope we can be friends.)