Friday, January 16, 2009


Women have body issues. It's just a fact. Every single one of us has something: that hair that appears on our chin, never noticed until it's 3 inches long, dark and disturbingly pubic in nature; the cellulite that formed on our thighs before we could legally drink; the weight we carry in our asses or our bellies or our thighs or our tits, always wishing we were carrying it in any other spot. Tall, thin, gorgeous women feel gangly and their limbs unwieldy (or so I'm told). Short women feel dumpy, frumpy and often lumpy. And regardless of how much they pay for that perfect, sassy haircut that everyone loves, every woman on earth has issues with their hair. I'm sure of it.

I am not immune. I definitely have my issues. My mother and (ex)stepfather found it amusing at 14 to talk about how big my ass was. "You could show movies on that thing!" It wasn't cruel - you don't make it in our family without withstanding merciless teasing - but I don't think they realized how formative those years are, how delicate self-esteem is at that age, and so I still, at more than twice that age, feel self conscious about my bottom. Thank god my husband is an ass man.

But all things considered I have a fairly healthy bodily self-image. I gained more than 20 pounds between meeting my husband and marrying him. I didn't love the weight, but I did love eating and laziness and therefore was never driven to do anything about the growing waistline and never resisted the increase in pants size. I have on numerous occasions gone from nipple-obscuring-length hair to a Winonna-esque pixie with one snip of the scissors. Just 2 weeks after losing my twins I walked into a hairdresser I'd never seen and told him to give me a drastic change - whatever he wanted, just something different. Hair grows back, this I know, and I treat it as such. I've watched my boobs go from B-cups to Cs and enjoyed the change, and was equally unfazed when those Cs shriveled to As, simply taking up the banner of small chested women everywhere. My body is simply that: a body. It isn't me and I'm not it.

That is, apparently, until that body no longer belonged to just me. Now that I'm being inhabited by another being (eek!) I'm finding that changes I expected to embrace are sometimes difficult to take. I love my belly. I embrace my belly. Even when the baby was the size of a poppy seed, but my abdomen was so bloated I looked like a stereotypical Ethiopian child, I loved my belly. But the first time I glanced in the mirror and noticed that my pert, perky boobs were suddenly looking sad and forlorn - literally downcast - I felt a surprising sting. I had known that motherhood would bring changes and that the breasts I'd recognized would be lost forever, but I expected those changes to happen while breastfeeding or after weaning. I didn't know that staring at my tits at 12w I would be shocked by how matronly they'd become. And it's an image I still haven't adjusted to.

I'm not an idiot - I knew the numbers on the scale would grow, that my baby wasn't healthy if they didn't. But I didn't expect to flinch when seeing that growth flashing obnoxiously on the scale below me. Had I known this I would've given my OB a fully-clothed, shoe-wearing, post-pasta-eating pre-pregnancy weight by which she could track my gains. Never would I have provided her with my at-home weight, which has always been taken first thing in the morning, after peeing, before eating, butt-ass naked. Because when I hear her say I've gained X pounds I have to restrain myself from pointing out that my shoes must account for at least 3 of those.

And when my mother told me, at 17w, that I was starting to waddle? Well, I don't care how steely your self-esteem, no one gets past the word "waddle" without cringing.

I thought I would be different; I thought I was an earth-mother. I expected to embrace bodily changes like the changing of the season. I thought I'd be proud of pregnancy acne and feel womanly in my spreading hips, but even I can't revel in nipples the size of dinner plates (regardless of the fact that come June they will serve as just that). I love my baby and I genuinely love being pregnant. But I've come to realize that you'd have to be a saint to love your stretch marks.

Oh god...stretch marks. I'd better learn to embrace my new reality or it's going to be a long 5 months...

Saturday, January 10, 2009

sins of the father

I've been told my entire life that I look exactly like my mother. (Well, except that one time when I was about 12 and went for an exceptionally bold and very short haircut and was mistaken by one of my dad's oldest friends for my brother. Oh, the scarring, how it is permanent.) I realize that my mom has always been a very attractive woman, even now at 54 keeping in great shape and never without lipstick just a shade too bright. And yet I've always found myself slightly doubting of our physical similarities, regardless of how blatant they are.

However, when looking at baby pictures of the two of us I am happy to acknowledge that we're nearly identical. Full lips, big, smiling eyes, a self confidence that's obvious even from toddler-hood. I see those faces, nearly indistinguishable, and see girls full of promise and joy and I don't deny that we were similar not only in bone structure but in outlook. Obvious innocence. A clear belief that the world was ours to discover. And so I am forced to conclude that my reluctance to accept the undeniable family resemblance has nothing to do with my disbelief or unwillingness to see the similarities, but rather my fear that the similarities run much deeper than our full pink lips.

My mom is a bold woman, determined, outspoken. I've admired her strength through 2 divorces, both of which were abusive (in different ways). I respect her insistence on speaking her mind and I commend her determination to stick it out once she makes up her mind. But sometimes, in speaking of those divorces (one to my father - a terrible husband but a great dad) she appears as a martyr. I can't help but see that when she speaks her mind she does so in a way that often disregards how the listener will receive that message - believing that sharing her opinion is more important than preserving the feelings of those she looks down upon from her pulpit. And her determination is sometimes just thinly veiled stubbornness; a refusal to accept her own faults and mistakes.

And I know that I too carry each of those strengths and every one of those burdens in my own gut. I can feel them. They're so heavy.

I believe that more often than not women find themselves wanting daughters (and men, sons) either because of or in spite of their own maternal relationships. It's usually clear that the new mom is intent on duplicating her own relationship with her own daughter or on wiping the slate clean and fixing the mistakes she feels she suffered at her own mother's hands. My mom, desperate for a girl when I was in utero, obviously had some perceived wrongs to right - she's told me as much growing up, priding herself on how different she was with me. But I hear her complaints about her mother and I feel as though a mirror is being held just inches from my own nose. But she would never see it. Never admit it.

I too have always wanted a daughter. Always. Always. But in all my soul searching, regardless of how deeply I've dug, I haven't been able to determine whether I hope to correct the mistakes she clearly made or whether I yearn for a similarly passionate and deep relationship with my own child. Simply stated, at 30 years old I still do not know if I love my mother or loathe her. But I've always known that I too, want the opportunity to have my daughter ask herself that same question someday, painful though I'm sure it would be for me to hear. It's a conflict that runs deep in many a woman's soul, I'm certain.

And so the universe has taken pity on me. Removed from the picture any fears of reliving the sins that were thrust upon me. The universe has, it appears, given my baby a penis.

I expected in that moment, when the pointy part was clear and we heard the ultrasound tech say "it's a boy!" to feel disappointment. I prepared myself for the inevitablity that I would need to adjust to the fact that I was looking at soccer balls rather than debutante balls. But I surprised myself when at those words I felt nothing but pride, joy and excitement about the little man growing in my womb. The world wasn't closed on me in that moment, my options weren't limited. I became a mom with a son who I loved.

In that moment I realized that my relationship with my mother isn't perfect. It's not ideal and it won't ever be. But it is full and it is fiery. It is enough.