17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Fatter Than Barbie, Stronger Than Ken

Where did all of the body issues that plagued my teens and early 20s go? Here I am ... down from my post-pregnancy weight, but no longer my 18-year-old toned and trim self ... yet I feel 100000% better about my body.

I have some theories on my body-image metamorphosis:

(1) My DH has brainwashed me into believing I am thin enough and sexy enough. Where did I go wrong when I picked him?

(2) Maturity and age. I'm too old and tired to diet and too smart to know that, unless I plan to drink Slim Fast or eliminate carbs for the rest of my life, the weight will just come back anyways.

(3) My feminist self has deconstructed our society's prolific objectification of women to the point where I no longer feel the desire to conform to unrealistic and highly subjective expectations about how the female body should look (Thanks FMH!).

Probably a little from all of the above. However, more than anything I think I conquered most of my body issues through birthing my two sons.

A quick disclaimer: I'm not a die-hard natural birth advocate. I would say I advocate having babies any way that works for all those involved - whether it be via vagina, via c-section or via cross-country plane trip.

I found giving birth as liberating as it was painful. I know this is not every woman's experience, but it was mine. My first son arrived seven weeks premature. By the time his little head was crowning, there were no less than 12 doctors and nurses in my labor room, within full-range view of my vagina. You think after enduring all of the indecencies of labor I am going to worry about a few stretch marks or miss an otherwise memorable day at the beach over some back-thigh cellulite? No way!

Not only was birthing my children liberating...it was EMPOWERING! My BODY found the strength to push out these little live beings. I am naturally a very physical person. I love to work out...to push my body beyond its comfortable limits. I spent most of my teen years in a gym playing basketball and I was an avid skier and distance runner in college. None of those experiences compared to the physical intensity of giving birth. I once heard labor described as "running a marathon and having an orgasm at the same time." My babies came fast, so my experience is better summed up as an 800 meter sprint....but otherwise I love the comparison.

So now that I've exposed my stretch marks, my cellulite and my birthing experiences in way too much detail....I'd love to hear what experiences have helped YOU appreciate your own bodies....


  • I hear ya sista!
    My self-esteem and self-image is SO much better now that I have given birth. They dont tell you that in all those books. I hope its the same for everyone else, cause being a mother is hard enough without worringing about the spare tire that little jr. left behind!
    posted by Blogger ksl at 2/27/2006 06:16:00 AM  

  • Great Post! My friend claims the reason I feel better about my body is because I have boys and she heard that you actually burn more calories by gestating boys. I don't know about her fact, but I do know I am small and non-athletic person, so just as you said giving birth was EMPOWERING and allowed me to experience the wonder of my physical strength (I delivered a posterior baby with two nurses sitting on top of me pushing on my poor belly). I also think that being pregnant makes you realize how nice your normal body really is, you start to appreciate your original bladder, size, and shape. I would also add an adoring DH and yoga has helped me to appreciate my amazing body.
    posted by Blogger Tri Mama at 2/27/2006 07:55:00 AM  

  • Jen

    I totally agree. giving birth to all three of my children was incredibly empowering. I spent far too long hating my body, but I learned to love it, to see what it can do, carry my babies, birth my babies, feed my babies. And I can be a mother to these choice spirits.

    Yes, exercising (running, weights and yoga), eating healthy and having a husband who loves my body too, helps my self worth too. Great post!
    posted by Blogger Mary Siever at 2/27/2006 08:07:00 AM  

  • AMEN and AMEN...

    I was blessed with generous amounts of metabolism. I don't think I ever "exercised" until college. Then the babies came and WHOOSH!! Metabolism was swept out the door.

    But at the same time, I love lying in bed at night, and tracing my stretch marks with my fingers --(kind of how I traced my big pregnant belly during those long nine months) --and remember how wonderful it was to give birth.

    I will never forget that feeling I had when I saw my baby for the first time. That overwhelming "I-can't-believe-this-is-really-happening-and-I-just-love-it!" feeling. What's even better is that I felt it with all 3 births, as different as they were.

    Dh loves me no matter what --yes, this helps, too.. ;)

    Oh, and cc --I agree with the yoga part. The fact that I can hold a pose at my weight makes me realize that it's not just about the numbers...
    posted by Blogger Cheryl at 2/27/2006 11:42:00 AM  

  • I would say having health issues.
    posted by Blogger Susan M at 2/27/2006 01:32:00 PM  

  • Best Blogpost Title Ever.
    posted by Blogger Allison at 2/27/2006 05:20:00 PM  

  • I've expressed this before but will do it again. Baby #1 came out with epidural and all that...Baby #2 with no medicine. The difference between the two was astounding. So empowering to do it naturally. I am forever altered. I can be and do ANYthing.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 2/27/2006 05:46:00 PM  

  • I guess my experience is similar to those who mentioned yoga, but for me it was bellydancing. I took classes for a year starting when #1 was 3 months old. Seriously, it was the best thing ever for my self-image. In my class there were women of all ages, shapes and sizes and they were all there to shake what God gave 'em. It was awesome!

    Also, in the "folk" world of bellydancing, having some junk in the truck and some flab on the abs makes you a better and more entertaining dancer. It's quite refreshing after the glorified 'rexic world we live in. And like yoga, I think the physical mastery played a big part in shaping a healthy self-image as well.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 2/27/2006 08:19:00 PM  

  • This is a great post. Thanks for linking to it in my comments. I do read you guys but I've been falling further and further behind and reading fewer and fewer blogs lately. By the way, I think you guys have the best blog title on the internet.

    I am WAY more comfortable with my body now than I was in college. I actually like my body better now than I did when I was 40 lbs lighter in high school. Having a husband constantly telling you how hot you are definitely helps with this and I never considered the birth thing, but it is a huge accomplishment and everything about being a mother/eatingdevice/junglegym has taught me more about how versatile and amazing my body is.
    posted by Blogger The Daring One at 2/27/2006 09:54:00 PM  

  • Sadly, I cannot agree with this post on any level. I have NEVER had confidence about my body, and my self esteem is ten times worse since having babies. When you combine the obvious pounding that your body takes with pregnancy and compound it by looking back and realizing how hot your body once was. It sucks! Go figure, I used to actually complain about my body then... Oh the irony. And to top it all off, giving birth was not empowering for me at all. I think my experience really messed me up actually. I am so envious of women that feel the way you all do. Because I wanted that, I was looking forward to that. I didn't get to have them naturally, I feel cheated. I feel as though I missed out on those wonderful feelings that you all have expressed. I certainly feel empowered as a mother, but not enough obviously to get over my body issues. I wake up every morning hoping to look at my stomach and it will have flattened during the night and I will have lost 10 more pounds. I didn't realize how screwed up I was until reading this... Anyone with me????
    posted by Blogger Zinone at 2/28/2006 09:34:00 AM  

  • Z-I get the whole: "I can't believe I used to complain about my body" thing. I had an epiphany about that once...it might have been on this site...I think someone commented about how it's all downhill from here...so I have tried to appreciate my youthfulness a little more. And I think that self esteem is ultimately NOT about what you look like b/c it is something deeper...way deep inside. We have all heard the story of the supermodel that loathes herself...so it really isn't about the appearance of our bodies at the end of the day. Perhaps that is why giving birth for many is so life-changing b/c it is arguably probably the most out-of-whack ("ugliest") time of our life, and yet we somehow (sometimes) FINALLY accept ourselves. Z, maybe you should focus on how amazing it is that your body can grow a baby and then feed that baby...and ignore the "how the baby got out" part.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 2/28/2006 11:14:00 AM  

  • kage, i think you're talking about annegb's post on MMW a couple of months back - it was a great one.

    zinone, my heart aches reading your comment. I write this as a woman with incredibly low self-esteem, so I understand where you're coming from. But it hurts me to read your words because you are such an incredibly beautiful woman - outside AND in. You're someone I admire greatly, and not because you're traffic-stopping-gorgeous - that's not an admirable quality, that's a resentable quality :-) - but because you are generous beyond generous, fun, talented, loyal, and a person I'm glad to have in my life. I was never one for a good body image, and not having pushed out a baby myself (c-section sistah) I didn't get that same rush that Jen and kage and cc and so many others talk about here. But I was amazed (like kage mentioned) that I could actually GROW A PERSON and keep that person alive from my own body. Completely weirded out and even a little grossed out, but amazed as well. So the fact that I have a belly that doesn't seem to go away no matter how much weight I lose, or that my tah-tahs don't have any more ta-dahhhhh quality to them, sure, it bothers me, but I think i'm okay with it most of the time because I know it was for a good reason. Maybe kage is right, maybe concentrating on all of the amazing things your body DID do associated with your children can help you accept the results of those amazing feats. Or maybe not. :-)
    posted by Blogger marian at 2/28/2006 07:36:00 PM  

  • marian, you still got the best ta-tas of anyone I know....at least REAL ta-tas...

    AND...whenever I bend over to dry my hair with my towel, after a shower, I say to my stomach: Hello pizza dough (the NON rolled out kind that is sitting in a heap on the counter)...luckily I spend most of my public moments standing up or well-covered in that area.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 2/28/2006 08:13:00 PM  

  • Z & others,

    I fear I gave off some wrong impressions from this post. I certainly didn't solve all of my self-esteem issues through childbirth, and after a re-read I can see how it sounds like that....it's definitely a "work in progress"...for all of us. More than anything, I was SHOCKED that childbirth was actually a good experience for me.

    For weeks up to my first son's birth I hoped for a c-section (not that a c-section is easy by any means)...but I really feared labor. And then when labor was really happening, I was so worried about the health of my 7-week premie son that it wasn't exactly an enjoyable experience...it wasn't until AFTER everything turned out ok could I really reflect on what had happened. 2nd son was a much better experience, but it was messy, real and hard as well.

    Another disappointment, for both births, I was in so much pain from tearing (a bad side effect from my quick labors) that I could not physically hold my babies for a good 20 minutes or so after they arrived. I had always pictured lifting my babies up to my chest and bonding immediately...and that definitely didn't happen.

    It's never perfect....I guess it's more what you make of your experience...which took me awhile to accept.
    posted by Blogger Jen at 3/01/2006 05:10:00 AM  

  • Marian, I love you. Thank you for your words. I certainly didn't want to evoke a pity party, I was just in shock really that no one felt as I did. I am so glad you can relate. I am absolutely in tune with the whole miracle of child birth. I am astounded that my body housed my girls and fed them. Not to mention that it grew like it did and no stretch marks... What?? I was talking to Carrie about it and she brought up a good point which in many ways I was in denial about. A large part of what I do for my career depends on my physical well being... my bod... and it is alot of pressure to maintain that especially after having two babies in two years. So I need to give myself a break and realize that I MAY never look the same again, and it is OKAY. Easier said than done. Also a large part of my dissatisfaction comes from my laziness in not working out to get my body back! I just eat and eat and eat... and then complain about my belly. So dumb.
    posted by Blogger Zinone at 3/01/2006 09:06:00 AM  

  • Zinone,

    I think Carrie is right....I can't believe the pressure that you and other friends in "the biz" have to keep your body up. It is something that I definitely could never handle and would shred my self-esteem to pieces. I'll never forget when I was w. Kage about 2-3 weeks after she gave birth and her agent called to ask what size she was..... Trust me, you're doing great!
    posted by Blogger Jen at 3/01/2006 09:49:00 AM  

  • Jen, Even I found that ridiculous. I am walking to the zoo with Jen and on my cell saying: "I don't know....thirty something? You pick a number...who knows?" Ridiculous. Just a few weeks later I was modeling a bra and pajama bottoms-for Nursing mothers and the entire set of people: client, photographer, assistant, stylist, her assistant, prez. of company etc. took a collective SUCK-IT-IN breath on my behalf when I got to the set. It was so funny. I have never sucked in so hard in my life, and they STILL had to photo shop it.

    I recently did my first swimwear photo shoot EVER (post 2 babies...I have a 10 month old) and I realized that I was totally ok with my flaws. I left feeling so liberated and happy b/c I know that I can always pretend that I am my "photoshop self" no matter how many pounds I am or what flaws are showing through at the time (thighs, small boobs, stretch marks...).
    posted by Blogger Kage at 3/01/2006 10:25:00 AM  

  • Z, I was thinking the same stuff you and Carrie talked about, but I wasn't sure how to phrase it all without revealing details about your life that you might not want revealed! I can imagine how incredibly difficult it would be to keep your frame of reference "the real world" rather than "the biz", but the more you can do it, the better for your mental health!

    And I'm with you on the eat and eat and eat and then complain thing. Chloe and I just spent a week being our true foodie selves, and I'm not sure I'll ever be able to eat again. It was delicious, but I'm paying the price!
    posted by Blogger marian at 3/01/2006 11:38:00 AM  

  • It occurred to me this morning that esteem is one of Satan's most powerful tools. That tape that runs in our head: You're not good enough, You're fat, You're ugly...you know the one?
    And Procreation is one of God's most powerful tools. So at first giving birth=higher self esteem doesn't seem to match up, but maybe it does...maybe they can and in some cases DO cancel each other out, at least temporarily.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 3/02/2006 04:29:00 AM  

  • Exponent II put up an interesting post regarding female body image in the mormon culture. Check it out here.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 3/02/2006 06:06:00 PM  

  • Looking at the Ken picture, I guess he's always been gay, but in the 2000s he's WAY GAY!

    Just want to comment on the idea of the patriarchal objectification of women -- my inspiration for wanting to be skinny and beautiful is competition with other women, seeing how great they look compared to me. It's NOT that men are "objectifying" me. I got deep into feminist theory in college, so I know the fancy theories out there, but reality tells me differently.
    posted by Blogger Squiddy at 3/03/2006 01:44:00 PM  

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