Last night, after my workout, I forgot to put a shirt on.
For four hours, I walked around our home wearing a Target nursing bra and GAP Body short shorts. I cooked dinner that way, I talked to my friend Amanda for 45 minutes on the phone that way, I watched Californication with my husband that way and I brushed my teeth, swallowed my vitamins and hit the sack that way.
This is a relatively new phenomenon for me. Sure, there have been questionable stretches of time where I showed lots of skin: My freshman year of college, when I ran around my dorm wearing tee shirts barely long enough to cover my butt; my early 20s, when I danced until 4 a.m. in cages at clubs clad in what could barely be described as scraps of fabric; years at the gym where I worked out in just sports bras and bike shorts. But all of those phases occurred during periods of disordered eating or horrible body image issues. I suspect I was acting out in some way, revealing skin in an effort to trick people into thinking I was comfortable with, or even proud of, my figure, at times when I truly was not.
Then I got better and left the ED bullshit behind. I stopped stepping on the scale and forgot to look at the “Calories Burned” readout on the elliptical machine and no longer ordered dishes at restaurants When Harry Met Sally-style .(“I’ll begin with a house salad, but I don’t want the regular dressing. I’ll have the balsamic vinegar and oil, but on the side. And then the salmon with the mustard sauce, but I want the mustard sauce. On the side.”)I was content with my body — not in an over-the-moon, submit-my-pics-to-Playboy kind of way, but I learned to focus on what my body allowed me to do and began to appreciate its strength, its height, its power. During this period of recovery, I dressed more appropriately; I was never mistaken for an Amish woodworker, mind you, but I wasn’t exactly frolicking around the pool in a thong.
Then I had a baby, and everything changed — in a way for which I was totally unprepared. Today, I love my body. Not just in a “Today is October 17th, it’s National Love Your Body Day!” sort of a way. It’s in an, “I want to run around naked because I am obsessed with my boobs and hey, the rest of me looks pretty damn good, too” sort of way. Not only was I not plagued by stretch marks or significant weight gain while carrying Evie, but breastfeeding had some sort of bizarre affect on my metabolism, to the point where I regularly snack on cups of buttercream frosting and order dishes like short ribs and fried calamari when dining out, and it just sort of burns off. Up top, my small-B chest has swollen to a nice C-cup, which I feel perfectly balances out my five-eleven-ness. Last week, during a baby-free Cancun weekend getaway with Dan, I found myself purposefully leaving my cover-up* in our hotel room and not only parading around the pool in my new Victoria’s Secret (Size Large!) bikini top and string bottoms, but attempting to dine at the indoor buffet in non-omelet bar-friendly attire. For the first time in my life, I am truly singing, “I love my body.” And I don’t want to feel ashamed or egotistical for doing so, because I’ve wasted far too many years screaming just the opposite at myself.
But here’s the rub: This body that I love, it’s a false body. As soon as I stop breastfeeding, the boobs will surely deflate and my teenage boy metabolism will probably screech to a halt. No more mid-afternoon noshes of whole jumbo avocados mashed up with garlic salt and slathered on Stacey’s pita chips; no more Dairy Queen runs for extra cookie dough. No more size 27 jeans. No more Victoria’s Secret Size Large bikini tops.
What I hopehopehope happens is that, come weaning time, my enhanced outlook stays with me even as my physique resettles into its old comfort zone. That I still feel comfortable walking around the pool sans cover-up and I don’t feel compelled to revert to ordering side salads squirted with lemon juice. I do believe that simply the act of being a mom to a little girl will have its own protective effects on my body image; she’s already taught me so much about adoring what I see when I look in the mirror.
And maybe – just maybe – one of the reasons I love this amplified chest so much is because of what it represents: That I am growing and nurturing our child. To her, they offer sustenance and comfort. I wonder if perhaps that knowledge is subconsciously coloring my perspective: When I see “36 C” on my bra label, I interpret it as “Size: Nourishing.”**
But for now, as I move towards my goal of nursing for one year, I’m going to keep “forgetting” to get dressed and shovel in as many slices of deep dish as I can. Because the truth is, I’ve taken another page from the When Harry Met Sally playbook: After years of hating it, my thoughts about my bod are now of the “Oh…Oh God…Oh, ohh…Yes, Yes, YES!” variety. And damn, it feels good.
How has your body image changed postbaby?
*But what a cute cover-up it is!
**Please note, this is not me saying that moms who feed their babies formula are in any way less than. Nor am I saying a woman needs big breasts to breastfeed, because she doesn’t.