Yesterday, I was cuddling on the couch watching cartoons with my oldest daughter as we waited for the rest of the household to wake up.
During a commercial break, I caught her staring at me with a strange expression on her face.
Squinting her eyes a little, she poked me on the arm with her five-year-old finger and announced, a little too cheerfully for my liking,
“Mama, your arms are getting chubby!”
[Enter crushed soul here.]
The truth is, I have been having a really hard time “bouncing back” after the birth of my third child last summer, because frankly, I didn’t have a great bod to “bounce back” to. I have been working hard by exercising every day and I have somehow managed to convince myself that I am doing just fine.
Sure, you eat that brownie after dinner, but you’ve had three kids! Give yourself a break, you are doing the best you can! Women come in all shapes and sizes!
But when my son’s one-year-old pictures came in the mail yesterday, I was crushed to see this:
Selfishly, my first thought was, “Do my arms really look that fat?”
Instead of focusing on my beautiful baby boy, looking rather dapper in his yellow polo shirt, if I do say so myself, my eyes were fixated on finding every flaw in my body.
I’ve always struggled with being a little overweight, having a bit of a tummy, sporting the same stocky arms that my mom and her grandmother before her have.
But after having kids, the struggle has become a fight. And even though I know it takes me time to lose the weight fully after each baby, and even though I know that there is strength in a body that has run 10 miles and birthed three children, and even though I know that I am more than my physical appearance,
I still turn from my husband when he tells me that I look beautiful.
Because I can’t — or won’t — believe him.
When I undress at night, I catch his eyes looking over my body and I cringe. I turn away, wanting to hide the leftover flesh, the sagging skin, the rolls and fat I can’t help but fixate on.
When he whispers, “You are a gorgeous woman,” softly into my ear, I push him away, feeling the most unbeautiful I have ever felt in my life.
It’s not that I don’t believe that a part of him still finds me attractive, but I wonder, how can he not see what I see? How can he can not see the stretch marks and the extra 20 pounds I am still carrying?
The truth is, my obsession with my post-baby body is ruining my marriage.
With each kiss I turn down and every compliment I refuse to accept, I am telling myself — and my husband — that I don’t think I’m worthy. That my unhappiness and insecurity is more important than our relationship. I am giving him reason to look for my flaws by pointing them out, when all he sees is his wife, the mother of his children.
Why do we do it to ourselves as women?
Why do we torture each other, comparing and contrasting, always scanning the room for who is skinnier, who is prettier than us?
Why does it matter?
And why, oh why, can’t we believe it when our men tells us,
“You are beautiful?”