I honestly don't know at the moment what to call this post. I know what I want to talk about though, and it's basically a lead up to and somewhat part of the three-part Mommy Monday blog series I will be posting for August.
I loved looking at myself in the mirror, even as a kid. When I was around four or five years old, my mother and I would ride a jeepney* to wherever we needed to go and I enjoyed sitting behind the driver just so I could watch myself make faces in the side mirror.
By the time I was a teenager, it was a means to preen. I wasn't into makeup, at least not that much yet, but I would spend about half an hour fixing my hair before leaving the bathroom to have a spot of breakfast before school. I thought I looked great but then at some point I realised that I wasn't as visually pleasing as I thought I was.
I never thought I was the most beautiful girl in school or anywhere really, but what made it worse was that I could see fat all over my body. My large flabby arms needed work. My waist was actually quite small, but flared out into wide hips, an even wider butt, and tapered into thunder thighs that jiggled as I walked, or worse, ran. It felt, at the time, that my body's only saving grace were my shapely breasts which, though not that much bigger than the average (see our priorities at the time?) apparently gave enough balance to my figure as a whole.
I look at my pictures from back then and I keep thinking "Wow, what an ingrate. I looked fantastic in high school!" And then I go back to those same thoughts, only, the person facing the mirror is about ten years older. I still see fat, flab, and jiggling flesh everywhere. And I'm still dissatisfied.
"So do something about it," people would say, right? I did. I tried. I couldn't stick to disciplined diets and exercise regimens. I've always been too lazy, and frankly, even though I could see fat everywhere, there was a certain level of hubris that told me, "Oh, your metabolism will see you through."
When I got pregnant with my first child, I was about 120lbs. Pregnant now with my second, I am all of 40lbs heavier from that very first pregnancy weigh in. True, I did lose quite a bit of weight in my son's first year which I attribute primarily to breastfeeding. And because I used a certain type of breastfeeding cover called a Boncho, I quickly and perhaps even very willingly forgot about the weight that was slowly creeping onto my waist, my hips, my thighs, and yes, the arms that never ever seemed slender enough even when I weighed 110lbs.
And then I met this group of women online. Moms like me who put on makeup and dress like magazine models. At some point, Eliza Santiago will probably patent the phrase but for now, I will use her words (if not the spelling because I keep forgetting): loshang is a downward spiral, and looking at these women, I suddenly knew what I needed to do.
Now, before anyone argues about moms who spend their days in sweatpants and moms who wear 5-inch heels, I will say it again: I have nothing against either side. We all do what we feel is right for us and what makes us feel good and comfortable. And looking the way I did during that time, perpetually covered up by my Boncho out of sheer laziness to remove or adjust it and still wearing my maternity clothes which did nothing but make me look bigger than I actually was, I did not feel good about myself.
So I made the change.
I began slowly trading my maternity wear for regular clothes that had necklines that would still allow me to breastfeed. I started wearing makeup. And once and for all, I gave up the nursing covers which I still wore whenever it was too cold out.
I started to feel like myself again. Not that overly critical teenager, and later adult, who only saw fat and flab, but that teenager who used to smile proudly at her reflection in the mirror. I appreciated myself again. I finally did what made me feel good and yes, it made me feel good. It also made me see my body in a whole new light.
I'm overweight (which is not something to be particularly proud of because my knees are complaining about the extra stress), flabby, and I have stretch marks and visible cellulite on my stomach and thighs. My husband, who is five or so inches taller than I am, is just 10lbs heavier than me. I'll be working on that soon.
For now, the blessing and grace that I've received from the whole experience is the fact that I've learned to love who I am now--the person I've become, both inside and outside--my new perception of myself as beautiful because of everything that I've been through and accomplished.
So this is my mom bod. The vessel that carried one child and is now carrying a second. One that provided sole nourishment for nearly an entire year and will do so again. The mind that has learned and unlearned much, worked, gotten stressed out, relaxed, and shared ideas. The heart that has loved, been loved, and gotten broken and mended so many times that it's hard to keep proper count. Among other things that elude me right now.
I am satisfied with how I am now despite knowing there is much room for improvement. And improve I will. I'll stop learning when I lie cold in the earth. And even for that last one, there are still so many other options.
*In the Philippines, we adopted the American jeeps into our culture by adapting them to suit our local transportation needs. They became longer, louder (visually and aurally), and ultimately, the most convenient mode of transportation for most folk who don't have private vehicles or would rather not drive.