“When my daughter was about a week old I was at the grocery store and a woman asked how old my baby was, I told her one week with a smile. Her response was “well you don’t look like you f***ing had a baby a week ago.” and turned and walked away from me. It hurts to be ostracized by other mothers in that way.” – Jonelle, of Aware Beginnings Doula Services, commenting on Mothering the Mother Part II: How Postpartum Care Helps Us Love Our Bodies
I’m a skinny mom. Not too skinny. But on the slender side.
I gained about 25 lbs in each of my two pregnancies and shed it within a few weeks of giving birth.
When I’m pregnant, people tell me I don’t look it.
I fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans until seven months in.
I wore a short black dress to a party a few days before our second was born.
My K’taan is a size small, I can still squeeze into the back seat between my two babies’ carseats, and I still have no stretch marks.
Do you hate me yet?
What if I told you that I don’t diet and my only exercise is babywearing? Would you hate me then?
My body looks the way it does for a number of reasons (including socio-economic status and access to real food) but mostly because of a genetic lottery. In the eyes of our society, it’s a lottery I’ve won. But ‘winning’ isn’t everything. I have a history of starving, purging, cutting, and risking my body. This history is invisible when you look at me. It can be covered up by a short black dress and gold high heels.
Maybe you assume that I have my shit together, that I am in control; maybe you think I’m happy.
Maybe you assume that I am superficial.
Maybe you assume that I diet constantly.
Maybe you assume that I diet constantly even when I’m pregnant and therefore do not have my baby’s best interest at heart.
Maybe you assume that I’m mean and manipulative.
Maybe you just know that I think I’m better than you. (I don’t. And I don’t think the skinnier mom standing next to me is better than me, either.)
Other people’s ugly assumptions aside, I know and enjoy the advantages of being a skinny mom:
I still get to be seen as cute and slightly sexy (even though I’m a mom, which is, apparently, the least sexy thing in the world).
I don’t have to buy a new wardrobe when I get pregnant.
When I look at pictures of mothers in magazines and advertisements, they look like me (I also happen to be caucasian and able-bodied. Bonus!).
I wasn’t automatically classed as a ‘high risk’ pregnancy due to my weight.
I could satisfy all my pregnancy cravings without feeling guilty.
I receive most of the advantages of being a skinny girl – I get served first at deli counters, customs officers are always nice to me, my in-laws think me an appropriate match – but since I’m a mom, these days I get a lot less harassment from skeezy men.
These are important social advantages. It will be hard for me to lose them as I get older. But they’re all from the outside. Inside is a different landscape.
Some nights I tell my husband I don’t want to have sex because I’m tired and covered in milk and I imagine my body has been taken over by a hungry parasite who just also happens to be a baby I love. It feels there is no more space in my body for receiving or giving anything.
If I do compare myself to the mothers in an advertisement, they are still thinner than me, happier than me, prettier than me, less milk-stained than me. I am still lacking.
I wasn’t classified as ‘high-risk’, but I had to pay three months’ rent for out-of-pocket for decent healthcare during my last pregnancy. It was hard to convince myself that my baby and I were worth it.
I could satisfy all my pregnancy cravings without feeling guilty, but I didn’t (I still satisfied them – I just felt guilty).
I don’t do it anymore, but I have thrown up or skipped more meals than I can count. Other people liking your body doesn’t make you love your body.
I’m a happy person but I still feel out of control sometimes – especially when my toddler is eating spaghetti with a spoon.
I love breastfeeding now, but when I first lactated colostrum, I felt disgusted by my pregnant body.
The flip side of being told I don’t look pregnant is people thinking that I am not my baby’s mom. “Is this your baby?” they ask, and I try to take it as a compliment but I know there’s an edge in my voice when I answer, “Yes, this is my baby. This is my baby.” This is my body that birthed this baby and I hate that you looked at it and thought otherwise.
My body is real and I am learning to love my postpartum pooch (below: a few days PP in ye olde disposable panties).
My claim is not that, “I too, my full-bodied sisters, am a daily victim of unfair physical ideals!” I know that, on the whole, I benefit from them. And I’m not saying that BWF should have a ‘skinny moms’ day for every plus-sized mama day. I know that every day is ‘skinny mom day’ in all the rest of social media. I’m just saying that in a country where at least 80% of women dislike their bodies and Miss America is perpetually malnourished, we are all capable of hating ourselves. You don’t know how someone feels about their body just by looking at them. You only know how you feel about their body. And your own.
In my better days, this is how I like to think of my body: as a powerful vessel. A vessel for my thoughts and actions; a vessel for my creativity; and of course, a vessel for my babies. It is through this body that I show my love for other people. This body lets me laugh. This vessel has (love) handles but it is tall and deep. It will get old and its enamel will crack. Someday it will disintegrate entirely. I can only hope that when it does, I’m not worried about how it looks.
So, do you hate me yet?