After I gave birth to a 5-pound baby, I expected the 20 non-baby pounds to just fall right off of me. So I came home and waited, feeling torn apart from a c-section, and with a completely rocked sense of who I was. My weight stayed exactly the same. The only thing that plummeted was my self-esteem.
I’ve never been someone who likes to hang out nude or semi-nude. I like clothes. I like sleeves and long pants and layers. I love fall, because of the fashion. I like the weight of fabric on my skin.
But. Before the baby, I would change my clothes with the door open, or during a conversation with my husband. I would change into pajamas, de-robe for a shower — all in front of him. That all stopped the day I came home from the hospital.
The immediate reason for going into hiding in my own home was, of course, that I was bleeding and sore and wrecked. I didn’t even change my clothes for long, long stretches of time. I didn’t really shower, either. Self-presentation meant nothing. It was self-preservation at hand. That — and the taking care of that new baby.
But somehow, the months turned into years. Years of hiding from his gaze whenever I wasn’t fully clothed. My body didn’t turn back to its original size and I wasn’t willing for him to see it any other way. I began shutting the door every time I changed a shirt — even if I could change really quickly. The thought of the possibility of his passing by and seeing me absolutely petrified me. For a while, I thought maybe he wouldn’t notice. For another while, I thought he would understand. I tried, as the months went by, to force myself to not be so scared of being seen just as I was. I toyed with leaving the door cracked, hoping he’d pick up the message I was sending and stand just past the crack, so as to not fully see me, but to still have the sensation of that familiar intimacy.
Then our child turned into a toddler. Toddlers need to know what’s going on so they can ruin it. They need to know the whereabouts of their attending parents at all times so they can use that to their advantage. I would enter the bedroom, gently angle the door, and turn my back when suddenly, I’d hear it creak open. So I started lightly shutting it. He would push and shove. It becomes obvious that you are seeking privacy when your baby is screaming at the door and you won’t open it because your own romantic partner might see you in some small percentage of nudity. It wakes you up. It hurts.
Our baby just turned 2 and I just stopped feeling guilty for a lot of things. For not getting back to my pre-baby weight shortly after having had him. For shutting the door. For the state of my body. If this relationship is going to work, I’m going to have to let myself be all the way alive in it. That includes sometimes not having all my clothes on in front of him.
I recently re-enrolled into the gym and the change in me has been immense. It has little to do with the way I am fitting into things and everything to do with the feeling of my calves when they ache a little bit, and how I feel capable again. My body is many things. It is a machine, a lifejacket, a friend. I remind myself that my partner has loved me for so many reasons. He has loved me beautifully — and never for the shape of my thigh or the circumference of my hips.
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