I had the afternoon to myself, a rare occasion. My husband stayed at home with our three kids. They soaked up the time with him — climbing over his backyard obstacle course, eating his delicious dinner and watching ET snuggled into a huddle on the couch. Pretty great in their eyes for a Thursday night.
I gave each of my loves a kiss and eagerly drove away from the madness for a moment, feeling as though I hadn’t left the house in days.
Wandering through the aisles of store after store, my head began to throb. I was on the hunt for something very specific, and shopping really isn’t my thing.
Actually, I probably would not have been out shopping at all if it weren’t for an upcoming engagement that required wearing something other than a tee. So there I was, under flourescent lighting, face to face with myself. Without my kids underfoot, I didn’t even have their little, three foot tall-commotion buzzing around the fitting room mirror to distract me.
It was just me, forced to look at this body, truly examine this body, that had a baby four months ago.
Can you recall the first time you tried clothes on after having a baby?
For me today, it was like confronting someone you’ve been purposefully avoiding — uncomfortable, but necessary.
Dress after dress after pant after jacket. It didn’t matter what I put on. Nothing was working.
I blamed the color pallette (Why aren’t any stores selling what I’m looking for??)
I grew irritable with the fitting rooms (Were they getting smaller with each store that I went into??)
I called my best friend and asked her if her thighs had instantly expanded on the eve of her thirtieth birthday, too. (They had.)
Trying to calculate my Euro size and decipher why every store was riddled with peplum tops, I realized I had been so busy feeding everyone lunch at home, that I had forgotten to eat anything myself.
Suddenly, though zippers were not zipping, I had an urgent desire to commiserate with french fries.
After deciding that a fedora cast aside into a pile of shoes and marked 75% off definitely was THE must have that was going to magically tie the whole outfit together — the outfit I had yet to find — I made my way to make my purchase.
(Side note: I have never in my life purchased a fedora, and now that I have it out of my system – promise to never do that again.)
Standing in line, I began to admire the baby toes kicking about from the stroller belonging to a woman in front of me. Thinking of the little toes waiting for me at home, I longed to be out of that overcrowded madhouse and back at home to kiss them. At that moment, I heard the explosive shrill of a little one bursting into tears –vaguely reminiscent of the soundtrack that had played throughout my week. Sweet babytoes had a big sister, and she had just dropped her juice all over the floor.
And for some inexplicable reason, even the screeches tugged at my heartstrings, making me miss my own tantrum maker.
Apologetically, her mama stooped down and tried to mop the mess together with the sales associate, as her three year old stood bawling. But mama kept her cool. She was so calm.
As she stood, we locked eyes and I gave her a little smile. I wanted to say something knowingly that suggested that as a mother, too, I understood her level of badassary — keeping it together when she might have wanted to run.
I saw her. I was her people.
But I didn’t even have to say a word — our shared smile and tired eyes mirroring one another’s said it all.
I drove home to return from the whirlwind fitting room tour empty-handed. What a wasted day. I could have been home snuggled up with the guy who had worked 70 hours all week. Tears filled into my eyes and poured down my cheeks.
Why am I so undesirable — so altered by motherhood?
All day I had looked right into the signs of my transformation. I had chosen sizes that were actually two sizes too small, an act that solidified in my mind how much heavier I am now. I looked at arms that jiggled and squeezed into things that wouldn’t button. I told myself that when my first baby was four months old, I had looked much better than this. My cheeks flushed at the thought of the handful of Easter candy I had weasled from my children’s baskets at night. I noticed my bra that was stretched out and my toes that desperately needed a pedicure. I noticed the way the darkness under my eyes was accompanied by lines and creases now, too.
All of the alterations to myself drove me to sobbing behind the wheel as the sun set in the sky.
But how ridiculous to sob over a day of shopping! How inconsiderate and inflated of me. Just a few months before I had sobbed as I drove home from my OB’s office, thinking she had just told me the news that was going to change my life with surgeries and radiation. That was agony. That was true sorrow.
Stepping into jeans that didn’t fit was a privilege.
But it didn’t matter. I cried all the same because I had spent a day looking in the mirror, wondering where I had gone.
I hashtag #takebackpostpartum and filter myself to make the point. I double tap your stretch marks and I do, I really do, see and admire the beauty in what your body has created. But I do not see it in mine.
I can talk womens empowerment and preach self love and tell you to OWN IT with the best of them. But in front of that mirror today, I realized that none of that is real unless you can look at yourself and actually love what you see in yourself, too.
Until you can take off a dress that is too small and acknowledge that it is okay.
The dress has nothing to do with you.
It is about meeting yourself where you are in the moment — wherever that might be — and loving you anyway.
The other day I contemplated meeting my children where they are, and holding a space for them. I committed to hold a space whether they are giggling or sorrowful, full of joy or overwhelm, standing on the brink of accomplishment or the cusp of failure. I promised to always hold a space for them.
But what about myself? Am I holding the space for myself?
Will I show up right in the moment and say:
“I don’t care if you’re heavy. I don’t care if you’re tired.
I don’t care that your bra is probably two sizes too small and your toes are frightening and peplum looks terrible on you.
I don’t care if you are bravely trying to find your way in the world and stumbling with every turn.
I am right here for you, right now in this moment. I have a little space for you in my heart — just as you are.”
Honestly, I am not sure that I have had the courage to hold a little space for myself.
But starting right now, I am going to try.
And if you have been walking around, avoiding yourself by hiding behind your to-do lists and your hashtags, I encourage you to try with me, too.