Saturday, September 16, 2017

Whose Body? Nobody.

Ever since we came home from Arizona (when the kids were about 3 months old), I began to struggle with body image.  Well, I didn't just struggle.  My body image completely disintegrated.  I didn't (and don't) really like the way I look anymore.  

Before I had kids, I was by no means a skinny-minnie.  I was a healthy, fit woman who prided herself in being healthy and happy. Of course, there was always room for a night of Oreos and my favorite Chardonnay, but overall, I was content with the way I looked.  I liked to shop for a new item of clothing every now and then and I wasn't embarrassed to tell the dressing room professional what size clothes I needed.

Michael and I in Ephesus, Turkey

Athens, Greece (trying not to rush my husband through all of the historic sites)

When I got pregnant with quintuplets, the doctors said I needed to gain weight.  And fast.  In fact, that was one of the first things that Dr. Elliott told me.  After asking me how tall I was (5'7''), he told me that my body could indeed handle carrying more weight and I should begin eating 4,000 calories a day.  Every day.  I met with a UVA dietician who counseled me on how to get more calories into this body during every meal.  Michael prepared all kinds of high calorie meals for me.  And then there was the ice cream.  I ate so. much. ice cream.  I know, I know.  It sounds delightful.  But it wasn't.  I was nauseous every day and especially every night.  

Imagine having the stomach flu.  The gross kind in which you don't want visitors or Netflix.  You're just too miserable.  You're huddled on the sofa with a fuzzy blanket and some chicken broth, hoping you can fall asleep in order to escape the churning in your stomach.  Then, your spouse walks up to you with a bucket of ice cream and says, "You're still about 1,000 calories short.  Dig in."  You honestly want to crawl in a hole.  A deep, deep hole, preferably one with your own personal puke bucket and an electric blanket.  

That was my life for the first five months of pregnancy.  I didn't glow.  I wasn't giddy.  I hardly told anyone I was even pregnant. Doctors tell you to gain weight early in a high order multiple pregnancy for a few reasons.  One is to nourish the babies, of course.  But the other reason is that your uterus grows so much so that it squishes your stomach, making it nearly impossible to fill it very full of anything.  So after a certain point in a high order multiple pregnancy, you aren't able to gain much weight because your stomach won't allow it.  I know, it's terrifying.  I was scared every day of this pregnancy.  Every day. Fear and nausea.  Mostly fear. 

When delivery day came, that fourth day of December, the doctors weighed me.   I'd gained 100 pounds from my pre-baby weight.  100 pounds.  I practically gained a Backstreet Boy! Everyone said the weight would come off with breast feeding and the blood pressure medicine.  Well, they were right. The weight started to come off.  First 10, then 20, then 30, then 50, then 70 and 80 pounds.  And then, it stopped.  No more weight came off.  I have an extra 20 pounds that refuses to depart.  

This is delivery day with Dr. Chavira (L) and Dr. Elliott (R).  I love how relaxed and joyful they look. 
I know, overall, it's great.  I know.  But 20 pounds is still a major body image shift.  None of my clothes fit the way they used to (if they fit at all).  I consistently feel shame and sadness when I step into my closet.  My stomach will never look the same.  I've been diagnosed with level 1-2 diastasis recti, which is a medical condition in which the muscles in your abdomen separate during pregnancy.  And sometimes, they don't go back together.  We hope mine do, but we can't be sure.  Oh joy.  And the skin on my stomach is wrinkly and gross.  I won't show you a picture.  You'd be scarred for life, believe me.  But it's ugly.  I hate looking at myself in the mirror.  I usually shudder if I do get a passing glance.

I realize this all sounds very superficial, I do.  I have five healthy, silly babies whom I absolutely adore.  I have the family I've longed and prayed for so many lonely nights and empty holidays.  I constantly hear baby giggles and baby burps.  I fold tiny pink pants and watch Super Why more than I'd prefer.  Blessings truly abound in the Quint Castle.
Sometimes I hate myself for even feeling this way about my body.  I often questioned whether or not I should even write this blog.  But, I thought, moms need to hear this.  We need to feel less alone. Less ashamed. Less sadness.  

I thought I was making progress on this front until a few nights ago.  I bought the children matching elf pajamas for Christmas (yes, I plan ahead.  It's a sickness).  I even bought Michael a Santa suit. We love Christmas in our house.  One of the things I love most about my husband is his ability to sing any and all Christmas songs.  It makes my heart so very happy.

Anyways, I bought the kids and Michael something to wear for Christmas Eve.  Michael and I were discussing this and he said that if he was going to be Santa, I needed to dress as Mrs. Claus.  We found a (tasteful) Mrs. Claus outfit that Michael thought was fun.  He encouraged me to order it.  I thought for a moment and realized, "I can't wear that--I'll look horrible.  My old body would look fine in that, but I can't put this body in that.  I would rather be invisible."  

I would rather be invisible

Yes, that's me right now.  I'd rather you see my smiley children and my handsome husband--not me.  I'm mad at myself for being consumed by this--and that only makes me more sad and more confused.  I wish I had more time to eat healthily and to work out, but I just don't.  Which makes me sadder--and then angrier.  I feel torn between being selfish and superficial and then being angry at myself for being selfish and superficial.  And then angry that I don't/can't do anything about it.  It's a swirl of emotions--none of which I'm very fond or proud.

I realize that self love and self worth is a daily decision, and I'm trying to focus on the power I feel in that my body sustained a quintuplet pregnancy for 32 weeks and one day.  I try to focus on the fact that this body has kept those five little lives safe and happy for almost 10 months.  

Yes, my body has changed, but oh my heart.  My heart will never be the same.

You have probably seen this photo before.  This was about 30 weeks pregnant.  I'd gained about 80 lbs at that point.

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