Recto: losing my self by Susan Wagner

For most of my adult life, I was a size 8, which I was happy with. After I had Henry I spent a long time wearing a bigger size; about twenty minutes after I was easily able to slip back into my pre-Henry jeans, I got pregnant with Charlie. And after Charlie, I wore a 12, the biggest size I’ve ever worn.

The two and a half years after Charlie was born were incredibly stressful. It is often impossible for me to see, in the moment, just how stressed I am, but in that particular window of my life, I consciously felt overwhelmed all the time. And, without realizing it, I lost a lot of weight. I don’t know how it happened, but in that two years I went from a size I was good with to three sizes smaller and needing a belt. I mean, I KNOW how it happened–it was stress–but I don’t know HOW it happened. Did I just not eat for a year and a half? I have no idea.

An this same time, I decided that I was tired of looking like I just rolled out of bed every day, and I started to shop for things I could wear during my day with the kids that were not made of sweatshirt material. And yes, it was nice to see that very small number in the waistband of these very lovely clothes. But honestly, I didn’t really feel any smaller or thinner. I just felt constantly overwhelmed. Only now, I was nicely dressed.

In the past year, a lot of things have changed in my life. Charlie isn’t a baby any more, which is a huge relief to me; we have learned so much about Henry and how his brain works, which is also a huge relief. Because of these changes, I no longer wake up every single morning and three times at night feeling overwhelmed by my life. All of that is good.

But the down side is this: I have gained back some–like perhaps ten pounds–of the weight that I lost in that crazy period. And while I am genuinely relieved not to feel like I am walking on the thin edge of a razor any more, I am sad about the weight. Not so much because I have a closet full of terrific clothes that I can’t wear, although that does bother me, but because I feel very uncomfortable in my body, and I don’t like that feeling.

I am still a smaller size than I was before I had Henry. I am about two sizes bigger than I was when I had to belt the smallest pants. But I feel like there is a lot of extra to me just now. And I don’t like that feeling.

When we were in Florida, two years ago, my sister-in-law said something about how thin I was, and I remember saying, ‘Yes, but the funny part is, I don’t feel any smaller. I feel like I’m the same size I was the day before Charlie was born. Or the week before I got pregnant with Henry.’ And that was true, then. But now I feel bigger. I am conscious that I have been smaller, and now I’m not. I am conscious that I have been comfortable with myself, and now I’m not. In the years after Charlie was born, I lost part of myself, literally and metaphorically.

Was this change in my weight, in my self, unfair to my husband? Was it “false advertising“? To me, that implies that I intentionally set out to deceive him, that I came into our marriage knowing that being a mother would push me over the edge and wear me thin.

When I was at my thinnest and needed a belt to keep my pants up, people were forever saying–to me, to my husband–how great I looked, how little I was after two babies! But each time I heard this, I felt nervous, as though I were fooling them, because I felt terrible–not pretty or sexy or desireable, just tired and overwhelmed. Fortunately, my husband did no make a big deal–or ANY deal–of my weight; instead, he gave me time away from our children and time with him and time to talk about how hard it was to be the mommy. And because he never made an issue of my weight, it never became an issue, which allowed me to see that there were other issues that I needed to deal with.

My weight is not who I am; the number in the waist of my pants is no reflection on my moral character or my abilities as a mother or my love for my husband. Instead, it is a sign of the patterns of my life, just as it is for so many other women who struggle with their weight. This moment of being uncomfortable in my body isn’t about my body as much as it is about some larger discomfort with my life. I never imagined that I would feel this way about myself; I never could have warned my husband that I would. But I did not sell him a bill of goods by not forseeing this.

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