I referred to this in another post. I had thought to combine the topics, but both grew a bit of leg so two posts it is.
I realized sometime after I’d had my c-section how tied up in body image being able to birth normally was. Just a huge feeling of what are these parts of me good for if I can’t birth a baby. I’ve seen women dealing with prematurity expressing these sentiments as well. You begin to feel an inferior woman when your female specific parts don’t function as advertised. I’ve mostly been able to dismiss them as irrational as I knew from the beginning that my c-section was a baby issue, not mine, but it still rankles a bit. It’s certainly a body issue thing. Why have these massive hips if babies aren’t able to come out of them? What’s the good in being built as I am if none of it works right?
The breastfeeding issues we had were much harder to bear because for about 8 months I thought it was my issue and mine alone. I feel more now that it was a baby issue, but those 8 months of self loathing induced by looking at my inappropriately functioning body still linger. I often wished during that time that I had made a clean break for my psychological welfare. Once I got to not needing assisting devices I was happy enough I’d continued, but I had a lot of regretful feelings about being stubborn during those eight months. All the insecurities of adolescence over extra weight, uneven breasts, extra hair and body shape, all come crashing down when what’s supposed to work doesn’t. The more I read about what caused mother-side breastfeeding issues the more I began to focus self loathing on attributes I’d never liked but had come to accept as unchangeable parts of myself. All those things I long thought I’d learned to deal with or ignore. They were something it became more ok to hate about myself because they were signs of something wrong with me, outward signs of how I was failing my child.
I know body image during and post pregnancy is an issue that plagues a lot of women. Well, not just during and after pregnancy, but those who may have been secure enough before become less so when faced with pregnancy changes. So many seem to dread stretch marks, sagging skin and the other trials of baby-growing. It seems quasi-normal for women to be in a perpetual state of self-doubt and loathing over their appearance. I’ve been able to put that aside for the most part. Perhaps it’s the few years I spent living with nudity inclined strippers that has made me more secure in my body, perhaps it’s the years I spent purposely not shaving my legs as a teenager as social experiment, and still finding validation of being attractive, maybe it’s knowing that I’ve done what I can to lose weight and make my body healthier, or maybe I just have a strong sense of who fucking cares about that issue (certainly not about others apparently though). Whatever it is I have no issue putting on a swim suit or being nude in semi-public situations. I do find I’m still more ashamed of my breasts. Even though now I don’t think they did anything wrong, the loathing our breastfeeding issues awakened within me means I find their lopsided appearance shameful. Oh I still nursed in public, but showing them not in use gives me what must be a normal dose of modesty. I didn’t want people to see my source of shame. Even though it might not even be the case that they are faulty, or that the majority of anyone who would notice the unevenness would know it meant anything, it was something I began taking extra pains to hide.
Of course, now having been through that and out the other side there’s the comfort one can take in how our children love us no matter what we look like and how outwardly flawed we might be to others. I have dreadful upper arm flab, aka bingo-wings. However, my daughter loves them. Funnily enough I remember loving my grandmother’s upper arms as well. Not to the extent my daughter loves mine though. I think they act as a substitute boobie for her. She pinches them, nuzzles them and rubs her face on them frequently. It’s oddly comforting that my child loves such a conventionally unattractive part of me. I used to comfort myself with that early on in our issues. That my baby loved my boobs even if they weren’t working right. It really hit home one day when she was about 15 weeks old. I was having her have nothing but a bottle all day in preparation for her going off to daycare. and every time I picked her up she’d stick her hand down my shirt and stroke my breasts and cry. It was heartbreaking, but after that day I didn’t cry every day about breastfeeding. (I managed to drop down to only around 5 days a week. Ha.)
Body image problems are not something I want to pass on to my current or future daughter. My mother, never noticeably overweight, was a constant dieter, constantly putting her body down and starving herself. I remember being maybe three or four and asking if I was fat and indicating hatred of my child-belly because it wasn’t something a barbie doll or iconic female body had. My mother got really upset with me. I didn’t understand why at the time, that she was upset I’d picked that sort of thing up. I just internalized it as there was something wrong, and so I remember. This was probably reinforced by my various family members having me weigh my food at age eight…
I don’t want concern about my body function to bleed through to concern about my body image.
Fussing over my body appearance isn’t something I do often. I only really feel frustration when I have to shop for clothing. Hopefully my general lack of concern with how I ‘ought’ to look versus how I do look will serve my children well.