Yesterday, I was on my weekly Fred Meyer run, browsing tabloid headlines while waiting in the checkout line. The one that caught my eye featured a picture of a very-pregnant Kim Kardashian, wearing a hideous tent of a dress, captioned "Kim at her heaviest!!!!" Next to this was a picture of a several-months-postpartum Kim Kardashian, wearing underwear and showing off flat abs and a not-so-flat bosom. The headline promised a satisfying story about how Kim, after hating her excessive pregnancy weight gain, is now finally getting her body back.
I've read numerous variations on that story thousands of times. How some celebrity or other, her body ruined by pregnancy and childbirth, is now (with the help of some trainer or diet or other miracle cure) getting her body back. Women throw it around all the time. I've started working out again. Here's to getting my body back. Probably, I've said it myself. It bothers me though, so much. What does it even mean? Getting what body back, precisely? Did my body disappear somewhere when I was pregnant?
Don't get me wrong. I'm really struggling to love and accept my body right now. I gained a fair bit of weight with this pregnancy, and I'm hanging on to it. I know it's normal with a second pregnancy, and I know I need to keep a fair bit of fat around in order to have a healthy milk supply, but it's hard. I'm popping out of my "fat" clothes, and I'm nowhere near my "skinny" ones. My abs are completely stretched out, and the rest of my muscles are not near as strong as I'm used to. I still can't wear my wedding ring. So do I want to change some things about my body, eventually? Yes.
But this is my body. Extra pounds and stretched-out muscles and lactating breasts included. Wholeheartedly included. This is the body with which I feed my baby, play with and snuggle my toddler, make love to my husband. This is the body that grew two people, brought them into the world, and then sustained them, by itself, for months. This is the body that I feed, the body I exercise, the body that carries me around and supports my life. Regardless of whether I like it or not (and I do, I really do, and when I don't, I try hard to anyway), it's still my body. The only body I've ever had and ever will have. It was my body when I was two, and seven, and fourteen, and twenty-three, and the body I will have when I'm thirty, and forty-five, and sixty, and eighty.
I guess the whole "get your body back" thing somehow implies to me that it was only my body when I was at my fittest, my most attractive, my most unscarred by carrying babies and growing older (basically, when I was eighteen). But if that's the way I think of it, I will never get my body back. And I will constantly be frustrated, and will hate my body, my real body, forever.
My body will always be older than it was yesterday. It will always be a bit more tired, a bit more stretched by life, than it was last year. Every pregnancy, every birth, every nursing relationship, comes out of my body, and wears it down. It will show, like wear always does. But it's still my body. It always has been. It always will be.
I'll try to keep it healthy and strong. That will mean different things at different times. Sometimes it will mean eating more, eating less, eating differently. Sometimes it will mean exercising intentionally, or building muscle, or losing fat. But I'll never be eighteen again. I could chase after that body all I wanted, and I imagine, if I tried hard, I could get somewhere close. But I'd still be older. And I'd be getting older, and further away from an eighteen-year-old body, every day.
So here's to my body, in the now. Not to "getting it back," because it never left. It's right here, it's working, and I'm going to do my very best to own and care for every inch of it, and to use it well. If it shows the use, well then, let that be.