Monday, July 29, 2013

the red hair is from my mom, the metabolism is from my dad. thanks, genetics.

when ava was a month old i took her in to our doctor for a checkup. since i was there and he was our family doctor (albeit a new one, having just bought the practice from our old doctor), i told him i was fairly certain i had a breast infection.
he asked how i knew. i was used to my midwives—they trust me, they know me. i say i have mastitis, they say we’ll call in your prescription.
so i told him—fever, flu-like symptoms, oh and this hot red spot on my right breast right here. cue nonchalant unveiling of boobage.

took him a little by surprise.

i got my script right quick.

i’m telling you this story to explain how i feel about doctors: they’re doctors. i don’t get worked up over exposing various body parts to them. that’s their job. you want to judge my body? i don’t seriously think you are, but whatever. professional courtesy demands you keep a straight face when i’m sitting on your paper covered table. pap smears, routine exams—par for the course. i’m no exhibitionist, but the fact is to keep yourself healthy is going to require the harsh florescent lighting of an office exam room shining on parts of you that you may normally keep wrapped up.

and generally-- i’m okay with that.

2 weeks ago i had an appointment with an endocrinologist. it was the first time i’d seen one, and i was nervously optomistic that maybe this would help provide answers to the weird things my body has been doing for the last two years.

he was a nice guy—we joked, he was compassionate. he assured me that he would do what he could to get me feeling better. he took my blood pressure, checked various body parts…

 and then. then there was this awkward thing. he asked me to stand up—he needed to check my stomach briefly. i didn’t fully understand, i thought he wanted to feel my stomach. turns out he wanted to see my stomach.

i was wearing a maxi dress.

it turned into this unbelievably uncomfortable moment of him starting to lift my skirt because i was just standing there waiting, then me thinking he wanted to feel my stomach hand-to-skin, so me lifting it a bit higher so he could reach under, then him lifting it even higher because i still wasn’t getting that he needed to actually see my stomach.

let me be clear: i don’t blame the doctor, i’m not angry at him. and he definitely seemed embarrassed. it was just a comical set of events that went wrong.

but.

i was humiliated.

i don’t say that lightly. i could feel my face burning as i sat back down, and i avoided his eyes for the next few questions. because for all my big talk about not caring about doctors seeing my body—i completely and totally hate the way my stomach looks.

::record scratch:: wait, what? am i allowed to say that? listen—i’ve heard the speeches, read the blog posts, looked at the websites. i’ve called my stretch marks my “tiger stripes”, my badges of motherhood. the saggy skin i try to—if not love—at least embrace as remnants of bringing my five beautiful children into the world. and my husband loves me the way i am—never once has he made me feel anything less than completely beautiful by both his words and actions.

but it doesn’t work. the sagging skin and stretch marks, the fat i can’t seem to shake from the last two pregnancies—i hate it. hate. it. it flies in the face of all the self affirmations we see and read. the praise princess kate got for “embracing” her post-pregnancy body was huge news. and to a certain extent it’s true—a woman less than 48 hours post-partum should never have to justify what her body looks like.

but what about when you’re like…24 months post partum? do the same rules apply?

i understand it all: my stomach was stretched almost to bursting and then deflated five separate times. and i thank my body for the ability to do that. my self image isn’t so poor that i look at tabloid pictures in supermarket checkout lines of stars flaunting flat bellies and 6 pack abs 15 minutes after giving birth and think “whaaaaa why don’t i look like that???” i know it’s totally unrealistic—and frankly, ridiculous--not at all what my goal would ever be. and the truth is i need to lose weight—both for health reasons and self-image reasons. i have been battling that for years now, and i firmly believe the difficulty i’m having with weight loss is connected to whatever else is going on with my body.

unfortunately in the cold light of day, or the harsh light of a fitting room…all that doesn’t really help.

but.

there are bigger forces at play here: i am a mother of four daughters.

deep breath.

teaching them to be good, kind, industrious, thrifty, creative, giving, spiritual, intelligent women..some days i just don’t feel equivalent to the task. some days it’s just overwhelming and i think there’s no way i can do all i need to do. my girls range from 13 to 2. we have pimples to potty training, algebra to animal sounds, braces to blocks.

my brain sometimes doesn’t have the power it needs to make the mental leaps from one to the other every few minutes—or seconds. so as parents we sometimes have to pick and choose—the hills on which we plant our flags and refuse to move. i’ll stick to this principle or by god i’ll die trying.

so it goes for me and body image: model what you want your daughters to see. be the woman you want them to become. and i’m not claiming i do it all right: i know i’ve complained about my body in their hearing. i know i’ve used less than flattering terms to describe other people. but i am harshly conscious of never using the term “diet” in front of them. i tell them i’m going to the gym. i’m exercising because it’s important for health. i stress good eating—eat your veggies and fruits, stop eating when you’re full, you don’t have to clear your plate but you do have to taste everything once. i tell them they’re beautiful people, inside and out. but i never tell them they’re chubby (okay, except for elliot. she’s my chunky monkey. but i don’t think it really counts when they’re babies)

they seem to have all been awarded their father’s metabolism thus far, which i hope works to their favor. i hope that i can instill in them an appreciation for their wonderful god-given bodies that helps them never fall victim to the self-loathing, the eating disorders, even the lingering dissatisfaction.

they’re smart though, you know? it can’t be “do as i say, not as i do” because they’ll see through that in a hot second. so the appreciation for your body? the viewing it with love instead of hatred? has to start here. with me. with us.

and as a general rule we women tend to focus so much on our flaws that we can’t see the breath-taking beauty of the forest for the focusing on one little scarred tree. we miss the beauty we’re exuding—each and every one of us—to complain about our thick ankles or our flabby flying squirrel arms or yes, our flabby stretched out bellies. my stomach is only one part of me—literally, and figuratively. it doesn’t define me, and i’m sure it’s not the first thing people see when they look at me.

and yes—we can focus on our good sense of humor, or our generosity, or our talent for cooking or sewing. but we—as a sex—need to step back and look at ourselves in the mirror. and then instead of seeing all the flaws, see the beauty—the gorgeous deep brown eyes, the pouty lips that make your man melt, the graceful hands or whoa hey now legs. because we ALL have it. we just don’t want to or can’t see it.

so here goes. i’ll start, as long as you promise to join in. i don’t care if you leave your name or a pseudonym or just go totally anonymous.  but tell me: WHAT IS GORGEOUS ON YOU?

me? yeah, i’ve got killer red hair. i have really pretty shaped fingernails. and, let’s face it: some nice legs.

no qualifications, no “i’ve-been-tolds” or “my husband says”. this is what i know.

your turn.

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39 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post! I'm always amazed at how women can be so harshly critical of themselves, and yet so forgiving of other's physical flaws - especially those we love. I've been guilty of this in the past and am also working to change that about myself.

    I think you're beautiful - truly. And I absolutely love your natural red hair.

    As for me? Well, I have a gorgeous smile, cute button nose, killer dimples and twinkling eyes. My hair (while not naturally red) is shiny, healthy, and tangle free. Also, I have really cute toes.

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    1. i think this every time i wear a swimsuit in front of others: am *I* looking at all the other people and picking out every little flaw i see? nope. i'm busy swimming and watching to make sure children don't drown. so why would i assume others are doing that to me?
      thanks, lady!
      i'll have to check out your toes sometime. ;)

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  2. As someone who knows you pretty personally.... I have to say you're doing an excellent job at making your girls comfortable with themselves. It may not last, they will eventually find something that they're not happy with...but that's inevitable, and I think you're doing a great job. Also....to add....this womans red hair is no joke. Gorgeous. And me? I'm pretty happy with my nose and my eyeballs. This post was great Shan.

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    1. thanks kate ;)
      yes, i'm sure the outside influences + puberty will eventually take their toll. but i'm going to fight it as long as i can.
      oh and puh-lease. you forgot to mention your awesome rack.

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  3. What is gorgeous on me? My hair. I love my hair, it is probably my only vanity. It is a brown with shades from blond to red mixed in. The most gorgeous hair I've ever seen was brown ringlets highlighted with silver which means that I'm even looking forward to going grey :-)

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  4. Replies
    1. I want that on your tombstone. hahahah <3 mwah

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    2. hahahahaha!!!! amanda in a nutshell: legs, boobs, blue eyes. own it, guuuurl.

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  5. Geez Googie, ok, ok. I love my eyes for real. And I LOVE the fact that my children have those same eyes. You should check out the Dove videos for real beauty. They are AWESOME! This one is my favorite, but they are all worth a watch. Right on par with your post. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPFsa6FLvlg

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    1. they are some lovely lovely eyes.
      i HAVE seen those dove videos--and they're awesome you're right! they were kind of in the back of my brain the whole time i wrote this post.
      butttt...have you seen the men's version? heheheeh. google it sometime. worth a look.

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  6. I wish we could be as kind to ourselves as we are to others. I have killer legs, a nice booty, and great eyelashes. And two boys that I hope see real beauty in women - that's my burden to teach.

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    1. oooh eyelashes. i covet long dreamy eyelashes.

      YES! i love that you consider it something to teach your boys--seeing the real beauty in women. i am very aware of steering my son away from judging people based on their looks. it begins her, with mom. awesome.

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  7. This is a great post - I love to hear it! Thank you for sharing it.
    I have nice thick hair in a dark brown I love, even including my strands of grey, which give me character and authenticity. I love that my lips are full and red.

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    Replies
    1. Character and Authenticity. they need caps. love it. love that you don't feel the need to cover and hide the grey--but are willing to embrace it.

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  8. Love this post so much. I've got big blue eyes and a rockin' shoulder tattoo.

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    Replies
    1. thanks! oooh a rockin' tat...that's a new one in the comments!

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  9. Loved this post. I have great eyebrows, and my legs are nice. I also have smokin' hot elbows.

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    1. mmmm eyebrows. the frame of the face. i don't think they get as much credit as they deserve.
      and i've noticed your sexy elbows in photos. just sayin'. ;P

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  10. um.. calves, wrists, and lips. :)

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    Replies
    1. YES! own those calves! girl i've seen your pictures: your face as a whole should be mentioned here!!! ;)

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  11. Great post...spot on! I have a great smile, cute dimples and I even love my hair, greys and all. Not bad for 56. Thanks for starting the conversation.

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  12. LOVE this! You are fantastically honest, and have a way with words. I also am super aware of the language I use, and never say "diet" in front of my girls. It is all about being healthy. Inside and out.
    I do like my boobs. They are quite the force.
    ~Michelle

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    Replies
    1. HAHAHAHAHAH!!! yes...sometimes they do seem to have magical properties, don't they?
      thanks, girl!

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  13. I love my hair, my eyes and my smile. I had colon cancer (stage three) and have a thirteen inch scar that starts at the bottom of my rib cage and goes all the way down. After reading your post I will try to embrace my scars and not hate how they look.

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    Replies
    1. carol, you're awesome. you can hate the cancer. you can hate the scar. but never, ever hate yourself. embrace what that scar represents: you made it through. and you're that much more beautiful for it. xoxo

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  14. Thank you for posting this. I have been struggling with the same ideas. Cause you know, when your baby hits two, you should be back to normal. Thankfully my hubby doesn't care. And while I fight with the scale, it is the compliments I have been given lately saying I look thinner that have made me want to work harder to shape up what I have.
    I love my hair, eyes, and perfect nails.

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    1. i finally gave up the scale fight. i found myself depressed if i gained or lost nothing, and more apt to "cheat" if i actually lost. it was a vicious cycle.
      so i haven't weighed myself in weeks.
      we still have a scale--my hubby is a "weigher". and i fight the urge to step on.
      but the truth is: the way my clothes feel and the comments from friends and family are a much more positive indicator of how i'm doing.
      and i'm that much happier for it.
      keep it up!!!

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  15. I've never had kids but always had a tummy I hated! BUT! I have pretty eyes and an easy smile and I like my ankles. Thank you for sharing this! Thank you for sharing all your posts, but these? The ones where it's like I'm reading some back thought that I try to bury deep in my mind... and you say it? It makes it okay. And it makes me feel better that other women feel the same way.

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    1. ankles are super important. a sexy pair of ankles? rawrrrr.
      i'll be honest: these posts are haaaarrd. i second guess myself and write it 50 times in my head before ever setting pen to paper (fingers to keys but whatever). and when i finally just suck it up and go for it it's because of comments like these--because i know that i'm not alone. and no matter how much people accuse or laugh at "mommy bloggers" for oversharing or spilling their guts in public forums, the truth is it helps more than we can say to know you're not alone. you're not crazy. you're not the only one. xoxo

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  16. Love this post too! It's a challenge raising daughters who love themselves! I just hope both of my girls know how gorgeous they both really are. So diverse yet true beauties! As for myself,I really love my eyes and I've always been happy with my boobs-(even tho they've gone a little south). And I hope you know I only ever see the beautiful person you ARE inside and out--truly! Love ya, Tina

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    Replies
    1. :) mwah. love you too.
      and don't be silly...i know you were always most proud of your tush. ;)

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  17. Love this post. =) Let's see... I have beautiful shoulders, an elegant jaw, and a pretty nose. And long, thick hair. =)

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    1. oooh--an elegant jaw. love that. and the beautiful shoulders. two body parts that are highly underrated in my opinion. gorgeous.

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  18. I love this post!!! Wish I'd seen it days ago.
    For me? Boobs, hair, eyes, legs. :)

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    1. hair, eyes and legs have been big ones. but i'm surprised how many of us ladies cop to having nice racks. awesome.

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  19. Your post made me cry. Thank you for reminding me how beautiful I am, that my wit and sensibility are my greatest assets. And your grace is yours. Three daughters later, I'm humbled by my responsibility to them. And I know I'm nailing it when my older twin sings a song she made up about how beautiful she is. Our fourth, a boy, will sing to his sisters as well. You are inspired and inspiring, Momma.

    For the record: eyes, smile, hands, hair, rack. The last, a gift from my children, haha.

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  20. I am late to this party (vacation put me way behind on my blog reading!), but I love it. As a mama, I think every little bit of my kids is beautiful, and that helps me see beauty in myself. I'll think, "Look at that girl's gorgeous eyes. Oh wait, she gets those from me."

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