I had twin boys eighteen months ago. Sleepy and Grumpy are wonderful little terrors, constantly working to destroy our home and bring joy into our hearts.
During my pregnancy with Sleepy and Grumpy, I gave up on all forms of exercise. My high risk doctor told me to stop running at the end of my first trimester. At twenty weeks, he told me to stop lifting anything over ten pounds, including Sunshine. By twenty-four weeks, I weighed more than I did at forty-two weeks with Sunshine and most yoga poses were nearly impossible.
By the end of my thirty-eight week pregnancy with my sons, I had put on sixty-two pounds.
That is eight pounds more than the recommended amount for a twin pregnancy, but I was not concerned. My doctors were not either.
While pregnant with Sunshine, I ran 2-3 miles three days a week until my thirty-sixth week. I delivered six weeks later. I had gained thirty-five pounds, the upper limit of the recommendation.
I lost all but five of those pounds before returning to work at twelve weeks post partum. I returned to running at six weeks postpartum. I kept those extra five pounds until I stopped nursing Sunshine at eighteen months old, even during half marathon training. Then, they melted right off of me.
With Grumpy and Sleepy, my C-section meant not returning to running until ten weeks after delivery. Because I was so completely out of shape and thoroughly exhausted by newborn twins, it was slow and horrible.
When the boys were four months old, they entered the four month sleep regression. I lost sleep and precious ounces in milk output. I started eating my feelings and I stopped running. I needed to consume a minimum of 2500 calories and drink a gallon of water each day to maintain my supply.
I lost fifteen pounds between two and four months, and I gained every ounce of that back between four and six months as I ate more and exercised not at all.
I have been running again for ten months. Seven months ago, I cut my calorie intake back down to my pre-pregnancy levels.
I reached my goal weight three months ago.
But I am not happy with my body.
It will never be the same.
After Sunshine, I lost the weight and my body was only a little worse for the wear.
Now I am soft and doughy. There is extra skin that droops. I look like someone who lost weight too quickly and her skin did not get the memo until it was too late.
Which makes sense because I did and it did not.
It is demoralizing.
Because I am not happy with my body, I am having a hard time focusing on my fitness goals.
In my mind, I should be able to easily run six miles at this point. The boys are eighteen months old. Six miles is no big deal. I have done it countless times before. And I have done it a handful of times since the boys were born.
But I keep accepting excuses.
I often quote Wedding Crashers, saying, “No excuses. Play like a champion.”
But I am not playing like a champion.
I have a great long run. Hitting my six mile goal. I feel awesome. I know I can do it. I am proud of myself.
But the next weekend, it does not go nearly as well. And the following weekend, I convince myself that four miles is enough. That it is okay. I am still working on my comeback.
It is not until afterwards, when I am home again, that I realize that four miles is not enough. I could be better. I could do better.
The thing is, what sucks the most is that, no matter how hard I work or push or try, I am probably still going to be soft and doughy. I hit my goal weight and I do not look anything like what I think I should.
This is not a cry for compliments. I know I look good. About six months ago, people stopped adding “for having twins” to their comments about how good I look. I just look good.
But I do not feel good.
I am not happy with my body.
It is not just the running. I am not strength training because I do not feel strong. I am not eating well because I do not feel like it even matters at this point.
I have become incredibly cynical about my body, and it is being a twin mom that did that to me.
Now, while I have said before that there are experiences that are unique to being a MoM that non-MoMs cannot appreciate, this is not one of those things. I believe there are millions of moms who feel this disconnect with their own bodies. Women who love their bodies because of the babies that they brought into this world but hate them for what they look like afterwards.
For me, though, I believe I feel this way expressly because I am a MoM. Carrying Sunshine did not make me feel so uncomfortable in my own skin. My stretch marks never made me feel uncomfortable. I still only own bikinis. But I am afraid that I will never truly feel comfortable in one again.
For me, my journey to accepting my body has been rife with highs and lows. I first started questioning its value when I was very young.
My skin is pale. Very pale. It makes getting blood work easier because my blue veins stand out against my white skin. I am paler than all of my siblings. They pointed out my Irish skin frequently. How I burned and they tanned. How I needed my own beach umbrella.
I was always chubbier than my next older sister. She was athletic from a young age. I was not. And my mother pointed it out to me on more than a few occasions. Grandma took me to her TOPS meetings where she weighed in and women sat in a circle and discussed how disappointed they were with their bodies.
Dislike of our bodies is ingrained in the minds of young girls so thoroughly, and I was no exception.
I did not buy my first bikini until I was in my mid-twenties. I was “too fat” before that.
But I had taken up running to combat my anxiety at my doctor’s suggestion (exercise, he said, may help if medication was not something I wanted to stick with). And running did something for me that nothing else could have done.
Running showed me that my body was capable of amazing things. My body could run miles. My body could go farther than I could have ever imagined. My body is wonderful. It is spectacular.
I was proud of it.
I remained proud of it until about a year ago. It brought me three children. Two at once.
But then I was thoroughly post-partum, and it feels less mine than the one I used to have. I feel less capable and less amazing.
I want to love my body again. Sometimes, I am afraid that I never will.
I keep trying to.
One day, I will to write a love letter to my body. One day, this will merely be evidence of where we once were.
Today, though, I am feeling that disconnect from what I see and what I am. From what I did and what I can do.
I hope that I can find my pride again. No, I know that I will.
For any mommas reading this post who understand, I see you. Your body is amazing, but I know that it can be hard to see that when you spent so much time sharing it with other people. You will get there.
I will get there.