Many people compliment me for looking thin and getting my body back very quickly (almost 8 weeks after the birth of our son). I believe our culture is programmed to either shy away from a compliment or to boast about our accomplishments by being vain about them.
I have done neither. I have a friend, who has an issue with body image and works very hard at looking beautiful, who said to me “You look amazing. How did you do it?” I was silent. She said “Just say “Thank you.” That is the polite and logical thing to do when someone gives you a compliment, but I didn’t feel it was a compliment, in fact, I felt it was insensitive. She couldn’t have possibly known that is what she was doing with her passing comment, but let me explain why it impacted me the way it did.
I have always been thin. This picture of me sunbathing is who I was before giving birth. Originally from South Florida, clothes were optional, so looking good was priority. I was LUCKY. My mother and my sister are both thin and my overall genetic makeup predisposes me to have a slim frame. No cellulite, no large derriere, unfortunately no large breasts (sorry for you women who do have them and hate them– we always want what we don’t have), tall, olive complexion and usually weighing less than the average girl at my height. I don’t say this to “show off”, I am putting this in perspective because those are the facts. I never worked hard at being thin. This time was a whole new ballgame.
When I gave birth to Jacob, the AFE destroyed everything in its sight. I had a heart attack, my lungs shut down, my abdomen was sliced open, there were parts of me removed and then the kidneys went offline. If you know anything about kidneys, they help the body relieve itself of toxins through urinating. When you have no kidney function, fluid backs up, also known as edema, and you just balloon. And cellulite was everywhere. My ass was the size of JLo’s x 5. And my breasts were larger, but not only due to the fluid backup, I was engorged with milk. Not a pretty site to the person who would have complimented my physique in the past. But my husband would routinely say how beautiful I was and I KNOW he really meant it, I just mentally couldn’t handle the idea that my body had the potential to stay that way, and I honestly didn’t really believe him.
Think of Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory. Remember Violet Beauregarde? She ate a piece of gum and when it turned to blueberry pie, she just started expanding. No outlet. And ultimately, they needed to “juice” her so she didn’t pop.
THAT IS EXACTLY HOW I FELT FOR WEEKS.
I wanted a pin to poke a hole and have the fluid out of me. I couldn’t walk because the bottoms of my feet were filled with fluid and I couldn’t sit up because of the excruciating pain.
I couldn’t pee because that would mean the kidneys were functioning and they were not and more importantly, I couldn’t EAT. Every bite of food I had or a sip of juice would be painfully uncomfortable on my stomach because the edema was putting pressure all over my body. And every time I did try to eat more than 1 bite of anything, I would throw up. I wasn’t just throwing up that one bite, I was tasting all of that medication they were feeding me every hour of every day for weeks on end. It was not comfortable. I still taste that bitterness of the medication when I think about it. It haunts me to this day.
When my kidneys began to function, I went from obese to pre-baby weight almost overnight. Fluid came off and so did everything else. That is what happens when you DON’T EAT and are extremely sick for months on end. So when anyone asks me “How did you get your post-baby body back?” I explain to them the aforementioned. And then I say, “Would you think it was worth it?” I think the resounding answer would be Absolutely NOT. Surprisingly, many smile and say, “Really??, no exercise, no need for food, I would do that.” I hope to G-d they are NEVER in my shoes. They have NO IDEA what they are saying.
External Validation is what I believe my friend wanted me to say thank you for. In her eyes, I believe she was complimenting me because those are the things she herself would have wanted to hear. And in the past, it would have made me happy to hear it too. But today I am 100% about Internal Validation– I feel healthier, but that is 100% due to my spirit and not my physical appearance. The new scars from my hernia operations a few weeks ago added more markings on my body (not sexy from an external standpoint), but beautiful to both me and my husband because they signify a life, a really important life to my family had been saved. Chapter Closed. I am alive and I am honestly more put together both physically and mentally than ever before.
I will gladly accept the compliment that I look better than ever, because that is truly the way I FEEL.
Please share with me your stories of what beauty looks like to you.