I remember very clearly looking at my naked body in the mirror when I was 26 years old. I was hot. I was working out 6 days a week, fake tanning (the "good" kind at the expensive place .. whatever that means), and I was getting regular haircuts, pedicures, time to myself. I had a dog. And a housekeeper. And an unlimited wine budget. And free time.
My ass was amazing. I mean, I still can remember the precise shape of that curve, and looking back in the mirror to see it.
I met Geoff a few months later.
Can't say I blame him for falling so in love.
That was 7 years ago. 3 children ago.
I get up sometime between 6 and 7 and can't stand my face until I put on makeup. Expensive makeup. After I put on my makeup I look somewhat like the me I remember. Sometimes I brush my hair, but it usually goes into a ponytail and it hasn't seen the hands of my hairdresser or her treasured foil wraps for a very long time.
I go to button jeans that should be big, but are too small. I put on a shirt that used to flatter my bust, but now can't get over my head, let alone up and down all day long to nurse my 7 week old baby.
I look at the clothes in the drawer and they seem like they should belong to someone much younger than me. Someone with free time. And a housekeeper.
I try not to wear shorts. Or skirts. I look down and see the legs of my grandmother. Not even my mom. No. They skip a generation, these legs. They're ghost-white. Veiny. Covered in cellulite.
My heels are rough, my toenails becoming ingrown.
I haven't bitten my nails recently because I have 2 week old polish on them and that has prevented me from biting. But the polish is chipping off and I haven't had the chance to take it off.
I always feel so ... almost.
I'm almost the weight I think I want to be.
I'm almost going to fit into those pants.
I'm almost presentable if I put on enough makeup.
I debate the varying powers and strengths of face creams and which one I need. Do I need retinol? Do I need vitamin e? What's toxic? Should I even buy that stuff?
And I see women at the Farmer's market who look like they've spent their entire lives jogging and hiking and gardening and they have 2% body fat and tanned leathery skin and lots and lots of wrinkles. They always seem so happy. So ... unaware of high-strength no-oil sunscreen.
They always wear sunhats at the Farmer's market and (of course) bring their own bags.
I think about the futility of trying to get back into the shape I was at 26. And why I feel it's so desirable to be that way again.
After I had Jack, I felt downright celebratory about the experience. I was woman. I roared. I was invincible. He was not an "easy" baby. I didn't care. I had DONE IT. I had this big baby, naturally, and he was strong and powerful and so was I.
And when I got pregnant with Raef, my body betrayed me. It got pregnant (wasn't supposed to happen). It had a subchorionic hematoma that left me ordered to not do anything. I sat on the sofa and watched the weeks tick slowly by.
So. Incredibly. Slow.ly.
And labor was easy. And birth was easy. And afterward, I felt like I had given everything I had to give. And I was gone. And in my place were 3 children looking back at me going "I need things from your body". And I didn't have anything to give.
And sometimes I wonder if I still do.
I nurse Raef, and he sleeps great. I feed my body good foods. I am done having babies. But my body is not my own as long as I nurse. I used to love it. And I love the convenience, but now I feel it weighs me down. It's an obligation. More physical giving. And I just get tested to my limits every. single. day. And I never felt this way before.
At that 2 a.m. (or 3 a.m., or 4 a.m. ... whatever time he wakes) feeding, I think Phoebe is my heart (my sweet, affectionate girl), Jack my body (my physical boy who climbs and jumps and takes risks) and Raef my soul (my intense mellow baby who seems older than his ... weeks ... in every single way). And I'm not sure where I am because I feel like I've been spread out. Dispersed. And now I'm just sort of ... there.
My midwife (who - sadly - didn't catch Raef) has 3 children and she said her 3rd did the same to her. It was such a huge shock, she said. "The laundry alone nearly killed me". Yes. I have some I should fold, but at least it's only 1 basket's worth. She said 3 isn't just like adding "one more", it's like adding 10 more. And it really feels that way. Nothing ever gets done. Life is Groundhog's Day.
I wake up, weigh myself, look in the mirror and I see the wet bread that is my butt. I look back and look away. White. Doughy. Soft. Unattractive. At least my hair is long, I think. That is something. And I'm not really that fat. I just am fat for me. Soft. A mother.
My face develops new wrinkles daily and I'm thankful for glasses that hide them ... but maybe they make me look older? Maybe the new mascara I bought will be the miracle that makes me suddenly younger. More attractive. 26. A dog-owner.
Tonight I saw a bus of Cal Poly students (hell, maybe they were high schoolers -- I couldn't tell) going to some kind of party or something. I was with my family and we were getting In N Out (my order so complicated, I had to repeat it; hamburger, protein-style, no sauce, no salt). They were all attractive. They were all laughing. Eating cheeseburgers. And fries. And drinking Dr. Pepper. Carefree. Not even a whiff of the future. All hoping. All individuals. One man (man? He's just a boy, right?) wearing lederhosen. And I remembered I used to have fun.
And I used to be fun.
And I used to be hot.
And I get up and put on my makeup. And I pretend I still am. And I smile. I am happy. But I grow ever aware that I am aging. And nothing, no feet dragging or expensive face creams or higher and higher (I found 70 today!) SPF lotions will prevent it.
And maybe my husband doesn't like looking at my doughy shapeless wet bread of an ass (he assures me it's fine. he's obviously lying.). Or the wrinkles around my eyes (yes yes, smile lines from the joy brought about by my children of course ...). I see the beauty around me, and wonder when I will once again see it in myself.
I used to see it all the time.
When I used to be hot.
And I wish I could go back in time and take a picture. And show people "See? This was me. I was that, once. I wasn't just the mom at the grocery store with the unruly children. I was fun!"
And I think of those pathetic women pretending to be 26 when they're in their 40s and 50s and beyond ... at a certain age it becomes charming though, really. And I wonder ... what is appropriate for me at this age, anyway?
And I wanted this life with lots of children (I used to think I wanted 6 of them!).
I really did.
I just think I imagined I'd always be 26. With a housekeeper. And a dog. And endless time to myself.
And some days, I really wish I could go spend a day with her, and tell her to look back in the mirror one more time to get a good hard look, and know that it won't always be that way forever.
Like I know this insecurity will pass.
Everything is transitory.
Hear. Me. Roar.