A Letter to My After-30, After-Baby Body

Dear After-3,0 After-Baby Body,

Hey. Kayla, here. I know you probably are surprised to hear from me. You probably think I don’t like you much. After all, I’m in the gym almost everyday trying to change you. Trying to make you stronger, make your muscles more defined, and – let’s just be honest – make you smaller.  Make you look how you looked when we were 25. I know I changed my diet a lot, and don’t eat the fun stuff I ate when I was pregnant nearly as much. (Do you miss daily Taco Bell? I’m guessing the taste buds do and the stomach doesn’t.) And yes, you have changed, not only in the ways I’ve been trying to change you – more muscle definition, less fat, smaller sizes – but in ways I have not been trying to change you. A lot of people don’t realize it, because you look the same in clothes, but I see you without clothes everyday. And I know without a doubt that you aren’t the same as you were before you carried my sons. And, yeah, you’re right – I don’t always like you.

Here’s the thing, body. It’s not just dress sizes and a big ol’ c-section scar. You feel different. My metabolism is different. I don’t know what to blame for that – aging, too many crash diets (Remember trying to fit that size 2 wedding dress?), hormonal changes after giving birth. I’ve never had a fast metabolism – I’ve always gained fast and lost slow. But the gaining’s gotten faster and the losing’s gotten slower and it’s been an impossible adjustment to make. Plus, I’m way more sensitive to stimulants now. I used to take three energy supplements every morning, power through the day with no problems, and be asleep by 10. Now, I take one, and lie awake all night. My hair is thinner, still recovering from postpartum hair loss.  My periods are heavier than ever and always prefaced with PMS characterized by awful mood swings and depressive episodes. It’s frustrating, and I feel a disruption in so many routines and processes that I could once count on. I can’t help but wish you’d just stop with all the changes. Stay the same. 25-year-old body was just fine.

You look different, too. It used to be that when I ate a strict diet and did hours of cardio a week and did 100 sit-ups a night, my stomach was flat as a washboard. Now, no matter what I do, no matter how hard I work and how much my abdominal muscles show – they’re still covered in loose, sagging skin, gathered in a little pouch of flesh I’ve heard referred to by so many as the “c-section shelf.” Losing the fat underneath has made the “shelf” smaller, but not non-existent. Not to mention the stretch marks that stripe my mid-section, despite a twice-a-day prenatal regimen of creams, oils, and lotions, and my bellybutton, now permanently warped with a big black hole that used to be a piercing.

And then there’s the parts of you that haven’t changed much and that I have never liked, even before you carried my boys. My legs, my thighs, the product of genetics, evident in any picture of the women on my mother’s side of the family. For so many years, the bane of my existence. I’d run for miles and miles, cut out carbs, sugar, fat, dairy, do squats and lunges until I couldn’t move, and all I’ve ever done was make you a little smaller and a lot stronger, but still – there you are. I have workout leggings, really cute, colorful, patterned ones, that I still will not wear to this day because I think they make my thighs look too big. I wear every black pair first, and then when those are all dirty, I move on to the other dark colors – dark gray, dark purple, dark blue. The light-colored ones are at the very bottom of the drawer, and usually covered by a sweatshirt tied around my waist, if I wear them at all. Not to mention the cellulite that have decorated the backs of them for as long as I can remember. I remember thinking, “Once I get in really good shape, and lose a bunch of fat and build muscle, these darn things will go away.” Now I’m strong and I’m fast and I’m still as dimpled as ever.

Listen, body. I’m tired of not liking you. I’m tired of wanting you to be 25 again, as fine as 25-year-old me was. Sure, I still want to work on making you stronger and leaner, but that’s just because being physically fit is something I enjoy – I made a whole brand out of it! But I’m tired of motivating myself from anywhere but a place of love. I told myself that once I turned 30, I would stop doing that, and I’ve been working on it. Truthfully, it’s a long journey. I take it a day at a time. I do all the things my therapist told me to do about you. Cover up the mirrors for a while when the scrutiny gets too frequent. Once I uncover them, challenge the critical thoughts with self-celebratory ones. When I work out in front of the mirrors at the gym, look at my form, look at my muscles, admire my progress – don’t look at what still needs to change. I promise, I listen to her! I do my best. But our relationship has been strained at best since I was about 10. Don’t expect me to change in a day or a month or even a year.

Also, I don’t say this often enough, but you’re dope. I know, I know. I say all that stuff about how much you suck and how much you need to be different, but listen. You’re strong as hell. And not just because of all those heavy weights I’ve been making you pick up at the gym (hope you’re cool with that, because you’ve really been stepping up to the plate there.) I’ve put you through some heinous stuff over the years and you still haven’t quit on me. On top of that, not only do you keep on ticking – you also gave me some really amazing humans. And it wasn’t all smooth sailing – there was a time when their growth inside of you was so dubious, the doctor wasn’t even sure one twin would make it out alive. But you rose to the occasion. You were poked and prodded and monitored every other day for months, the world untrustworthy of your ability to deliver him successfully, only to give such an incredible gift to the world that is as healthy and fun and happy as ever today. Sis, you did that. And I will never, ever, ever be able to thank you enough.

Let’s be friends again, okay? For real. No shady stuff this time; I’m too old for frenemies. I’m willing if you’re willing.

Love, Kayla.