I pulled on a pair of jeans yesterday that I’d bought on sale for £9 from Marks & Spencer’s in late summer 2005. I didn’t fit into them then, but I had plans. My first daughter was a few months old, my second not yet agreed to, and I was working toward… oh, it makes me laugh now!… I was working toward “getting myself back again”.
Women so often have this ridiculous idea that they can “get back” after they have their babies — back to their old bodies, back to their careers, back to their interests, back to their lives. It’s only have you have the baby — quite some time after — that you realise it’s impossible to go back. There is only going forward. Even if you resume your career, work off the babyfat, start going out again, the truth is that you have changed forever — everything has changed forever. There is no going back.
For me, the going forward meant not returning to work (a mix of unforeseen circumstances and my own choice), having another baby in quick succession, and fourteen months of the most brutal sleep deprivation as we desperately tried to figure out what was wrong with this staving, screaming child. Getting my figure back fell right off the agenda. Getting my life back seemed… utterly impossible. I’d try on the jeans periodically, but it was pointless — they only mocked me and refused to go over my thighs. Plans indeed!
But here we are, four years later, and things are moving forward again. E2 has these past few months begun sleeping through the night at last. And sleep performs miracles: life is beginning to feel manageable — almost normal — again. There are thoughts of a possible career, and long-untouched hobbies, and I have begun to work out…
As I was getting ready to go out last night, I tried on the jeans again and, to my utter surprise, they slipped on — actually loose at the waistband and with room in the thighs. I wore them out with a pair of cheeky red heels and a huge grin — standing at the bar with my husband and feeling fantastic, feeling almost skinny, feeling… well, feeling like myself again!
Getting ready for church this morning, we were late and in a rush. I stepped out of the shower into a crowded bathroom as two little girls tried to brush their teeth (badly) and their father tried to brush their hair (even worse). As I hastily rubbed the towel over myself, E1 stopped brushing and looked at me for a moment, before asking, “Mummy, why are your legs so big?!?”
My husband paused in his manic brushing and glanced at my face to gauge my reaction. Sensing it might not be good, he rushed in to save the day, “They’re not big! They’re muscular!” It was a kind reference to my recent attempts to get back to weight-lifting, and it did make me feel a bit better. Yes, it’s muscle, I reassured myself, looking down at my legs. It’s all muscle.
“But look!” his daughter protested, still unconvinced. “Look how they go round and round!” And she plonked a hand on either side of my thigh and began to rotate it back and forth, as you would a ball held between your hands, and my thigh responded by jiggling — jiggling! — round and round, just as she’d said.
I looked up at my husband as he looked up at me, pursing his lips to keep from laughing. My thigh carried on moving back and forth with my daughter’s hands. I smiled back at him, a little ruefully — last night’s happy illusion was shattered. There may be no going back, but there is indeed a lot of going forward yet to do before I get to me again.
Or perhaps I am already there. Mother, wife, jiggle and all… perhaps this is me.