After my son was born, I got into the habit of purchasing items for him and only him. My dollar became dedicated to the well-being of my child. Yes. I would proudly admit that I am one of those obsessive parents when it comes to ensuring that my child is taken care of. What I refused to confess, however, probably had more to do with me than it did with him.
While browsing through a store with my family, my husband makes me a kind offer.
“Why don’t you let me get you some new clothes?”
I haven’t bought myself new things for a while. Got pretty content rotating the same three smocks and avoiding the public.
“Ok.” I agree eventually.
I go through picking up one or two items.
My husband pokes around curiously in the trolley. He raises one article of clothing to the light. He points out that it is nice. He asks if it’s for one of my sisters.
It’s an innocent question.
But I lose it.
I start demanding that the few items be returned to the shelf.
“Don’t bother.” I mutter in the most bothered of tones.
When I became a mama, several facets of my life have gotten wacky. My weight is one of them.
Most of my life I’ve generally been a medium. Recently, I’ve seen L and XL more often than I would like. I’m not impractical enough to pick up a medium now, but shopping for clothes especially post pregnancy has become one of the most distressing activities for me.
I do not want to be reminded of how much I’ve drastically gained since leaving my home country. I do not want to be reminded that my postpartum belly has more issues related to it than just “oh ban your belly” or “oh lose the weight”.
But I’m reminded constantly. I’m reminded by the droning on the television about what women ought to look like. I’m reminded by the pills and remedies. I’m reminded by those who snap back and stay snapped back. I’m reminded by the folks who make themselves nuisances by pointing out to me that my body needs modifying. We put so much pressure on women who have just generated an entire human with their bodies, brought them into the world and are busy raising them. But we expect them all to look modelesque.
I plan to do something about it. I grit my teeth and determine I will try.
Yet it goes deeper than that.
I realise that I do not like how I appear. I do not love myself. I realise that this is not a new thing. A decade ago when I was as slim as a bone I hated how I looked. I hated that my chest was as flat as my back. That I was taller than most. That my head was huge. That I had a gap.
And now that I was finally well endowed I still wasn’t happy. My problem went far beyond my appearance. My problem was that I needed to accept myself. I was perpetually guilty of body shaming.
I grew up around people who had some negative comment for people who put on pounds. Some just wait until they have not seen you for 6 months to comment on how big you’ve gotten. They made it sound like the end of the world. I have had friends who made fun of my newly found flesh. Those people are not your friends. If you are guilty of it, stop fat shaming your friends. If your family is guilty of it, they need to be more respectful. There are ways to get across concern politely and many do not take the care to do it considerately.
I’m not saying that you should use self acceptance as an excuse to jeopardise your health. By all means try to look like your best self. But as my sister-in-law always says. It won’t happen overnight. It’s a process.
There’s a high possibility that I will never be a bone again. Motherhood, childbearing, age, adult responsibilities and constraints could contribute to such inhibitions.
As a result, the reality of the matter is that I have to learn to love myself where I am at. As an idealist, if I don’t, I will always have a problem with myself. There are things we all hate about ourselves. But I have to remove my eyes from only the stretch marks and rolls.
I need to highlight the natural auburn glint of my hair, the cushion in my butt, the caramel brown of my skin, the crinkle in my eyes when I laugh. I have to take a spin on my so called negatives. My head is so big because my brain has to fit somewhere. Gaps are a mark of beauty in Ghana. It makes me memorable. Identifiable.
It’s not conceit to find beauty in yourself. When it is so fleeting and changing, there has to be a habitual effort. Anyone else can afford to criticise your looks but you can’t. You have to confidently praise your body because you’re the one who needs to live comfortably in it.
Husbands. The worst thing you can ever do is make negative comment about your wife’s appearance. If you don’t think she’s beautiful for goodness’ sake do not marry the people’s girl child. Remind her of her assets. She needs it and even when she seems like she doesn’t believe you, she appreciates it.
In the end I walked out of the store with stuff in my hands. Because my husband insists that I need to look my best no matter what size I am. People are more likely to notice that something criticism worthy is hanging around when you don’t make an effort to look well.
Don’t body shame yourself anymore. You’re beautiful mama. Embrace it. Own it. Work it. Love it.
If you don’t like something, improve it. I recently learned that when we treat ourselves well we feel better about ourselves. Go to the gym, go to the salon, get your nails done, buy that dress. Women really do these things for ourselves, not for attention. And it is important for you to look good and feel good about yourself. It doesn’t matter if no one else sees how lovely you are dear flower. You must see it. You must know it.
You deserve to.