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Young and Childless

A Mother’s Figure

Jul 17, 2006

OH DEAR GOD!

Please excuse me if you think my honest and barbaric feelings make me a shallow evil horrible woman, but I still don’t know my (future) children, and the perspective of suffering this transformation really upsets me, worries me, and almost makes me think it twice. I hope this is not received as an insult to any of the brave mothers who have posted their photos, or to any other mothers reading this. I am absolutely sure that every one of them rejoices in their current lives as mothers and would never give up their children in exchange for their pre-pregnancy bodies. I am sure that physical beauty is a ridiculous thought compared to the joy of motherhood. I REALLY HOPE those will be my feelings if I am able to conceive and become a mother. Right now, I just can’t feel that.

I am not gorgeous. In fact I never thought I was even pretty. I still don’t think I am. I do realize some guys (to my surprise, guys I like) find me attractive, and I’m sure a few women that know me are rolling their eyes as they read this. I swear: I am not ungrateful for my natural beauty…

However, as far as I can remember I have always been embarrassed of my body. It has never been good enough for me to feel comfortable showing it. At 15, my body was as beautiful as it would ever be, but tiny glimpses of future cellulite made me hide my butt in wraps and shorts unable to walk freely on a bathing suite. At 19, the glimpses were a little more visible, more embarrassing. Now in my early 30s, I live a mostly sedentary life, and although I look fine dressed, and people roll their eyes at me whenever I mention it, I wish I had the same body I had when I was 19.

I was blessed with a beautiful unibrow, a perfectly circular face, a tiny forehead, wide short teeth, and a not so small nose. Not exactly what you would call classic beauty. In fact I have been commented to posses a “strange beauty” and “exotic beauty”, none of which sound very beautiful to me. But, what I’ve always thought I had going, was a good dressed body: Long legs, flat stomach, curvy hips, nice butt, and a mild case of scoliosis which makes it look like I have an interesting curve from back to butt (a fake derriere, if you will).

Thankfully, moon faces elongate a little over time (Jennifer Connelly and mortal me to prove it). I fought the forehead hair with twizzers, and a few months before my wedding I separated the unibrow into two “good looking” eyebrows by Hollywood beauty standards. The brow was perfectly acceptable during my whole youth in Colombia, but my American husband was very thankful to see it go. This is all to say that the non-invasive improvements in the face have helped offset the natural course to a less tight body as I’ve gotten older. Needless to say, I still feel uglier than when I was 19, and although I don’t spend all my energy mourning over this fact, I don’t look forward to a more dramatic blow against my “strange” but finally accepted beauty.

Call me a shallow horrible ungrateful bioch, and tell me I’m crazy… But despite enjoying an enviable inner world and –I hope– and interesting personality with certain depth of thought, after years of self-analysis I have consistently observed something about myself: My life can be hell, I may not have a man by me, work/study/whatever may be awfully hard and miserable to make me cry, I may be lonely without friends or family nearby, but NOTHING makes me more unhappy or takes more energy away than feeling ugly. Whether you agree with it or not.

I am not gorgeous and have never been, but after many years I have come to terms with the few beauty assets I may have, and although you won’t see me walking my butt around pools and beaches, I am comfortable with my present body. My mother’s body is beautiful though far from perfect, and I would be so happy if mine reacted the same way to pregnancy as hers did. However, she was 21 when she had me. I’m not. This really scares me…

. . . . .

As a footnote, I must say that I appreciate the existence of sites like The Shape of a Mother. As scary as this may be to me, I applaud these women and thank them for giving the world a taste of reality, so needed to challenge years of Barbie standards so embedded in our culture.

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17 comments:

  1. On Jul 19, 2006, Marla wrote:

    Hi dear shallow horrible ungrateful bioch.:)

    As a potentially offended mother, I don’t think that about you at all.

    Nothing in the books says you have to be a mother. You’re female and you can reproduce and that causes conflict when you don’t want something you’re capable of.

    I struggled through this with my first and then again after my second, especially after the second. I am currently faced with never having another one and the struggle is the same:
    I’m older, my first is older, the differences in ages, the weight gain, my mental health if I continue to look heavier than I already am. My marriage if I am no longer attractive to my husband. My feelings toward my new baby if my pregnancy removes me from voluptuous to obese. The hard battle over losing weight and how depression will effect the care of my baby and the rest of my family.

    But I know what pregnancy will do to my body. It did the same thing to my mother. And in most cases, how your mother handles pregnancy physically will be how you handle pregnancy physically.

    Your bottom line is this. You’ve said that if you did not become a mother, you think you would regret it. You have a long time to regret that decision and only a short time to make it happen. I’ve never seen you shy away from a life experience, except maybe drinking too many margueritas for fear of doing the Macarena in public.:)

    Anyone can call you selfish or vain, but they will not be raising your child or living with your regrets about your lost figure. A child thrives best when his mother is confident. It will change your life and your body (you may actually have straighter hair ) in ways that are pretty much impossible to imagine until you’re there. You and Joey are the ones who will be living with the changes that a baby or the possibility of one brings.

    It’s good you don’t romanticize motherhood; it is a leap of faith and then you just keep looking ahead, not at your behind.:)

  2. On Jul 19, 2006, Maria wrote:

    Yes. Women’s bodies (and also hair –I’ve heard) go through a phase of potential dramatic changes at three key hormonal times: puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. I’ve heard that the changes experimented on these phases tend to stay very fixed… Say, if you are thin through menopause, you won’t have to whip yourself to death to be a thin old lady.

    A friend once told me that pregnancy had fixed her sister’s body. From a flat butt and small breasts, she developed nice and voluptuous culo and boobs. Greatness!..

    Since hearing that fairy tale, my fear is that my culo will dry and I’ll end up with an afro. As we say down south: “Going from Guatemala (bad) to Guatepeor (worse)”. AYAYAY!

  3. On Jul 19, 2006, Marla wrote:

    You’re funny. The south gets a really bad rap.

  4. On Jul 20, 2006, Jennifer wrote:

    Maria…

    As you know, I’m not a mother, but I do feel much the same as you.

    1. Do I want kids?
    2. If I’m not sure, but think “maybe”, need to plan it soon as the thirties are sort of my limit (for me at least).
    3. What will it do to my body, and do I care?

    Though each person is a unique being, I believe that we share many of the same emotions. It’s how we apply react to emotions that makes us who we are. It’s human nature to feel scared and anxious about becoming a mother (or not!); and, how will that affect me *beyond* being a mother?

    Over the last four months I’ve really put effort into my own answers to the questions above. I’ve come to accept that it’s not until I’m ready to make something happen/be that I will get around to it.

    My point is… during my marriage I always thought, “My body is important to me. If I were to have children, I prefer it to happen when my body is at a healthier stage.” It’s not that I feel motherhood and self-image are comparable in my life (they are such different aspects). However, I know myself enough to know that I want to be a certain influence in my [potential] children’s life. (Here is where I turn into that honest and barbaric bioch.)

    I want to be able to be comfortable with myself enough to be able to enjoy my life with my child — regardless of what my body turns into. I don’t expect to be climbing trees and running marathons at 50, necessarily. But I do want to be able to be there as much as I can for my child because I am healthy — physically and mentally.

    Furthermore, I want to be able to be a role model for any child; and, if I’m not happy with myself then why should that happen?

    So, about four months ago I finally had that “a-ha” moment when I said, “I’m 31. I may want to have kids someday. I do want to bring better living into my life NOW — regardless of kids. How do I do that? I set some goals, join a gym, hire a trainer, and get that going. That’s my plan.

    Now, I’ve gotten to that point that I WANT to go workout. It’s amazing. And a huge boost to confidence.

    At the same time, mentally, I’ve been trying to accept who I am and where I came from — the hardest thing to do. All around me are people whom I admire for a variety of reasons. To that I’m starting to say, “Yeah, the grass is always greener. But… the grass is ALWAYS greener.” Meaning, no matter who I am or where I am I’m always going to want something else — human nature.

    It’s easier to want what you don’t have. Though my story was a bit long and winding I use it as an example of just how different we each are. Your priorities are yours and yours alone. Wanting a great body is not selfish. But, you seem to have accepted who you are and where you came from. And you’re confident — moreso that you think.

    So, whether I have children someday is only part of who I am. And, regardless of how much I try to plan for that right moment, it will happen when and if it happens. But, I need to enjoy my life now. My plan is just that, for me, and me alone.

    Acceptance is a wonderful thing. It’s the biggest attribute to natural beauty that I think anyone can let themselves have.

  5. On Jul 20, 2006, Maria wrote:

    I have to agree with everything you say, Jennifer. It’s interesting that both you and Marla have read this post deep beyond its surface. I wrote about physical beauty, but it’s really all part of my cold feet now that I’m down to the wire with my decision to try for a baby in a few months. You, my friend, still have some time… I think your priorities are on the right place.

    I wish I knew exactly why I want kids. I may need to do some of my voodoo and find out, just to be sure. So far, I can say I’ve never yearned to be A MOTHER. However, I’ve always thought I want to have children. Funny… It’s not the same thing, and only now I’m seeing it. This doesn’t mean that I think I would be one of those uncommitted mothers who better hadn’t had any children. I think I would be a good mother, and I’m sure that traditional maternal feelings will develop as soon as I see my baby. I’m sure that many mothers – specially from older generations – became mothers by inertia, never really questioning whether they wanted to be mothers or not, and in the end it turned out ok. These, however are times full of choices for women.

    Several years ago, my best guy-friend called me to tell me he had just become a daddy. He said to me: “You know… You can always make wrong decisions and change them… You don’t like your career? Change careers… You married the wrong person? Get divorced… But this – having a child – is the one thing you can’t take back.”

    Sounds obvious, but it’s one of those thoughts I think are so wise and true. I guess deep in my heart I keep weighing that… My marriage is so good that if Joey was my whole family I would be perfectly happy with it. But deep inside, I do want a child if I can have it. I know myself enough, though, to be sure that motherhood CANNOT become the sole thing I am. I have other interests, and although children will become the top priority, I know I won’t be happy if that’s all there is to me: I’ll need to keep creating things… I’ll need to feel beautiful… I’ll need to be number 1 for my husband… I’ll need to keep some alone time… I’ll need to keep some of my inner world… I just hope there’s room for all this in motherhood.

  6. On Jul 20, 2006, Jennifer wrote:

    Maria –
    It sounds like you truly know what you want in your heart… now it is just that cold feet syndrome.

    Someone I know who had a baby a few months ago, just last week said:

    “Some women are born maternal. Others are made maternal. I’m one of those ‘made’ maternal.”

    Her situation was as many others are: unplanned/surprise pregnancies (though she is in a marriage and has a stable life). Her pregnancy was terrible – bed rest for 6 months. She delivered a few weeks early due to some problems that arose.

    In the end, by saying she is “made maternal” she means, as she also said, “it’s the best thing that could ever have happened to me.”

    Good luck!

  7. On Jul 20, 2006, Jennifer wrote:

    Oh, I forgot to mention, SHE NEVER WANTED KIDS!

  8. On Jul 20, 2006, Maria wrote:

    I do, and I don’t (know what I want on this topic).
    It’s a debate between brain and gut, but your friend’s story gives me hope.

    That “good luck” sounded like “Good luck, Jim” (Mission Impossible).. Very appropriate : )

  9. On Jul 21, 2006, Petie wrote:

    Well, I don’t have a whole lot to add and you already know most of my feelings on this topic, but…. First, (and I know this is somewhat insignificant since it isn’t really why you wouldn’t have kids) that blog sight you found is a support group for women whose pregnancies have gone over the top in changing their figure. I have one friend who looks BETTER than she did before she had a kid. The rest of my friends look the same. A few stretch marks, but few wear halter tops and bikinis once they’re moms! (I personally never have).
    Second, I, too, was made maternal. Unlike my brother, who loves to play with kids, I do not naturally gravitate to children. I love, adore, and would do anything for my baby, but I’m not one of these naturally doting women who loves all children.
    Third, I’m having a second baby – to me, that speaks a million words. I’m at the point in my life with Joelle where I could have gone back to work very soon or started pursuing more of my own interests again. Instead, I’m having another baby.

    Unlike our mothers, it is completely up to you wheter or not to have kids, I just recommend not overthinking it. You want them or you don’t. I almost made myself sick over having a second baby or not. I was really overthinking it. In my heart I knew I wanted one, but I was trying to be too logical. In the end, Chris’s logic won me over, “You’ll never regret having two kids, but you may regret having one.”

  10. On Jul 21, 2006, Maria wrote:

    That was actually a lot to add, Petie!

    It hadn’t even occured to me that the blog in question was not completeley representative of most cases. I saw it, and went CRAZY thinking 90% of women experience this.

    I had heard Chris’ line before, but every time I only applied it to you, thinking it wasn’t that valid in my case: zero children to start with. Just now I translated it to me: “You’ll never regret having a kid, but you may regret not having had one”. I knew the second piece… I just keep forgetting about the first one… I keep thinking about all the bad things that may come with children, forgetting that once I have my kid all of it will be less meaningful in comparison, and there is no way that I could regret having had him/her. I guess I have to bet that this will be the case… It’s just hard to picture for someone who hasn’t experienced motherhood.

  11. On Jul 21, 2006, Marla wrote:

    Maria,

    I’m not feeling all that cheerful today so forgive me if what I say seems harsh.

    You sound like you’re comparing your “maternal” side to that of the Virgin Mary.

    It’s not offensive to me that people make the choice not to become parents for any number of reasons, including physical ones. It’s a life choice and it’s not an easy one.

    What is offensive is that people think that becoming a mother means you morph into a stereotype once the child is delivered from your body.

    I still struggle with not being maternal enough! And for some stupid reason, I hold myself up to some unknown gold standard. It does me no good because I can’t be that person. I can only love and care for her as I know how and make sure that Steve shares the load.

    You don’t become another person and you don’t lose yourself unless you want to and some mothers want to for a time. Others find a balance as their children grow, giving and taking. There is no right way.

    Don’t mistake sacrificing some of your current lifestyle as losing yourself. I didn’t discover who I really was until I became a mother.

    You and Jennifer are fortunate to have found that before having children and in the end, will probably make better decisions for your children, should you choose to have them, knowing yourselves as you do.

    It’s the last I’ll say. I feel like I’m holding a baseball bat. Sorry.

  12. On Jul 21, 2006, Maria wrote:

    Don’t worry… I don’t think you’re hitting me hard with the bat.
    I write about this because I need the discussion… an honest discussion like the one I’d probably have personally with you and other friends if I didn’t live like a hermit deep in the mountains of the Salt Lake valley. I just replied to you via email…

  13. On Aug 3, 2006, Kim Rodriguez wrote:

    oops..party’s over and here I am crashing in late….sorry…
    none of the things you talk about as reasons NOT to have kids are really real reasons….they are your psyche’s mechanism for trying to deal with the uncertainty and lack of control that comes with having kids and departing from that very comfy KNOWN existance you have now.
    It is all manifestations of doubts about how you will CONTROL it all and NOT FAIL.

    Some people have truly legitimate reasons for not wanting kids..and hallelujah when they know it and don’t do it.

    Lots of people think they’ll wait for the “right time” and because of the anciety about balancing it all may never really find it….or as with us, the right time found us first….

    Most likely with the mix of feelings you have pro and con, yours would be the case where almost certainly you would regret NOT having a kid……and unfortunately, the biology of it all means that at some point one has to just take that leap of faith….or the bus will leave the station while you’re still deciding whether to buy a ticket or not. Fortunately, you still have a pretty long window of time and women today are having kids at all ages….
    One of my college roommates had her 1 and only baby quite late….a result ofwaiting for the right moment to come as well as unfortunate circumstances …..she’s now almost 50 and her daughter is 4 1/2……technically old enough to be a grandmother! She recently told me that one of her regrets is that she is almost a generation older than most of the moms of her daughter’s playmates, and all of her friends and women with whom she can best relate are in a completely different place because their kids are grown and going to college…..so she finds it quite lonely in many ways….
    so are all the fears, anxieties and doubts you are having merely shallow vanity? No…all part of a process..particularly emphasized in a person like yourself who plans and organizes and controls as many things as you can….

  14. On Aug 4, 2006, Maria wrote:

    Oh, no… party’s not over yet. I’m still here, and we’re still on birth control…

    Thanks for your thoughts Kim. I agree with you. I’m almost certain that I will regret not having tried to have a kid. I know he/she will “ruin” the precious freedom I currently enjoy in my life, where I am master and commander of almost everything I can control… But, I can’t imagine that once baby Stultz is here I could ever regret his/her existence over the life changes that will happen.

    I’m glad to know that your friend had a baby at 45. Not that I want to wait that long, and I better take the plunge now, but it’s nice to know that my window of opportunity could be that big should I need it. I keep thinking of it as up til 35.

  15. On Aug 4, 2006, Maria wrote:

    Something else I thought I’d like to share…

    When I was younger I always thought I wanted boys. You know: It’s always been mostly women around me (sister, grandmothers, aunts, etc). Later, seeing my little niece I thought a girl would be nice too, almost to the point to maybe prefer a girl over a boy if I only got one kid.

    But yesterday, I saw a great photo of a little boy which belongs to a “Boys will be boys” set of photos I just LOVED. It reminded me of how much I wanted a little boy – with all that crazy activity I’ll probably be trying to control. Later, I was doing something and the thought of having a boy came to my mind. This time I actually pictured a specific 6-year-old talking to me, and I thought: There is no way that I could regret having had him, no matter what pregnancy and motherhood could’ve done to me.

  16. On Aug 7, 2006, Kim Rodriguez wrote:

    so you see…..the question isn’t really to have A baby, but whther to have 2..or 3…or…?

    my college roommate started a family right after she got married….had a beautiful little girl…..and then a 1 1/2 yrs late ANOTHER beautiful girl…..and then still hoping for a boy to add to the mix, 2 yrs later ANOTHER beautiful girl…….almost at the point of giving up on the idea of a boy, she finally had a darling BOY at age 42 or so….

    While you’re still thinking about it, just hope that Abuelita Lucila doing her voodoo to happen! She’s get extra close proximity to the poers that be these days! ;-)

  17. On Sep 21, 2007, Mafe Maria • They got me good wrote:

    […] I feel so not ready… probably not only because I still don’t have clothes and diapers and toys and books and bottles and a bassinet and the diaper genie and all other necessary crap for my baby, but maybe, just maybe, because my life is about to change dramatically, and although I’m sure I’ll adore my baby from the minute I see him come out of his cave, I will suddenly receive this “appendix” that will have to go with me wherever I go, and I will be completely responsible for him, what he eats, what he learns, what he does, how safe he is, who he becomes… and my friends: That is a lot of pressure for somebody who’s never ever done this, and up until a few months wasn’t even sure she was suited for it. […]