Here comes Big Mama!
That’s the honest introduction I received from my five-year-old as I entered the pool. I smiled, trying not to reveal that beneath my skin, my soul was crushed, mortified. Big. Mama. Not Pretty Mama, or Sweet Mama, or even just Mama. Big Mama.
I know, you may be thinking, “What’s the big deal? She’s five. She might be talking about your height or that you are just a “big” person in her little eyes that view the world much larger than it is.” And you may be right, but what you haven’t heard over the past five months are the other comments. The “when is the next baby coming out of your belly, Mommy?” “Is there a brother in there?” “Why is your belly so big, Mom?” “I think you need to exercise.”
Thank you, Sesame Street and preschool for teaching my daughter all about physical health, because what she is retaining, she is kindly sharing with her big-bellied-mama.
The four-year-old taps on my stomach incessantly like it’s homebase or a bass drum. I don’t know which, but neither feels pleasant. Their small hands hurt my tender tissues, and their innocent words hurt my bruised ego.
I know, child. I know your mama is big. Your mama doesn’t want to be.
But you can’t tell your growing daughters that. I mean you can talk about health and self-control and dedication to a positive lifestyle, but you can’t express what you are really struggling with.
I feel fat, honey. I don’t know how your dad is attracted to this hot mess. I feel strangers’ eyes on my stomach. I can’t button my pants and it ticks me off.
You can’t really say those things when you’re raising four beautiful, healthy, innocent daughters who haven’t been tainted by a negative self-image. I will never introduce them to self-loathing. I will fight that fight to the end.
I got on the scale the next morning. We have one of those fancy-schmancy ones… And it gave me an honest look at myself and my health. I had gained just over six pounds in two weeks and was teetering back into my pregnancy weight high. Yep, I was weighing as much as I did when I had a human inside of me (and all that comes with it)!
Again, you may be struggling with weight too and look at me thinking, “She has no idea what it really looks or feels like to be heavy. (smh)” You may be right, but I am heavy for me, and I am trying my very best to raise four daughters in a home that aims for well-being, not a number on a scale, so, while I know that number doesn’t define me, I also know that the way I feel isn’t healthy. I feel the sluggishness in my muscles… I feel the heaviness in my legs when I walk… I feel and see the extra rolls that I am trying to hide under my shirts… It doesn’t feel good, and I refuse to settle for less than my best. (And I refuse to buy a new wardrobe!) If my best was this at just a month or two postpartum, then fine, but Miriam is six months old now, and I know that I can do better. Truthfully, up until this point, I haven’t been doing anything at all.
I had let diastasis recti get into my head. It put a fear in me. “Don’t do that, you may make things worse.” But after seeing that disheartening number on the scale that morning, I knew I had to do something, because not doing anything is what has made things feel worse.
The other night, I waited until the kids were in bed and sleeping. I changed my clothes and donned my running shoes, which hadn’t even been worn since I mowed the lawn for my hubby a month ago! I left our quiet house and started a brisk walk beneath a peaceful, pastel sky. There wasn’t a whole lot of running, and I honestly felt like I was on the verge of shin-splints about ten steps in, but as I completed my first lap around our neighborhood (three makes a mile), cresting a small hill, I was even with the horizon and I felt it.
I felt alive again.
All of this time, I have been staying indoors feeling sluggish and worthless and anxious… This girl that used to ask for and receive gym memberships for her birthday. I had tried an intense workout video at home during my second pregnancy and miscarried the following day, and it scarred me. I never touched another form of exercise since. I’m recognizing these unhealthy choices now. I’m recognizing not just the physical issues, but the mental, emotional, and spiritual ones too. I took that first lap and felt free for the first time in a long time. The smell of fresh air, the healthy burn in the quads I thought were long gone… It felt so good to feel again, to catch my breath again, to believe in myself again.
I will succeed, not because I need to, but because I want to. I want to feel that way every day for the rest of my life. I will be that little bitty (God-willing) still walking those laps around the flower bed when my hair is white, because it’s worth it.
I felt my spirit having a chance to connect with God. I was able to pray for my neighbors as I ran past unfamiliar porches. I added about sixteen projects to my “Honey-Do” list, because some of those folks have killer landscaping! 😉 This is what I was longing for, and I didn’t even realize it.
I left my cell phone on the bed and the music with it. I kept glancing at my new “live hands free” bracelet from Rachel Macy Stafford, the wise and amazing Hands Free Mama, and I kept thinking, Yes! This is living. This is what it’s all about – getting back to life…to my health…the outside world…the sound of trees in the wind and birds and rocks crunching beneath my feet… This is living…being my best self, so I can be the best wife and mother for them. This is what I’ve been missing over the past five years…
I went for my second run/jog/walk yesterday evening. I have a long way to go in order to jog that mile without walking breaks, but I’m confident that I’ll get there. I drove my girls around “Mommy’s exercise path” yesterday afternoon, and we talked about being healthy and working our bodies, so they are strong and useful. My oldest shouted from behind, “Exercise is good, Mama. I think your belly is getting smaller!” Her words didn’t sting this time. Even if my belly hadn’t changed a bit in three days, my heart has, and my mind has. I am becoming a better version of me for me and for them. I’m proud to be their “Big Mama”, and I’m proud that they will get to witness my healthy, prayerful, and patient transformation for themselves.
And so why am I sharing this with you? Because I know I’m not alone. I’m not alone in desiring change. I’m not alone in diastasis recti. I’m not alone in miscarriage. I’m not alone in marital issues. I’m not alone in low self-esteem. I’m not alone in motherhood. I’m not alone in fear. I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed. I know I’m not alone in eating well, yet never seeing the scale move. I’m not alone in feeling alone! I’m not alone. Neither are you. I’m here. I’m struggling, but I’ve decided to step into the ring and fight back. I’m done with the pity parties. I’m ready to be accountable to my community of sisters here and see where this new path leads. Let’s take our lives back, friends. Are you on this life-changing journey with me?
Follow my journey on IG @kristi_kloverhouse. See you there, friend!
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