Despite my roller coaster ride on the upper end of the BMI scale, despite my generous nose and my crooked smile, despite my emerging gray hair, wrinkles, and age spots, I have always had a lot of self-love and confidence. I would be lying if I said I never looked in the mirror and saw something I wished I could change, but all in all, even at my highest weight, I have always thought I looked pretty good, and I have always felt sexy. And even when I struggle with self-image, I am always grateful to have a healthy, strong body that mostly does what I ask it to do.
A few years ago, pre-kids, when I was dancing with a belly dance troupe, someone in the troupe asked, “Who here likes their body?” I don’t remember who asked, or why. I think maybe it was supposed to be a rhetorical question, a sort of, “May she who is without self-loathing throw the first stone.” But I answered, “I do.” No one else said yes. These were beautiful women. Stunning. Lovely. Most were younger than me and prettier. All of them were thinner than me. I remember being completely shocked. I have since come to realize that I have an unusually high level of self-esteem for a woman of my... um... generous proportions. And maybe a high level of self-esteem for a woman in general. But there is one thing that I am having trouble loving.
It was never cute (well, not since college anyway, and even when it was cute, I didn't think it was). It has always been my challenge zone. And then, it housed two humans for 8 months or so. Now it looks like a war zone. Stretch marks. Extra skin. No, seriously, a LOT of extra skin. And a mild but annoying diastasis, basically meaning that the two halves of my (nonexistent) six-pack are separated from each other, leaving a hole in my abs and making me look just a little bit pregnant.
You know what would fix all of those things? A tummy tuck. I would never have dreamed that I would consider cosmetic surgery, but to be honest, I think of a tummy tuck for most twin moms as reconstructive rather than cosmetic. A crazy thing happened to our bodies, and they are not the way they were before. It’s actually disgraceful that women with more extreme diastases can’t get them covered by insurance. In my case, I am still able to work out and I don’t have back pain, but a lot of women have problems from back pain to hernias, and it is still mostly out-of-pocket to get the repair. Don’t get me started...
Anyway, about a year ago, I set a ludicrous goal for myself. I told myself that if I reached my goal weight, we would find the money to get me a tummy tuck. At the time, it seemed like a pipe dream. My weight loss goal was 55 pounds. Before this year, I had never successfully lost more than about 15 at a time. A 55-pound weight loss would put me 48 pounds down from my pre-pregnancy weight. It would put me 20 pounds down from my wedding weight, a weight that was achieved using Dexatrim and crash dieting. I think the last time I was at that weight was 15+ years ago, when I was in my early 20’s. So, although 55 pounds of weight loss may not seem like that much, and my goal weight number is probably a “before” number for most people, for me this goal was completely pie in the sky.
I thought the imaginary magical tummy tuck would be a motivator, but I didn’t really think it would actually work. Well, huh. Twenty-five pounds down, thirty to go. I am only ten pounds away from my wedding weight. It might take another year or two, but I am starting to think this might actually be possible. And then what?
Tummy tucks are an extremely common topic of discussion among moms of multiples. I don’t know many who would not get one if money were not a factor. (There are probably a few, but not many). Obviously, money is a huge factor for us. If I have a stray $10,000 lying around, and I don’t, I really shouldn’t be using it to repair my midsection. Can’t I just self-love my way through this? Can’t I learn to love the belly?
I want to. I do. I have considered getting a tattoo that celebrates the fruitfulness of my body that led to the hot mess that is my belly. Unfortunately, tattoos and stretch marks apparently don’t mix well. I have stood in front of the mirror naked, and tried to see myself as some sort of fertility goddess. But really, does anyone want to look like the Venus of Willendorf? We can admire what she represents and celebrate the divine feminine, celebrate that our bodies bring life into the world, but does anyone really want her pendulous breasts and belly? Sorry Venus, but I don’t.
I am seriously considering belly dancing in public again, exposing to strangers the region of my body that I have the most trouble loving and accepting. I am even bikini shopping, not that I would ever wear a bikini in public. But at home, I think it would be good for me to let the belly out once in a while. (And yes, they do make bikinis for hooters like mine – yay!). Because when I am afraid of something, I head into it full on. I am afraid to let people see what my body looks like now. So that tells me that I have to do it. Part of me even considered taking photos of the belly and putting them up here, but I’m not ready to do that yet. Maybe some day. With really forgiving lighting. Maybe if I find a bikini I like, I'll do a "Pam-a-rama ding dong Swimsuit Edition." Then again, maybe not.
If I ever reach my goal weight, I don’t know what I’ll do. Would getting a tummy tuck be making some kind of statement about how I feel about myself? Or would it just be repairing damage done to my body by an extreme pregnancy? Will I ever be able to look at those stretch marks and that extra skin and feel sexy and beautiful? I still have a lot of self-love, but I just can’t love the belly. Except that it brought me my two beautiful kids, so I guess I do love it after all.