I didn’t start out thinking I’d be naked from the waist down in the ladies’ lounge, but there we were. I had just been enjoying my $19 chicken salad sandwich and some uninterrupted adult conversation when it happened. I was suddenly very aware of my midsection. It was a deep, painful throb that intensified by the second. If I didn’t get out of there soon, my pants were going to pop faster than a can of Pillsbury biscuits and the button of my jeans would hit my mother square between the eyes.
I politely excused myself from the table and hurried past the bow tie-clad waiters tending to the ladies who lunched. The lounge was lovely, what with its crisp hand towels, vanilla lavender diffusers, and the kind of private stall doors that reach from ceiling to floor. I chose door number two and immediately kicked off my shoes. If this was going to happen, I was all in.
I peeled my skinny jeans from my now sweating legs all while audibly reciting, “Jesus, Mary, and St. Joseph, please don’t let me down.” Next came the dreaded undergarments. This particular day, I had tried out a fancy new pair of Spanx. I ordered what I believed to be my size; however, this experience was making me wonder if perhaps they were just a hair too small. I put two hands on those suckers and pulled down with all of my might. It was a struggle. The sweat on my palms along with the compression shorts’ no-slip technology was not helping. The more my spandex struggle intensified, the louder I got. “C’mon! Help me! Oh God, I can’t do this on my own.”
As the words were free falling from my mouth, I was working so hard to get it all off that I was losing my balance and knocking into the walls. Finally, I yanked as hard as I could until it was all resting nicely around my ankles. That did it. And just in time. Those suckers had been compressing my organs with such might that my kidneys were introduced to my collarbone. I felt like a bratwurst that had just escaped its casing. I was free.
I quickly gained my composure, got dressed, and proceeded to wash my hands as if nothing had ever happened. I nodded cheerfully to the woman applying her lipstick, bidding farewell to those shorts with a quick toss in the trash. I went back to the table and sat down, my rolls hanging out just as God had intended.
You see, I am a mother of 4 beautiful children. They range in age from 14 to 6. I have a lot of years as a mother under my belt (or my Spanx), but it wasn’t until that particular day that I started to give myself a break about my body and how motherhood has changed me. For so long I felt that I had to pretend that I was still in my twenties and unscathed, as if there is something wrong with a stretch mark or a little extra skin.
As I was throwing my Spanx in the trash, I was also tossing years of self-deprecation and feelings of not measuring up. What, exactly, was I trying to measure up to? I have realized in my forties that other mothers aren’t judging me any more than I am judging them. I couldn’t care less if a woman has a muffin top in her skinny jeans, or a chest that needs a thick underwire to stay perky. None of that matters. And there is not a mother in the world who would wish a pair of compression shorts that go from knee to nipple on anyone.
I am a good mom, and it has absolutely nothing to do with what my belly looks like. My worth isn’t measured in stretch marks. My rewards are in thank yous and I love yous and big hugs in the morning. You see, my kids don’t care what I look like. Sure, they think that my red “faux-hawk” haircut is fun, but they may or may not care that I have a stomach. And if they do, they don’t want me to be self-conscious about it. They just want a mom.
When I tossed my Spanx, I was also able to throw into the trash my thoughts that my body’s changes are bad. No, these changes are not bad at all; they are incredible reminders of the best days of my life. The afternoon that I gave birth to my first child, I was born into a brand new life myself. The moment I held someone in my arms who had grown inside of my womb for 9 months has defined me. Sure, that baby boy caused my belly to grow and stretch and my boobs to droop, but that has no impact on the type of mother that I have been.
As a matter of fact, that now-fluffy body has brought hours of comfort to sick children. It has driven carpool and watched baseball games. That body has cooked dinners and made beds. It has served me — and my family — well for a lot of years, and I am not going to be the mom who is pretending that it hasn’t happened. I will not allow myself to wallow because I am no longer a size 6. This girl is proudly a 12, and I am not going to continue to be a slave to elastic and Spandex. It’s not fooling anyone, anyway.
We only get so many years to be a mom. Why should we waste them trying to be something that we aren’t? Would I do it again? Absolutely! I would have no shame throwing my underwear in the trash in front of 100 women. As a matter of fact, I would hope that perhaps I could empower a few of them to toss their shapewear in the garbage too.
When I got back to the table that day my mother asked if everything was okay, as I suppose I looked a bit disheveled. I simply said, “Everything is fine. I just hope I haven’t missed the dessert tray.”