Prior to getting pregnant, my wife was in amazing physical shape. She was petite but strong. Curvy, but fit. Her years of healthy eating, a background in ballet, numerous yoga classes…they all added up to a woman that could walk across the room and turn me into a slobbering sex doofus. Even after two serious back surgeries to repair a herniated disc (the second surgery was to fix the damage from the first surgery… to stop a serious spinal fluid leak), this woman still put in the hard work to keep in shape and she was every bit as sexy as ever.
Then she got pregnant. As any woman will tell you, carrying a human in your belly for nine months is REALLY rough. The hormonal changes. The physical changes. The pains. The heartburn. Nausea. On top of all that very normal stuff, my wife suffered from Polyhydramnios – an excessive amount of amniotic fluid surrounding the baby. So, picture a typical pregnant belly in your mind… now double that. That was my wife. Little petite thing with a belly the size of one of those giant exercise balls at the gym. I’m not gonna lie, it was a hilarious sight to see.
Then the baby came. Ejecting that fat-headed child (she gets that from me) from my wife’s nether regions wasn’t happening, and lord knows she tried for hours on end… but the ol’ C-Section eventually was called for. That means a longer recovery time.
So there you have a poor woman who endured nine months of walking around with a giant ball of liquid and a little human attached to her, only to be gutted like a fish and told that her body will have some pretty serious limitations for months to come. That’s tough for a very physically active new mom to hear.
We hobble home in pain to care for the new infant… only to have to go back to the hospital again because my wife’s blood pressure shot through the roof. She was suffering from a condition called preeclampsia. If left untreated, you can easily die from it. Fun times.
So back we go to the hospital to spend two more nights with my wife hooked up to IV bags that were pumping her full of magnesium and giving her a headache from hell. The blood pressure finally came down and we were sent home, again, with our new baby girl.
My wife who has endured a lot of hardships in life:
A career that is about as hard as you can get into (a surgeon).
Living away from her home in Germany to marry some dude (me) in America.
Dealing with an American dude and his three kids and his ex-wife.
Working long, unpredictable hours as a surgeon on-call
Traveling back and forth between Kentucky and Texas on a regular basis.
Dealing with a debilitating back injury, surgeries, and therapy.
Fighting the evils of time and staying in shape as much as humanly possible.
This chick is TOUGH. That’s, in part, why I married the woman. I respect the hell out of her. But, holy shit, I have to work hard to keep up with her. I love it. She makes me want to be a better man. For a woman like HER to look up to ME and say, “That’s MY MAN”…. well, it doesn’t get any better than that.
BUT… for the first time in 8+ years of our relationship, I am seeing a chink in the armor. A real sense of her fragility as a normal human.
She doesn’t like her post-pregnancy body. She mentions it quite often. Too often, actually.
Hey… that’s normal. I totally get it. It’s going to take a while for her body to snap back. Even after years of hard work and dedication it most likely won’t be the way it was when we first met and before the baby. She can work her tail off in the gym and count every calorie, but Father Time will just laugh at her and say, “Oh yeah? How about THIS new wrinkle? How do you like that? How about this gravity on your boobs and butt?” Not fun… but such is life for all of us.
There’s a delicate balancing game at play here that I see most women completely failing at. That is the balance between trying to stay as healthy and attractive for yourself (and, dare I say, for your spouse), being realistic and knowing what is and what isn’t out of your control, and YET loving yourself anyway. Based upon my recent trip to the shopping mall and the display of puffy fake lips, fake boobs, and even obviously fake butts I saw on display… many women sure haven’t discovered that elusive life balance. They are still holding on tight to the young version of themselves. They hate what time has done to their bodies… and it’s sad to watch. The concept of “growing old gracefully” is not in their vocabulary.
My wife’s negative self-talk began shortly after the baby was born. They pumped her so full of fluids that it looked like she gained 50 lbs overnight. She was obviously VERY bothered by this. That weight quickly went away, but then she was left with a nasty scar and body that just wanted to rest and recover. She took several months off of work and spent a good deal of time on the couch. That’s when little things here and there started to come out:
Her: “Are you going to love me if I’m a blobby out-of-shape mom?”
Me: “No, because you’re not going to be a blobby out-of-shape mom.”
After several months of rest and some very light exercises to help keep her spine from exploding again, my wife went back to the gym and to her trainer. This is while working full-time, breastfeeding, caring for a new baby… and still traveling and doing all of the other stuff she’s always done.
She’s still, of course, not back to her pre-baby body. It’s been only nine months. Any moron would think that is completely normal and expected. But still… my wife has to point it out as a flaw of hers. “These pants are just way too tight. They didn’t use to be. I need to lose 10 lbs.”
That’s not too bad… but these comments started to come daily. Then multiple times a day.
“My belly won’t go down.”
“I know I’m bigger, but I’m just so hungry while breastfeeding.”
“You’re losing weight and that’s not fair.”
“ My boobies are going to look deflated when I stop breastfeeding.”
“My butt is way too big for something sexy like that.”
“I can’t wear something like that. Maybe pre-baby I could.”
These little things are understandable. They’re a verbal expression of the anxiety she is feeling over her changing body. I get it. Have I ever given her reason to think that I am seriously bothered by her completely normal and expected body changes? Nope. If anything, I’ve been the same slobbering doofus who is crazy about his woman.
The problem with all of this negative self-talk is that it NEVER results in anything good. Ever. It has to be squashed early on. If not, one of two things happen:
- It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The wife eventually listens to herself and “gives up” and becomes one of the myriads of moms who become obese and slip into depression.
- The husband has enough and comes to the conclusion, “Okay, you’re right. You’re out of shape. I’m no longer attracted to you. Either get in shape or shut the F up.” More often than not, though, the man will NOT express this conclusion in a verbal way… but rather in a growing resentment and disconnection from his wife. The sexy thing he fell in love with is gone… oh well. Off to porn and fantasizing like every other dude he knows.
Ladies, if you have a real “winner” of a husband (you know, every woman’s dream), then that means he has options in life. He likes to surround himself with winners. That goes for friends, colleagues, and yes… his wife. A woman who complains about her appearance and THEN claims that her appearance stops her from feeling sexy and therefore she can’t be as intimate with the man as she used to be…. well, that ain’t gonna last long. He’ll either give you some version of the big uncomfortable talk, or he will be humping his cute secretary faster than you can say “I hate my big belly”.
I told my wife, in a very succinct way, what I thought about her frequent negative self-talk.
Me: “You really need to stop with all this negative talk. You’re not fat. Seriously. When ladies keep up with this negative self-talk all the time, do you know what happens?”
Her “The man eventually agrees and says the wife is fat.”
Me: “Yep. They agree and get mad when the wife doesn’t want to fix it.”
Her: “Okay, jeez. Calm down.”
The “calm down” comment was her way of kind of stepping back and having the last word. That’s fine. Doesn’t hurt my feelings. But you know what else happened? She suddenly wanted to hit the gym a little more. She wore a very sexy outfit to bed with zero mention of how she felt fat in it. My little confrontation was a bit of a wake-up call for her. She has a choice in how she perceives herself and how she expresses that feeling to the world and to the man who loves her more than anyone.
Let’s look at it this way: Let’s say I lost my job suddenly. My wife would still love me, right? Let’s say I start looking for a new job… but only sporadically. Most of the time, I would be sitting at home and complaining about not having enough money for stuff. Then I would complain that my wife would probably love me more if I had a job again. Then I talk about how I wish I could go back to the old me that had money and could afford cool stuff. Then I would see a guy with money on TV and I’d complain about how it’s not fair that they show guys like him on TV. It’s hard to get a job and have money. Eventually, the wife is going to get juuuuuust a little tired of all the complaining. She’ll be especially annoyed after she spends all day at work listening to men there talk about the new car they just bought, the vacation they are planning, the jewelry they bought their wife, etc. That wife would come home, hear the husband complain again, and then blow her top. “OR YOU COULD JUST SHUT UP AND GET A DAMN JOB AND STOP COMPLAINING ALL THE DAMN TIME!” And you know what… not a single person would think she’s a horrible person for doing so.
So ladies… stop with the negative self-talk. It gets you nowhere. You’re not earning good wife points. You’re earning loser points. Nobody likes a loser.