I'm sure somewhere -- here, there, in a comment -- during the past three plus years I wrote something to the effect: "If I could just fit into those old jeans. It would be like getting the old me back."
As if a smaller ass would magically mend my heart.
When I moved to this house I was pregnant with Maddy, so I packed up all the old clothes -- the ones that fit a few months earlier, and the really nice tiny ones that fit before Bella -- thinking someday, certainly someday, soon, I will slink back into these. (Clearly I wasn't taking the timeliness of fashion into count, which I suppose says a lot about me and the way I dress and is subject for another much more hilarious post.) As it was, I gained almost 20 lbs more with Maddy than I did with Bella, in large part because I couldn't exercise during the pregnancy, and in no small part, because I didn't eat nearly as well. In retrospect I'm pretty sure I was stressed out and likely depressed during that pregnancy.
Anyway, you're all familiar with the rest: Baby is born, baby dies, can't breastfeed the pounds off, and don't feel like subjecting myself to fresh air. Flab stays. About four months after Maddy died I went into a running frenzy thinking I would just blow the pounds off in a matter of weeks, and wound up blowing up my plantar fascia. The pounds stayed.
By the time I got pregnant again last year, two plus years later, I was still 20 pounds over where I wanted to be. In some fit of nonsense, I went on a closet cleaning purge last March (while almost eight months pregnant), and tossed out everything. I was tired of opening the closet and seeing the old clothes mocking me. That was the old me. The really old me. If I ever got down to that size again, I'd buy new clothes. (Hell, you should buy new clothes anyway for the love of mike -- who wears those anymore?)
With three exceptions: Three pairs of pants. Two jeans, one pair of cords. All designer labels, all bought after losing the Bella weight and feeling good about my bod again. Maybe, I thought, maybe. I hid them in the back behind all the loose fitting skirts and blouses I had purchased to hide the fact that I had another baby that wasn't around to help legitimize my midsection.
Right now, as I'm writing this, I'm wearing a pair of those jeans. They're a wee bit tight, especially the top button that hits uncomfortably right in my three-baby pooch.
Does that make me feel better? Yes.
It is not, however, Nirvana.
I put them on, stood back and looked in the mirror, and waited. For what, I don't know -- lights? Peels of electric guitars? Suddenly clear skin and shiny hair? (wouldn't that be cool?) Would my brain melt into a pile of lilac scented goo, would I crave positive thinking and trot downstairs to announce, "Christmas has arrived, y'all! Joy to the World!"
I sat and stared at the person in the mirror wearing five-year-old jeans and realized: I am never going to be the old me. Which is stupid, I suddenly realized, of course I'm not. I mean, forget tragedies for a second: I'm never going to be the old girl I was in High School again (thank goodness), or the young woman I was in grad school. You can't go back. You can't be the person you were before you had kids, before you met X, Y, or Z, before a certain job, or place or event or music album. Even seemingly trivial things can shift your worldview. How on earth I ever thought I could somehow morph into the person I was before Maddy sounds a bit wacky to me now, almost four years later. I'm a bit stunned, to tell you the truth, that I spent so much time and verbage yearning to get back to a place and mindspace that I obviously would never return to again. I like to say I didn't experience the station of "denial" in my grief, but today touching this denim again I think I realized I've been living in it rather heavily. Jeans are not going to transport me back in time any more than they're going to raise the dead.
The new me is old. The new me is almost four years older than the old me, and that's four people years which are measured not quite as badly as dog years in grief time, but close. There are a few gray hairs, bags and wrinkles around the eyes, extra skin around my neck. My skin now shows the blotchiness of not two, but three pregnancies. There's the pooch, that I'm sure some people can work off (Heidi Klum! Call me!), but even for those of us half-way in shape, is hard to budge -- muscles have moved and atrophied, and skin has buckled around them. I'm not sure a million sit-ups would conquer that mound.
And then there's the inside, the stuff my fancy jeans can't possibly hope to distract me or anyone else from: I'm more cynical (hard to believe that's possible), less trusting, less trusting of medical technology. I'm occasionally sad, which I never can remember being. My psyche still feels as though it's a bit bruised and achy -- no longer bedridden or uncontrollably bleeding certainly, but not one-hundred percent either. It approaches corners cautiously, and peers around them before putting a foot forward. I still clutch my family. If Bella were asked what her mother says most often, after "shit" it would be "Be Careful." I still love my friends who stood by me and think of Maddy and speak her name, and still resent the people who were silent, or worse. Although the anger is less a hammer and more an itch.
I still love her, I still miss her.
I realized today this incredible seismic shift followed by modest improvement since that horrible February has nothing to do with weight loss, or the subsequent baby who helped with said weight loss. It has to do with the simple, uncontrollable passage of time. I'm going through my fourth Christmas without Maddy in a few weeks, I'm attending my fourth candlelight memorial service for her this Sunday. In two short months, I will be walking through her week for the fourth time.
I'm still changing, it turns out -- not backwards really, but forwards. Not all great as my hair will attest, but not all bad either.
It happens less often, it hurts less. It has nothing to do with my body and everything to do with distance. But it will always be there, I am firmly on this side, and I can't go back. Despite my hemline.
I know a lot of us talk about being that person we once were -- what would you most want back? What do you think would help get you back to that place? Have you managed to get anything of the "old you" back? How does it feel on this side of things? Is there anyone else far enough out that they can see how time is helping somewhat? Or is something else helping you move forward? Are the ways you changed after the death of your baby/ies changing yet again as you move farther away from the event?