Thursday, June 20, 2013

20 years later...

Last June, on our 19th wedding anniversary, I said something really silly.  I said, "Wouldn't it be fun if I could fit in my wedding dress on our 20th anniversary?"  Now there were two things wrong with that:
1.  Thinking that it could be a reality.
2.  I said it out loud and in front of Mark.  He thought it was a great idea.  Now I was committed. 


Last year, about 2 months before this all happened I started making some changes, both physical and mental.  I had already changed some eating habits (cut out white flour, decreased bread intake, cut back on white sugar, started drinking more water) and was exercising regularly again.  I started thinking differently about my body.  I started accepting that I'm getting older.  By my birthday this year I wanted to feel better about myself - not for anyone else, but for me.  I want to accept that I'm turning 39 and that my body has done some pretty amazing things over the last 18 years.  I want to love my body as much as Mark loves my body.  Why is that so hard for me?

I'm haven't met my goal yet about loving my body.  I honestly don't know if I will ever "love" it.  I never have, even when I was in the best shape of my life.  I have come a long way though.  I have reflected on each of my pregnancies and the miracles that I produced.  My body changed with each baby in a new and different way.  Gaining 30 pounds during the last trimester with Brett created stretch marks that go from my legs to my core.  Not pretty.  Some people call them "scars of a warrior" or "mommy badges" or whatever else.  I still don't like them and if I were to put my wants ahead of my childrens wants and needs I would spend the money to get a tummy tuck.  Maybe one day...or not.  Maybe by then I will have accepted them.

In May my mom sent me a box in the mail.  Her and my dad are cleaning house in preparation to move.  She was cleaning the attic and found a few of my things.  I opened the box and in it was my letterman's jacket, my dress from hand bell choir, and an old cheerleading uniform.  I laughed as I held it up and Kehli wanted to try it on.  It was quite loose on her (she's only 12 and stick thin).  She said enthusiastically, "Maybe it will fit you mom.  Look how baggy it is on me." I assured her that my shape had changed since high school.  Then another kid chimed in, "Maybe you can at least get it up over your bottom."   Thanks for the confidence girls!  Why torture myself so back into the box it went.

Then Mark brought home my wedding dress from storage.  It hung in the closet and I looked at it in the bag every time I  went through the closet for over a week.  I knew it wasn't going to fit and that was okay with me.  I remembered what I said last year about wanting to try it on but kept putting it off.  Mark said, "So you are just giving up?"  I hadn't given up, I just decided that being able to put on my wedding dress after 20 years just wasn't important.  It wouldn't change who I am or the goals that I already have.  I just wanted to accept that I am healthy and should appreciate my body for what it has done in the past and what it does for me today.  I could have gone on a crazy diet the last few months and lost another 10 pounds and it would have fit fine.  I would have been able to wear the dress until I started eating regular again.  But what is the point in that?

Last night I decided it was time to put on the dress.  I have been changing my thinking habits for over a year and I was okay with not being able to button up the dress.  I wanted to talk to my girls about the fact that we change as we age and it's okay.  I have never told them that I feel "fat" or that I exercise to be "skinny."  I try to always use the word "healthy" because I don't want them to have body image issues.  It's tough enough being a girl and the images of "perfect" that the media portrays are unrealistic. We do what we can to build their confidence and encourage them to be active and healthy.  It was okay for them to see me struggle to put on something that fit perfectly so long ago.

I put the dress on.  I pulled it up and called for Mark to come zip it up as much as possible.  He got the zipper up part way then started buttoning from the top down.  (Maybe I should have purchased a girdle - but that would have defeated the purpose I guess.)  He got about 10 buttoned then tried the zipper again.  This time I took a deep breath and he was able to get it to the middle of my back, where the zipper ends and the buttons begin.  It was pretty tight.  I teased that I was getting dizzy from lack of oxygen.  There was about 5 buttons in the middle that were not going to be able to loop.  I was fine with that.  Let's show the kids, take a picture and be done.  But Mark was determined.  He encouraged me with, "There's only about another 1/2 inch to go.  Take another deep breath."  He worked for a while and was able to get everything connected.  I danced around (because it was too tight to sit in) for the kids to see.  Erin just laughed at how tight it was.   Kehli and Kendall were fussing with the train wanting me to pose for more pictures when Erin chimed in with, "You guys, let mom go take that thing off.  Can't you see she can't breathe?"  Thanks for worrying about me Erin!

When we got that thing off I went and grabbed my old cheerleading uniform.  I figured that if my lungs were already bruised from buttoning up my wedding dress, what is the harm in squeezing into something else.  Thank heavens that uniform is made out of polyester and is probably 40 years old.  It had a lot of give to it.  In fact I think I have permanently stretched it out.  Oh well. 

My wedding dress and cheerleading uniform are all put away.  I don't ever have to do that again.  Yes, I was able to get them on, but they fit a lot differently.  I had to reposition rolls and push and pull areas around.  It was fun.  Mark was proud.  I don't feel any different and I think that's a good thing.  Now I'm ready to go to my Group Power class and continue just being healthy.  I have a ways to go still in my mentality about my body, but it's getting better and I just hope that my children develop positive body images and strive to be healthy.  We are only given one body so we have to do the best we can for it.


Denise said...

I love how you are trying to accept your body, changes and all. Of course, it sure looks like there aren't many flaws to accept! You look amazing. I've thought a lot about trying to get back into my wedding dress, but never given it a try. It was funny that I expected a sweet post about your marriage when I opened this! lol. I love that you are trying to change your mentality, I'm trying to do it too. It is hard though, especially when you are pregnant at 39! Maybe we will get there someday and can eat a big piece of cake together (and then not starve ourselves the next day to "make up for it". Love you!

Michelle Birch said...

You are amazing! Not because you fit in your dress, which you look fantastic but because of the person you are. Since the day we met I have admired you and I am proud to call you my friend. I miss you!

Evin said...

What a great post, Gretchen. You look fabulous, but I'm even more proud of the fact that you are more focused on being healthy and accepting and loving you for you. That's something most never accomplish.

Evin said...
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Lissa said...

This is so darn cute...! If you had posted just the picture of you in your wedding dress, with no words, I would have thought it WAS from 20 years ago...! It's funny how you see yourself so differently...20 years and 6 kids later I do not see a difference....Yes, I don't see the "mommy scars", or the few extra "rolls" that may exist...I see Gretchen...19 year old, spunky Gretchen...fitting into your dress and your uniform is very impressive, but even more so is that you still have your SPUNK after 20 years of marriage and 6 kids and 13(?) could put on 30 pounds and I still would see you through it...stay healthy and happy!

And I honestly think you are more gorgeous now than you have ever been...Mark is one lucky duck!

Lissa said...

^^^^Lissa is Tammy...still not sure how to change it back to me!