25 May 2017

How I Got My Incredible Post Baby Body

Almost six months ago, I had a baby. A little girl called Luna. Her embryonic existence went undetected throughout the first five months of pregnancy, largely because I'd been hearing all about my sterility for over a decade beforehand. My Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome was deemed so severe (in terms of the amount of cysts) from the age of 14 and onwards that no medical professional believed I'd ever have a kid. I'm also fat — something I was told wasn't especially conducive to getting knocked up.

More than the supposed fertility issues, I just didn't have any signs or symptoms of pregnancy throughout those 20 weeks. Not getting a period is my baseline of normality. I didn't experience morning sickness or unparalleled exhaustion, and I wasn't having any bizarre culinary cravings. As for my body, it just didn't change much: No weight gain, no new stretch marks, no extra plump bosom. 

The latter four months of pregnancy were an entirely different story, though. It's almost like my body was holding off on exhibiting outward changes until my mind caught up to everything going on inside it. Shortly after finding out, the weight started accumulating quickly. And with it, dozens of new stretch marks decorating my stomach, sides, thighs, arms, and breasts. More cellulite appeared on my backside and even the infamous linea negra popped up, too.
By the time my daughter was born, I'd gained at least 50 pounds. My tummy has since softened and is jigglier than ever before, while simultaneously appearing more rounded — not entirely unlike my father's beer belly. My love handles protrude further out than they once did — and five months into new motherhood, my stretch marks remain bright red and fresh. My ass is wider, and my spacial awareness hasn't quite caught up to its breadth. My belly button is deep; expanded. My thighs are like heaps of mini marshmallows squashed together.  

I've often looked at my body these last 24 weeks or so in utmost awareness of how much I'm supposed to hate it. And I won't lie... sometimes I've struggled to access self-love as profoundly as I did before having a kid but after finding the magical universe of fat liberationists and their work. I've wondered if I'd be happier in a body less marked in tiger stripes. I've ever-so-briefly questioned whether I should brainstorm some kind of fitness goals centered around "toning." That's what I'm supposed to do, right?
Despite what some folks may believe, I don't buy the idea that the alleged "body positivity revolution" has been fully realized yet. There are plenty of bodies still made to feel invisible or worthless in all manner of harmful ways (from the lack of inclusivity in magazines to the denial of healthcare based on BMI alone). Among the bodies we don't see represented often are post-baby bodies: Relatable ones that haven't "miraculously" shed all the weight, or zapped away their stretchies, or gotten boob lifts, or walked out of the hospital after days of labor looking exactly as they did months before they were even pregnant.

Unsurprisingly, it's even more rare to see relatable post-baby bodies that are also fat in the mainstream. 

So for these reasons and more, I've asked myself whether the incredible post-baby body I should be seeking is the pre-pregnancy body. A body entirely unmarked by the immense changes it's gone through — a body that would never imply one has grown a whole other human being inside it.

These moments never last long, though. It only takes looking at my daughter — a pretty worthwhile reason for accumulating some stretch marks and heightened wobbliness — to remember that I already have an incredible post-baby body. This body is incredible because it grew a human who is now my best friend inside it — despite the fatphobic misdiagnoses assigned to it. It endured over 50 hours of labor and the kind of agony you don't want to be totally honest about for fear that no one else will ever have children again. This body is incredible because it's mine. It allows me to live and try endlessly at finding some kind of balance between "mom" and "person" and "woman" and "26-year-old." There is no fat post-baby body that is not brilliant, worthy, powerful, or incredible, because there is no body (period) that is not brilliant, worthy, powerful, or incredible.
My body changed, just like it was always supposed to. You can't carry a tiny creature inside yourself for that long without expecting change. You can't get said creature out of your bod without expecting even more change. Any shaming surrounding the physical shifts that occur when one goes through labor and pregnancy is no different to any other breed of body shaming. It's rooted in arbitrary standards of beauty. It's subsequently rooted in nothing.

So here you see me. The new me. The just-as-fire-me. I'm wearing a lingerie set that I designed on Impish Lee, a brand specializing in customizable intimates. Kali — who founded the company with her sister — reached out to me many, many months ago to see if I wanted to try my hand at the process and I was all for it. But it's taken me a little time to take and post photos — because it's taken me a little time to feel as solid in myself as I used to.

I chose to design pieces featuring blue velvet to feel luxurious, gold spandex to feel like an unapologetic queen, and floral mesh to channel my love of vintage aesthetics. An unwired bralette was my top of choice because comfort is of utmost priority to me these days. In addition, there's no truth to any BS "rules" that suggest you cannot wear bralettes if you're also big-boobed. You can wear what makes you happy (end of sentence). I also opted for lower-waist briefs in hopes of spending more time getting to know my new stomach. 

In the aid of full disclosure, Kali & Impish Lee were kind enough to gift me this set. The company's current range goes up to a U.S. 24 in bottoms and a 40J in cup size. I normally wear a 44 or 46 cup so the bralette was definitely a squeeze, but still comfy due to stretch. The undies were a size 24, and fit my 55-inch hips very well. I hope to see the size range expand in the future for accessibility to all plus size bodies. The design process was definitely cathartic in a time when I needed that. 

Again, I'd be fibbing if I said that posing in intimates wasn't challenging at first. Not because I'm any more exposed than I have been in the past via swimsuits or knicker/bra sets, but because there is simply more of me. There is more of me that is supposedly "imperfect." More of me that's been touched by growth, change, and tiredness. Things far too often connoted with negativity when, really, they're just part of living.
But then I thought that maybe that's why sharing them felt like something I should do. As so many of us know, there isn't nearly enough representation of visibly fat post-baby bodies out there. As with any marginalized, neglected group, however, this says nothing about the bodies themselves and everything about the toxic cultures we live in. Sometimes those things can get muddled up in our brains, though. We blame ourselves for the problems that culture and media and faulty education create. 

The simple truth is that your fat post-baby body is a goddamn treasure. All the stretch marks — whether bright red or faded or somewhere in between — all the flabby skin, or the skin tags, or the drier hair texture, or the immense love handles, are goddamn treasures. Try to treat them as such.

08 September 2016

Ready To Stare x Migg Mag: The Importance Of Fat Friendship

My first best friend was fat. We met in the fourth grade, and I still wonder whether we would've clicked as much had our body types not given us something to relate to one another with straight off the bat.

Two young women who'd later become some of my closest friends, and whom I met the year after, were living in similar, round-bellied bodies. In our small, conservative town — where "ideal beauty" was akin to the standard thinness and whiteness typical of Western dogma at large, but with the addition of fake tans and surfer brands — we all stood out. But none of us felt particularly good about that fact. So if we couldn't physically shrink, we could do our best to do so in speech, in personality, in voice, in presence.
These women were all incredible people: They remain some of the kindest, strongest, most brilliant individuals one can hope to meet. But I often wonder how our formative years would've played out if we'd come across some confident, like-bodied women a lot sooner: Fat women who didn't believe that it was inherently wrong to be fat; fat women who wore the clothes they wanted to wear; who knew that they were no less desirable because of their VBOs; who realized that the problem lies not with fat people themselves, simply for existing, but with the folks and institutions that insist on shaming them, simply for existing.
These days, much of my time is spent online: Soaking up imagery of fat, empowered humans who wear the bright colors, who laugh and live loudly, who take up space with no apology, who fight sizeism in both their day-to-day lives and in grander politics. Alysse Dalessandro of Ready To Stare is one of the fat women whose online presence has deeply touched my life.
We first came into contact with each other through Bustle, after she joined my team and produced some of the most fearless, thought-provoking stories I had the pleasure of editing. Although our relationship began under the umbrella of professionalism, I had the utmost pleasure of meeting her IRL earlier this summer when she visited New York for The Curvy Con. Her work had long inspired me — her writing and her designs alike — and we literally ran into each other's arms at first glance.

That afternoon was spent taking photos with my partner, Patrick, walking through Midtown, and eating some pretty scrumptious tater-tots. But most importantly, it was spent talking. The online fat acceptance community is immeasurably important. But having encounters with fat positive people, in the flesh, is of utmost value as well: To spend time with someone in a body similar to your own, who realizes so acutely that fat bodies are subject to deeply ingrained intolerance, and who makes a conscious decision each day to fight that intolerance, is beyond empowering.

When you spend so much of your life being told that living in your body type makes you inferior, meeting someone who so boldly reminds you that nothing could be further from the truth is motivation to keep striving for better. Not just for yourself, but for all those people who still haven't realized that they've been lied to.
Being fat still comes with its fair share of socially-constructed issues. We are frequently denied health care based on BMI alone. We remain the punchline of many a film or TV show. We are told that love does not exist at our size: That sex is not for us. That clothes are not for us. That we cannot start living until ~the thin person within~ is revealed after rigorous, even life-threatening lifestyle changes.

As we await, and fight, for this social narrative to change, re-framing our own narratives through fat positive friendships — both in person and on the Web — can do wonders. Taking pictures that show off your double chin, with someone who has one, too, can do wonders. Eating unapologetically with someone who knows that your meal plan does not equate to your moral compass or "goodness" versus "badness" can do much the same. And putting on those clothes — those bright, flowery, tight, or quirky clothes — can help, too.

And when much of the world insists on proclaiming otherwise, your fat positive friends can hopefully put things back into perspective.
What We're Wearing
Alysse: Plus Size Tropical Floral Plunge Dress, Deb Shops
Marie: Denim Overalls, ELOQUII

For more fat pos friendship, you can read Alysse's post here <3

25 April 2016

Time, As A Symptom

I've been finding it difficult to "dress up" as of late. Not even dress up, per se. Just getting dressed in anything that isn't leggings, a striped tee, and my go-to Dr. Marten boots can feel like a challenge. This isn't particularly unusual for me. If ever I'm stressed out or anxious or not feeling the ~life situation~ I'm in at any given moment, my style takes a big hit.
Unfortunately, this is something of a vicious cycle. As someone who loves fashion and beauty, the clothes I'm wearing and the makeup I put on all have the potential of affecting my mood. I think the same is true for a lot of folks. My partner, for example, can't get on with much if he stays in his PJs all day. Relaxed clothing, for him, isn't conducive to much productivity. For me, it's more about a sense of playfulness. My base state is reveling in the kitschiest of prints and loudest of colors — wearing Peter Pan-printed dresses and cupcake bodysuits like there was no tomorrow. And whenever I don't, I miss it.
It's natural to go through ebbs and flows when it comes to getting dressed. This is likely because it's natural to go through ebbs and flows regarding mental health or your career or your relationships or just about anything in this life. But I know that, psychologically and for whatever reason, putting in some kind of effort to feel cute and quirky can make a huge difference in my day-to-day.

Mustering up the initial effort is difficult at times. But 90 percent of the time, it's worth it.
The last few months, I've opted for basic upon basic: T-shirt and jeans combos, leggings and tunics, '90s mom jeans, solid-hued dresses, or loose-flowing silhouettes.

I gravitated toward this Maggy London Times Curve Bib Front Tunic at a time when dresses with any kind of embellishments, zippers, fastenings, or detailing seemed a more daunting concept than losing Jon Snow for good. But what I loved about it from the very get-go was the versatility. The beauty of "basics" is that they can be styled in a myriad of ways: Be it on their own, for an easy breezy look, or with neon-scrunchied baby buns and an old checkered shirt for more of that aforementioned quirky vibe.
I've been trying to take sartorial baby steps in the last few weeks: I put on something simple, like this dress — something that slips on and falls loosely so I don't feel constricted or imprisoned in any way. Then I pair it with some wacky accessories or a statement lip color or a funky hairdo to elevate my mood. And the thing is, it almost always works.

I love this dress because I know it’ll serve me well. I’ll wear it as a cover-up at the beach. I’ll wear it on days when I just DGAF about much and want the quickest, cutest option I can find. I’ll wear it when I need a foundation for something a little bolder — á la this baby buns look. I’ll wear it with a cardigan and knit tights in winter. It’s multi-purpose in the truest sense of the word (at least, the truest sense of the word in my book), meaning it’ll have my back regardless of my mental or emotional state. 

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