I brought my sexy back.
"What kind of woman has boobs like that?" I remember wondering as I stared at a detailed breastfeeding diagram in a thick baby care book during the early stages of pregnancy with my first child. The woman's breast sloped and sagged into a shape resembling a popped balloon. The deflated boobs looked nothing like my small, perky breasts.
Three years later, that kind of woman is me. Almost A's (for 24 years) to brimming D's (each time I breastfed) to slumping B's (now). My breasts no longer fill out the jumbo nursing bras I wore through two babies, but the lacy A-cup bras I recently excavated from the back of the drawer cut painful red patterns into my back. Maternity panties fall off my newly flattened bottom, but my ruffled thongs seem garishly out of style.
So, two years and ten months after the birth of my first daughter, I finally summoned the courage to walk into Victoria's Secret again. Hours later, I returned home sheepishly clutching a pink striped bag filled with panties that — if nothing else — at least fit properly.
My husband's reaction was so good that I went back the next day.
"I'll take the kids," he said. "You go."
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I felt sexy enough to wear dipping necklines on dinner dates and mini bikinis at the neighborhood pool. But then my body started changing, subtly but surely—my belly became a cozy home for a precious person; my arms became a cradle, my breasts a warm restaurant.
I had been a jeans-and-pony-tail kind of girl by day, a funky-dress-and-strappy-sandals girl by night. I wasn't afraid to use my body to attract attention, adopt an image or create pleasure — like wearing a body-hugging shirt underneath my tailored work suit or cooking dinner in a thong.
As the baby began kicking in my second trimester, wearing a sports bra and running shorts out on a jog no longer felt sexy — it seemed inappropriate. Even if my tummy bump barely showed, I was someone's mother.
When I dreamed of having a baby, I thought it would take time to work off the weight I gained. Instead, I lost the extra 40 pounds in a few months.
But my body changed in other ways: my hips widened, my breasts ballooned, fine lines marbled the pouch of loose skin on my lower abdomen. None of my clothes fit right.
Before I had time to come to grips with my new body, I was pregnant again. For almost four years, I wore an outfit that my husband affectionately dubbed my mommy uniform: comfortable jeans or cargos and a T-shirt one size too loose. The getup worked because it hid my flaws — and I never had to think about what to put on in the morning.
Around my younger girl's first birthday, I weaned her from breastfeeding, thinking it was time to reclaim my body for me and my husband.
I filled garbage bags with clothes that didn't fit, discarded my pregnancy underwear and ordered some key pieces online — a few good pairs of hip-hugging jeans, the kind I have to hop a bit to get into, flirty skirts and some tank tops to replace my standard T's. I put on some matching jewelry and dug out a coral-colored alternative to my typical tube of Chapstick.
When I mentioned that I was writing an article about learning to accept my body, my husband seemed embarrassed to admit he had noticed my recent wardrobe improvements.
"I notice your body more and more lately," he said. "I look at you in what you've been wearing and see the girl I met in college—your breasts are smaller, your hips are a little thinner. It's the body I fell in love with."
Impressed by his sweetness, I wondered what he thought of the all the forms my body had taken over the course of two pregnancies. His response wasn't especially profound: "Well, you had big boobs and I thought, 'Whoa! Big boobs! I haven't seen those in forever.'"
Today, the bathroom mirror no longer reflects the boyish figure it took me two decades to make peace with. Instead, it shows a mother's body — either worked thin and tired from chasing children or bursting round and firm from growing them.
But it's mine. You will not find me turning tonight's pot roast in lingerie, but you will find me at the local boutique. I'm the girl with the ponytail handing Goldfish to cherubic toddlers in a double stroller as I rifle through racks of stylish jeans and funky dresses that are just my size.