Wednesday, September 7, 2011

What can I say?

Looking at my wedding photo from fourteen years ago, she said, "You have nothing left but your smile."

I was taken aback. She is a parishioner a bit younger than I, and her husband had come by our house Saturday morning to fix some electrical problems. They had brought the requisite chocolate bars for the children and other goodies that seem to be culturally required for any visit, even though they were coming to do us a favor. We kissed on both cheeks when they arrived. All was sweetness and light until she said those words. So I just shrugged in agreement.

I suppose it is true. Wiry white hairs occasionally spring up from my head. I am the only mom I know that can give birth to a baby and only lose the baby's weight after birth. I did this four times, so about twenty pounds per baby have taken up permanent residence. Unlike the parishioner who has one job, I am a bit frazzled with multiple responsibilities and I suppose that shows up on my face. I usually put on some mascara and lipstick in the car on the way to church or another event, so perhaps my albino lashes at home made me look especially grotesque. I don't know why some people don't have verbal filters; recently another parishioner saw my semi-permanently sunburned forehead and 'joked' about my husband hitting me in the face. Call me gobsmacked.

But what have I accomplished since my wedding? What do I "have left"? I have a happy marriage and four physically and emotionally healthy children who we are home-educating. I still have basic health, even though a few scary things have popped up over the years. I still have all my family relationships- and lots of nieces and nephews to love! I have consistently worked part-time at the college level, and I finished my Master's degree while I was in the throws of pre-eclampsia with our fourth child. We survived the fetal demise of our first son and other extended family sorrows. We have done well enough financially considering our kinds of jobs (humanities-type people don't make tons of money) and where we live (highest overall taxes in the nation), but saving money for a summer in the old country every other year trumps a gym membership and professional haircuts and colors. And slowly, slowly- I am accomplishing maturity so that I can just shrug my shoulders when someone says negative things to me. What can I do? I certainly cannot strike back at her and say mean things.   But I can pity her just a little bit for not thinking before she said what she did...who cares if my body is semi-destroyed? Look at babies 3 and 4 below and tell me a few extra pounds aren't worth it!

aren't they sweet- this is the first time he held her- after she spent 5 weeks in the NICU- she is 6 pounds here

We are in the throws of schooling responsibilities, so I won't write be writing much unless I find the time really, really early and post when I get around to grammar checking. But I was 'inspired' to write this little ditty as a way to process uncharitable words of others- and to try and get over it! But in positive news, I have started walking with my big girls in the early mornings again. Maybe I will get something of my temporal body back.


  1. Oh, so not cool. You're right people seriously need filters. I don't know what it is but some people say the meanest things to pregnant people too (not that I've heard them yet. I think I just have that kind of demeanor about me). I was always told that if you don't have something nice to say don't say anything at all. And seriously time will also play it's part on her.

  2. I realize it may not have been said with the best intentions but if someone looked at my wedding picture 8 years from now (we've been married 6 years) and said all I had left was my smile, I'd have to agree but I think I might be pleased with having my smile left. How many couples nowadays lose that smile? Isn't that smile the most valuable part of that picture? Your happiness. I may lose my muscle tone, my dark hair, my smooth skin and my healthy weight but God knows I was going to lose all that no matter what. Mother Teresa was the wrinkliest old woman I'd ever seen but she was stunningly beautiful in her smile and the joy in her eyes. And, you know that what you lost over those 14 years bought you so much more.

    After 4 babies in 6 years, I've got baby weight from each one to get off and gray hair and stretch marks but they are my glory. My children are my prayer, my offering to God. My stretch marks are my battle scars and well worth it!

  3. So sorry you had to hear that. I'm sure she would take back those words in a minute though.

    Our bodies after babies will never be the same. I think they can be even better. We are doing what we are created and made to do. Its a good thing to have babies.

  4. Wow. Definitely NOT cool. People can be so cruel, with so few words. When I broke my hand last year and was in a cast for a few weeks, the comments I got were all over the place. FROM ADULTS. Maybe it comes from growing up with a close family member who was disabled and knowing never to point, stare, or ask questions of others, but I would never THINK to ask people some of the things that I was asked. And I would never, EVER touch a stranger, especially one in a CAST.

    Obviously none of us know this woman, but it sounds like her world is limited in the types of people she knows. I think we've all dealt with more..."ignorant" types, and it can be tough if your life doesn't match their ideal. There are women out there who would go bald if only they could have the 4 children you do. There are women who'd gain 300# to have a husband like yours. All over the world girls still don't have access to an elementary education, nevermind a Master's Degree! You are right to list what you DO have, instead of what you don't. And if that's true, that all you have left of your "former" self is your smile, thanks be to God for that! What if you'd had a stroke and couldn't smile at your babies? But you still had your figure? What would matter more to them? :)

  5. everybody- I agree with all of you! :)

    and I'm over it- I promise...but I am tempted to get myself a pedicure ;)

  6. get yourself a pedicure in my honor. :)

  7. I agree get the Pedicure and chalk it up to youthful silliness. We have all changed since our weddings,life changes us. Had we not changed then the question would be what kind of a mother,wife,etc..are you? Because if we really had time to do everything in order to maintain that "youthful" look we once had than chances are we haven't kept busy Yes we have all changed but that doesn't mean we are any less beautiful :)

  8. Hey, I only lose the baby + placenta weight. Urgh, I thought it was supposed to be like 15 pounds upon birth, not 9. I'm not even 30 yet and my gray hairs have grown in exponentially with each child. But we do have a lot to show for it. Too bad you weren't to tired to miss the dig. :-P Just repeat after me. "It not true. I am still every bit as lovely, if not better, as I was on my wedding day."

  9. My word, I don't know what to say. I was just looking over my pictures of your vacation up here and marveling at my beautiful sister! Honestly, you have borne the brunt of so many rude (not to mention weird) comments-- I guess being a priest's wife makes you a target for the evil one. I would be tempted to come up with a few pithy rejoinders, but maybe God wants you to bear it and learn from it as you obviously have ben doing. You are one of the most compassionate people I know-- perhaps your beauty (in the true sense) is a direct result of this "refinement"...


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