It’s about the eyeliner, but it’s not about the eyeliner

Stitch Fix modeling

Stitch Fix modeling


Every morning, I put on the same dull eyeliner and think: Why am I doing this?

I’d already found a different brand I love. Purchased faithfully for years, I finally used up the last of my beloved black eyeliner pencil — but rather than replace it, I decided to make do what what I already had.

That’s a very sensible idea, of course — in theory. Thanks to years of Birchbox subscriptions, I had a serious backlog of makeup samples. When the clutter got bad enough, I decided to sort through them a few months back (a modified KonMari, if you will). I purged what was open and old, then passed along new samples to coworkers. If I haven’t tried out a blush in three years, do I really need it? (No. The answer, I told myself repeatedly, is no.)

So I threw out my beloved Mally eyeliner pencil, the one worn down to the nub, and tried to get by with one of the random “waterproof” pencils wedged in my makeup drawer.

It seemed silly — and wasteful — to buy another $22 eyeliner duo . . . especially now with a baby (and his associated costs). I have all these products here just gathering dust, and they’re already paid for!

I’ve followed the same basic makeup routine — concealer, blush, Chapstick, eyeliner, mascara — since middle school, and have been on the hunt for the “perfect” products since earning my first paycheck. Once I was making my cool $6.75 an hour as a Michael’s cashier, I had some cash to blow on my makeup experiments.

And experiment I did. I spent years trying to find the right eyeliner. A complementary color for my olive skin tone, something dark but not too dark. A product that looks as fresh at 6 p.m. as it did at 6 a.m., and hopefully doesn’t cost a fortune. Something that my oily skin will not destroy in no time — a product that never winds up smudged beneath my eyes.

And I found it: Mally eyeliner. But I talked myself out of replenishing it, thinking that money would be better spent on incidentals for the family.

I talked myself out of thinking it mattered, this relatively small purchase that actually makes a big impact on my day. In wanting to be resourceful with my heart in the right place, I made a choice — daily — to apply makeup that I did not like, that didn’t work well, because I didn’t think it mattered.

But this morning, I was done. After an extremely stressful month at work, one filled with lay-offs and huge changes and more anxiety than I’ve felt in years, I was tiredly getting ready for another work week and thought: I can do better than this.

I can do better than a few rushed minutes to myself each morning, stolen before Oliver wakes up.

I can do better than treating myself like an afterthought: someone wearing frumpy clothes with tangled hair, a woman hiding behind her new mom identity to rationalize her sloppiness.

I can do better than this eyeliner that will quickly fade, doing nothing to make me feel happy and confident.

And it goes even deeper, of course. Post-pregnancy, I’ve struggled with buying new clothes — again. Between an almost 40-pound weight loss, pregnancy (and purchasing maternity wear), and adjusting to the 30 extra pounds I’m now carrying after birth, I feel guilty and frustrated rebuilding my closet . . . again.

But what’s the byproduct of that refusal? Every day I feel unpolished, either squeezing into clothes that feel too tight or wearing the same few “larger” tops over and over. Pair that with my makeup situation, and frankly? It ain’t good.

Having a baby is lovely (and amazing), but also quite strange. Your life changes in every possible way — right down to how you look and feel about yourself. Though I’ve never obsessed over appearances, I can recognize I haven’t been taking care of myself over the last six months. Like: at all.

And it’s time to change that, I think. We’re all familiar with maternal guilt, and this sense that we have to give it all — every bit of our energy, time, money — to our children. But there must be a way to reserve a little for yourself? If only to be the happy person — the strong, capable parent — you know you can be?

I need to get back on solid footing. I need to start caring for myself again. That’s something the nurses discussed in the NICU — “self-care” — but it was totally irrelevant to me back then, this idea that I would need to look after myself the way we had to look after our vulnerable baby.

But Oliver is no longer so vulnerable. He’s a hulk, actually — and I have to stop using that preemie parent identity as my defense. It serves no one. And since he’s sleeping through the night, I can’t blame exhaustion for why I’m not making strides to feel better.

It’s time to do that for myself.

With a few clicks, my favorite eyeliner is back on its way to me. I’ll head to the clearance racks at Kohl’s and get creative with my budget, investing in a few new pieces of clothing to switch up through fall and winter. And I’ll check out Goodwill, too, as I’m dropping off bags of the belongings that no longer serve me. I have lots of them.

I’m going to place all my favorite “small” clothes in bins, labelled for when I’m ready to pull them out again. But in the meantime, I don’t need those sizes taunting me. My closet shouldn’t be three-quarters full of items I cannot wear. Just seeing them daily — a harsh compare-and-contrast as I stand before my full-length mirror — is depressing.

I will get back to a good place. It’s going to take time and dedication — but I can make small steps to feel good each day. I may never again wear a size six, but I will get stronger. It could take months (or years), but I want to be healthy: for my husband, my son. Myself.

And while I battle my way back? Well, at least my eyeliner will look awesome.


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From Points to pregnancy: dealing with weight gain so far

apples

This time last year, I was celebrating two milestones: my first anniversary with Weight Watchers and achieving lifetime status with the program after reaching my goal weight. Dropping those 35 pounds took me out of the “overweight” category for the first time in my adult life.

Shedding that weight was life-changing for me. Beyond being happier with my appearance, I actually had energy. Drive. Purpose. My new relationship with food made me feel empowered, not guilty. I slept better, walked taller and generally felt like Meg 2.0. And I was getting married!

Life was great before, but after WW? It was fantastic.

When I learned I was pregnant last September, I had every intention — every intention in the world! — of maintaining my healthy eating habits. Reaching for a banana instead of a high-calorie snack was just what I did — not something I thought about. I was so well-versed in the Weight Watchers way of life that I tracked Points in my head, naturally knowing when I’d overdone it or could indulge a little that day.

And I wanted — want — to have a fit pregnancy. As Spence and I began to discuss starting a family, I started researching prenatal health and nutrition. Armed with facts, data and support from doctors and other mamas, I felt fairly confident that I could continue to be me . . . just with a baby bump.

And then I got sick.


Funnel cake


The nausea started in week five, reaching a delirious fever pitch in week eight. Though I have heard so many stories that make my own morning (er, all day) sickness seem wimpy by comparison, there is no denying I was ill. Perpetually nauseous. Foods I once loved — Brussels sprouts, hummus, green beans, yogurt, chicken — became Enemy No. 1. In the weeks after we learned I was expecting, my husband and I basically had to empty out our fridge and start again.

There was no telling what would set off my gag reflex, which made it even harder. I would walk into a restaurant craving chips and queso, then panic and walk out before I’d even gotten to the counter. Something I loved one day — spicy pickles, chocolate ice cream — would sicken me the next.

What I could count on? Breads. Macaroni and cheese. Bagels. Potato chips. Rich, carb-heavy foods that seemed to settle my stomach the way my lighter fare could not.

In short? I wanted everything I stopped eating after committing to healthy eating. For the first time in more than a year, our house was packed with junk food — and I began packing on the pounds.

At this point, 20 of them.

Until I began to make my peace with it, that number terrified me. Though I limit what/how much I’m reading about pregnancy (online, especially), I know a “healthy” weight gain in the first few months is generally between one and five pounds. I probably gained that in the second week.

Now 19 weeks along, I’ve discussed this with my doctor. I’m closely monitored. I weigh in at every appointment, give blood and urine — all the normal procedures. And so far, I’m good. We’re good. At this point, there is no reason to worry or obsess about my weight — and that knowledge calms me down.

Also? I’ve learned to cut myself some slack.


Brussels sprouts


Those early months felt like I was stumbling around with an awful stomach virus — and if I thought I was going to be munching on salad greens with a light vinaigrette, well . . . there was no way. No way. I wasn’t sitting down to five-course dinners, but I was eating what I could stomach — and snacking often to keep the queasiness at bay.

Physically, I did what I had to do to get through it.

But emotionally, it was tough.

After feeling so healthy, strong and slim, my body’s rapid transformation was crazy. I felt sick, not pregnant, so it was psychologically tough to differentiate between gaining weight for a little one and just . . . gaining weight.

Those early months were hard.

I subscribe to a few baby boards for expectant moms also due in June. Though they can be something of a dark hole sometimes, especially for nervous first-timers, I do find camaraderie there — and answers to many “Is this normal?”-type questions. (Answer: probably. Everything is weird in pregnancy.)

But when I see a post called “No weight gain!!!” or “Feeling fat,” I know to stay away.

They’re triggers for me . . . especially when I started scrolling through posts from women who had not gained a pound — or actually lost weight — in their first trimester. Even recently, at almost five months along, some ladies can still fit into non-maternity clothing. Entire threads of women showing off their svelte figures at 12, 14 or 16 weeks made me self-conscious and anxious.

I bought my first pair of maternity jeans at six weeks along — because I really needed them. My pants with their single-digit tags now look laughably small, and 75 percent of my wardrobe is completely unwearable.

But this is a season. You’re growing a baby, I gently remind myself — so of course I’m growing, too.

Though I know they’re probably innocent, remarks about suddenly seeing weight gain “in my face” take me aback. I’m so happy to be having this baby, but the comments about my changing shape are hard to take. Especially with a smile.

A friend — a mom of two herself — recently told me that, once you’re obviously expecting, everyone feels as though your body is public property. Your breasts, rump and belly are all open for conversation, scrutiny and comparison . . . along with your eating habits. And parenting style. And so on.

When I was craving Milano cookies in November, someone casually mentioned “all the sweets” at my desk.

“Remember, you’re going to have to take all that weight back off,” she warned. “And good luck with that.”


I feel I need a disclaimer here . . . a big, bold one that says, Yes, I am so unbelievably happy about this baby! We already love him or her so much, and I know all these changes will be more than worth it. With time and patience, I’m sure I’ll begin to feel like my old self again.

But it’s still hard sometimes.

Honestly, it is.


So, the title of my post: how I’m “dealing with” weight gain at five months along? Now that the dark, sick days of the first trimester are behind me, I find myself . . . thinking again. Thinking like Meg 2.0.

About what I’m eating.
Why I’m eating it.
How it’s benefiting Baby J — and if it’s benefiting me.
Am I hungry . . . or bored?
If I’m hungry, is this what I’m really hungry for?

Slowly, slowly, the fruit and vegetables have returned to my plate. Slowly, slowly, I’m reaching less for the chips and more for the almonds. String cheese is back, as is Greek yogurt. And my appetite for meat, though smaller, has also returned. (Minus chicken. Something still doesn’t sit right with me.)

I’m feeling less like the junky, tired stranger who arrived in the fall and more like the empowered, choosy woman — the mom-to-be (!) — that I’m much more comfortable with. I feel human.

I guess that’s why everyone loves the second trimester, right?


Shifting from Points to pregnancy hasn’t been seamless, and I know I’ll feel a thousand conflicted emotions between now and June. (And, you know, for the rest of my life.) But I feel like I’ve reached a place where I’m feeling well enough — and strong enough — to take control of my nutrition again.

And I really want to. Moving forward, I want to approach healthy eating during pregnancy with the same zeal that first brought me to Weight Watchers in 2013.

Though part of me does wish we could take that whole “eating for two” thing literally sometimes — especially when funnel cake is involved.

Pass me an apple instead?