1st pregnancy, 1 year postpartum
My body has always been the enemy. This shape which outlines the whole of who I am, encapsulating the parts of me both seen and unseen. Somehow, with time and age, it had come to represent me, a personal definition of who I am, carefully crafted for the world to see. The “me” that existed behind the lines of my body was lost in my attempts to measure up to a cultural ideal.
Before my daughter, I was constantly at war with my body. It never did what I wanted, when I wanted it, how I wanted. Having internalized so many of the messages my culture had fed me, I never felt thin enough, shapely enough, sculpted enough. I starved myself for years on end, adopting strange diets in the name of being healthy, and obsessed that it was never enough. It seemed, my body was always bound to fail me. Years of my life were spend battling body dysmorphic disorder – no matter what I did, it was never enough.
When we decided we were ready to have a baby, my body failed me again. The first few months passed. Then a year. Then another year. My body was failing me on a whole new level. Not only did it fail to measure up to some abstract standard of beauty, but apparently its functionality was also impaired. I spent nights lamenting over a loss of my future family, tears wasted after our Re told us it wouldn’t happen on our own. In the war between me and my body, my body was winning.
Shortly before the three year mark of trying to conceive, we finally did just that. And as my body began to change, so did I. For the first time in my, my body had a purpose. It had a purpose greater than myself. In the first three months I gained 20lbs, and I stopped getting on the scale. My best guess is I gained at least 45lbs during my pregnancy, but that was just a number. I felt free. Free to exist as I was, as a woman bringing life into this world. My growing curves stood as testament to the amazing thing happening inside my body and the only standard of comparison was in my heart.
My daughter was born a mere 5lb 10oz. Complications at the pregnancy caused her to stop getting adequate nutrition – one last attempt from my body to fight my new empowerment. But my daughter was strong and healthy. And next week my tiny peanut will be turning a year old. My body shows the proud signs of mommyhood. A handful of stretchmarks adorn my tummy and thighs, my hips are ample, my breasts have nourished my daughter for these nearly twelve months and they show it, and I’m still carrying some baby weight around because my life is too busy chasing my daughter around to obsess all that much. I still won’t get on a scale. This is not the same body I had a few years ago. This body is better. And I am not the same woman I was a few years ago. I am stronger.
Some days are rougher than others. Some days the drive to perfection revs up again. Then I look at my daughter, and I marvel at how this body could do something so amazing. And I remind myself that how my daughter will look at herself starts with how I look at myself. I never want my daughter to fight with her own body, because she is beautiful and incredible as she is. I have learned that one of the best ways to love my daughter is to also love myself.