~Your Age: 26
~Number of pregnancies and births: 1 pregnancy, 1 birth
~The age of your children, or how far postpartum you are: Currently 15 1/2 weeks PP (photos taken at 13 weeks PP)
I have struggled with my body image ever since I was a child. I remember, when I was in primary school, sucking in my stomach during swimming lessons so that it would be flatter than the other girls’ tummies (it’s a habit I have had ever since). In high school I developed severely disordered eating, accompanied by anxiety and depression, and battled my body and weight for a very long time.
5 years ago I met and then married an amazing man who thinks I am beautiful and tells me so often. I loved being pregnant – I was healthy, happy and have never felt so beautiful in my life! My stomach, long despised, was my pride and joy. I was pregnant in summer and would walk to the pool in my bikini.
I put on 15 kg (33lb) while I was pregnant. It was 38 weeks before I saw a stretch mark and when I found my first one (I got 4 or 5) I cried and cried. And then I realised – millions of women around the world have nowhere safe to give birth, no doctors or midwives or antenatal care, how dare I act like this is the end of the world??!!! I was horrified at my vanity. My husband thinks they’re cool. He says they make me look like a pirate. I’m not so sure but they’re growing on me.
Labour was surprising, quick and hard. My son was born naturally just over 4 hours after my waters broke, 3 days before his due date. I’ve been told I was ‘lucky’ but going from the odd prelabour Braxton-Hicks to full, active labour in minutes left me feeling like I had been hit by a truck, both during my labour and for weeks afterwards. I quietly envy my friends’ stories of relaxing in the bath between their contractions!
Postpartum, I had expected to look pregnant for months after delivery, but what my hungry little boy hasn’t sucked out I unfortunately seem to have lost in a distressing haze of postnatal anxiety. It’s nice to fit into my old clothes but I would rather be fatter and happier. My body’s landscape is completely different now– where once there was muscle and firmness there just seems to be softness all over the place. I jiggle when I wiggle. My butt, which I used to like, now just kind of sags and squishes around in my pants. My problem skin flared during pregnancy and again now as I’m breastfeeding. My poor breasts have succumbed to mastitis four times.
But in the end, when I stop for a moment to silence the negative voices, I am kind of in awe of my body. It grew and protected my baby for 9 months. It was strong enough to withstand the full force of labour without a single drug or stitch. It has fed and sustained my son entirely for nearly four months now. I look at my body and then across at my sleeping child – the most beautiful I have ever beheld – and realise that my body is amazing and I can’t wait to do it all again.