I was 31 when my son was born. I had spent, easily, 25 years feeling fat, feeling overweight, feeling shy about my shape. As a teenager, I fluctuated between 15-30lbs more than was “recommended” by doctors at the time (5’4″-5’5″ and 130-145lbs). Then I met and married my husband, who is in no way shy about admiring me.
I won’t say this changed my self consciousness. In fact, I gained weight after we married and despite constant reassurance, I felt undesirable and sad about my appearance. I’ve always carried my weight in my stomach, the classic apple-on-toothpicks physique, and it didn’t help that I have a deep, 4-5″ wide appendectomy scar, but if I could shield my tummy with a loose shirt everything else was okay. But now, everything started to look bigger and was definitely not okay.
So this is where I was when we conceived our son. I was so happy to be pregnant! I suffered some morning sickness, the usual aches and pains, and went through a lot of therapy in order to make sure that my personal issues wouldn’t be a psychological hurdle to my long-dreamed of home birth. But really? The best part? I could stop worrying about how fat I was! For years, I’d had the “when are you due? Oh, I’m so sorry, I thought you were pregnant” comments. Well, now I was! I was so happy. I stopped worrying about how much I ate or how much fat I consumed. I had developed a pretty healthy diet over time, so that was not a concern. The excuse to nurture my baby gave me permission to be good to myself and feel good about myself without feeling guilty.
I was disappointed that I felt I didn’t look pregnant for the longest time. My baby belly was hidden under my belly fat. Finally I began to show, and yes, my belly now looks like many pictured here, a round mound of ribbed wobbliness in the middle of a saggy tummy. I weighed 165lbs when I conceived, and (yes, I was deep down glad of this) when I delivered him I weighed 198, and remember being glad I didn’t break 200. Even though I wasn’t watching the scale. Even though all that mattered was my son’s health. Even though I was healthy. Two lousy pounds and I was suddenly a slave to an arbitrary, conventionalized scale system! Sigh. I don’t have too many more stretch marks; most of mine are old, from pre-pregnancy, and present, but silvered by time. I don’t think about them much. I worry more about varicose veins (it’s the curse of the apple-figured, and I’m seeing a few more and more and am more selfconscious in shorts now).
My son is 5. When he turned 2 I began to worry about my weight again. I fight with myself, swinging wildly between anxiety and fear, and self-confidence and calm. One day is good, I feel motherly and earthy and sensuous and full of fun, but a few days later I feel matronly and doughy and dull. I’m afraid the latter is more often the rule, and I hate shopping, though I love clothes. Everything is so tight-fitted and belly-focused!
One thing that has struck me is how arbitrary a lot of this feels. As soon as I’m given permission and a reason that I honor with all my heart (pregnancy) I stop worrying about the “outlines” in which I’m supposed to inhabit and allow myself its organic shape. When my son’s friends’ mothers weaned their children and began to talk about “getting in shape” I became aware again, agitated, and yearned for the peace I felt when the conversations were less about body shape and size and more about what those bodies could do. Suddenly I remembered feeling like the Fat One. It’s hard to shake. But when I cuddle with my husband, or when I hold my son, or nurse him (yes, he’ll be five soon, and it brings him such joy to have that special time with me), I am so glad that whatever I feel, what they see and feel when they are with me brings them happiness. That’s healing, whatever else. But I do wish that I could feel the way I did when I was pregnant, the feeling I imagined that most “normal-sized” women feel all the time (and yes, I realize that even now, at 5”5″ and 165, size 14, I’m overweight but not too far off average)–the feeling of being good right where I was, and not comparing myself to anyone else. It was wonderful.