~Number of pregnancies and births 1/1
~The age of your children, or how far postpartum you are 11 months postpartum
Ever since I can remember the shape of my body has been on my mind.
Memories from childhood echo with self-consciousness, fear of being different, and separation.
From the outside I grew up fairly normal. I had one of those childhoods filled with Kool-aid, Macaroni and Cheese, and baloney. In our house hold, love was food and vise versa. And so, as I matured into a woman those connections proliferated and became my identity, the way I expressed emotion, the way I hid, the way I self-medicated. My existence.
I began struggling with my weight off and on in grade five. I had a tummy. A couple of lovable rolls really. As the years went by, my self-consciousness was deep-rooted and my teen-age self knew no different. I remember being 125 pounds in grade 9 and thinking I was a boat. At a small 5’3 I wasn’t over weight by any standard. During that period of my life, my home life became complicated and ridden with upheaval. I ended up moving away from my mother’s house and moving in with my pizza and pop loving uncle. Goldmine! I had thought. Years of neglect and self-doubt were appeased with delicious food and an endless supply at that.
I struggled. By the time I moved away on my own at the age of 17, I was a 150 pounds. Those first few months of self-dependence meant many of evenings hiding out in my little apartment with food, alone with my first true love. I lived to eat. I ate for fun.I ate for love. I ate for pleasure.
I eventually met my husband, we began dating when I was 19 and he was 24, and boy did he also love food. While neither of us were big people, we could really pack in a good evening of eating. The catch was that he had a physical job, he could burn off those calories, while mine dove me deeper into a struggle. When I was 22 we got engaged. The normal head-over-heels excitement that a newly engaged young woman normally feels was on the back-burner for me. I was worried about my weight. I managed to get to a whopping 192 pounds and I had to find some way to make the train wreck come to an end.
After over a year of exercise and weight loss groups, I got down to 158 pounds. Over joyed with my progress, our sex life exploded. Two months before our long awaited wedding date, I got pregnant. My body had finally started to feel healthy again, so much so that it took literally one instance of unprotected sex with my fiance to get pregnant. I was shocked, happy, scared, hopeful. But secretly, relieved. This to me meant that I now had permission to stop dieting.
Our wedding date came and I squeezed into my wedding dress. I already managed to gain ten pounds by our wedding date, so it took a real foot in the rear to get it on, but I did. I have stinging memories of people whispering. Family that hadn’t seen me in a decade were wondering why I was “heavy”. I remember sitting in the bathroom at the reception of my wedding, I was parked on a toilet, wedding dress and all, trying to over come early pregnancy nausea. In the stall next to me were my notoriously very thing cousins. I heard them giggling and then talking. First about the cocktails, and then about me. She’s totally pouring out of that dress! One of them said. She’s gotten so… big? The other one retorted. I froze. I wanted to die right there on the spot.
Months passed and as my pregnancy progressed I’d encounter my weight again. There it was, a reoccuring topic it sprung up at a midwife appointment like a thug in a dark back alley. Well, you’re over weight so we’re going to have to do some invasive procedures during the last of your labour, one of the midwives said. It came up, again and again, and I began to feel guilty. Like I was some how abusing my baby before she ever even got here, just because I didn’t enter pregnancy slim.
Half way through my pregnancy, I decided that wanted to get a doula. I spent so much time reading about the benifits, and with us not having any family close by, I really needed the support. That doula turned out to be the medicine I needed. She advised me, guided me, supported me, and assured my that I’m perfectly fine just the way I am. I needed to hear that desperately.
The baby came in late spring, healthy as can be. The labour was long, and my birth plan blew right out the window almost immediately, but my little baby girl was born at a normal 7 pounds 11 ounces. She wasn’t the mammoth baby that nearly everyone was predicting.
I went home from the hospital weighing 223 pounds. Despite exclusively breastfeeding my baby, my weight barely fluctuated. My eating while emotional tendency was probably helping that to remain that way too. I was a wreck. I loved my little girl from the get go but those hormones did a number on me. I could no longer blame the pregnancy on being fat. I was officially back on my own and back on the wagon.
My baby girl is 11 months old now. She has taught me more about myself than anything in the whole world. She loves me regardless of my waist size. She loves to nurse regardless of the appearance of my breasts. She loves her mommy, even if mommy doesn’t love herself. In the last four months, something inside of me clicked. I began understanding that if I don’t take care of this body, I won’t be able to care for her. Once she started crawling I knew I’d have to get into shape or else. I am now down to 185lbs, and I’m a work in progress. I appreciate my body for all the things it has allowed me to do, experience and all that it allows me to love. It’s high time for all mothers to love the bodies that made their babies. I am breaking out of this shell that other people in my life have put together for me, piece by piece, day by day. I refuse to allow myself a lesser standard of life just because I’m not thin. In the mean time I’m learning to take care of myself, to be healthier, and happier. I’m on a journey, and one day I’ll be able to say I’m at a healthier weight, but for now, I’m okay with being on this windy road, full of curves, bumps, and hills.