Before my first pregnancy in 2008 I was relatively slim: 9 stone 7 lbs ( 133 pounds in American money!) although I don’t think I carried it well as I’m short: 5′ 3″, and I’ve always had a big bottom and wide hips, but even so I was in fairly good shape. I was a lot slimmer before 2008, I’d had one of those years and put on about half a stone so I was already on the path to self-loathing. But when I became pregnant I really wasn’t concerned with putting on weight and for the first time in many years I didn’t bother about calorie counting and ate what I wanted when i wanted, but never for two! Oh OK, I ate for about 10 when I went on holiday to Barbados halfway through my pregnancy but otherwise I ate properly some days, a bit OTT others. While I knew I would have to lose a few pounds after giving birth I was enjoying the fact that I didn’t need to starve myself and that I felt free of the bulimia/weight on/weight off cycle I’d been in during my twenties. I was very excited about the impending birth of my son.
At 4 months’ pregnant I BALLOONED overnight. And it didn’t stop; I even had people stop me in the street and ask if I was expecting twins and at 16 weeks pregnant when flying from Italy, where I lived, to the UK I was asked for my doctor’s letter to say I could fly (a letter which, in Europe, we don’t have to have until 28 weeks pregnant) and in one restaurant that we frequented regularly in Italy the waitress was aghast when she saw me at around 6 months pregnant and said (in Italian) “My God how much weight have you put on? You must have put on 40 kilos, my daughter only put on 11 kilos in her whole pregnancy. You English eat far too much!” I left immediately in tears. After 7 and half months I didn’t leave the house other than to pop downstairs to the local greengrocer for some fruit. It was completely crushing to have people stare at me, to see my reflection in shop windows, to be asked how many were in there, to be told I was fat. I was but I didn’t want to be told so. The latter part of my pregnancy was completely ruined and, looking back, I think depression had started to set in even then. It didn’t help that my stepdad (who had brought me up from age 5) was dying of Cancer and my mum was so engrossed in her caring role that she virtually ignored my pregnancy. We had to have our son in the UK (for reasons of nationality) so at 8 and a half months pregnant we got the sleeper train to the UK. We booked a holiday cottage and waited. And waited. And waited a bit more. I refused to be induced and our baby was born 21 days overdue! I was devastated to end up with an emergency caesarean (I’m English! This is how we spell it!) due to our baby turning back-to-back, placenta abrupting and a few other things (which i don’t care to remember), I had been staunchly against caesareans throughout my pregnancy and to this day I am heartbroken that I didn’t get the natural birth I wanted. yes, I know the most important thing was a healthy baby, I really do, but I still mourn not having a normal delivery. I feel denied my womanly right.
I didn’t get to hold our baby for an hour and 20 minutes after the birth – not because there was anything wrong, not because I’d had a general (I hadn’t), simply because the midwife handed him to my partner without thinking and forgot to say that I could hold him (we thought that perhaps I wasn’t allowed to in the operating theatre). When we got to the recovery room I asked to hold him. I’ll never forget how he looked at me – it wasn’t the look of recognition that so many women talk about, it wasn’t love, I felt like he was saying ‘Oh no, I’ve got YOU!” From that day to this he’s always been Daddy’s boy. I think the postnatal depression started in earnest the next day. Don’t get me wrong, I adore my son, but it wasn’t a happy time after the birth – for a long time. While in hospital I didn’t worry about my enormous belly that still looked at least 6 months pregnant, even when my dad came to see me and said sarcastically, “You’ve got a lovely figure now, haven’t you?!” (tact, diplomacy, sensitivity – not his strong points). That started about a week later.
During pregnancy no. 1 I put on 70 pounds.
I breastfed exclusively for 6 months and didn’t lose a single pound (other than the 14 I lost giving birth and losing water immediately after). My stepdad died when my son was 7 months old and I lost 14 pounds then. A year later I lost 7 pounds then went to New Zealand to visit relatives and put it back on (cakes galore made by my partner’s mum). I’d just started to lose again when I became pregnant with no.2 and, just as before, bang! I looked 6 months pregnant at 6 weeks. I had recently joined the gym on a special programme via the doctor but I had such terrible morning sickness and was so uncomfortable with heartburn (which started at 6 weeks and continued to 39 weeks, not a day’s let up) and my general size that I gave up at 3 months pregnant. At 4 months pregnant, mid October 2010, I was asked by the checkout operator at the supermarket if I would be having a Christmas baby. When I told him “No, a Spring baby” he almost fell on the floor. We had moved back to the Uk by this time and I have to say that the comments about my size were fewer than they had been in Italy. But still I felt not unlike Jabba the Hut. This time I had prenatal depression and it was awful, I really struggled to get through it and had counselling all through the pregnancy. Happily, however, the day son no. 2 was born (caesarean again after 38 and a half weeks of planning a VBAC I was forced to change my mind as baby was transverse and had been all the way through the pregnancy that they could tell) it lifted, just melted away. This time, I held my baby almost as he was born (a very understanding surgeon who agreed to many non-routine things for me) and he looked at me with love.
During pregnancy no. 2 I put on 42 pounds. Considerably better than no.1 but remember I hadn’t lost much after no.1 so I ended up 14 pounds heavier than I had done at the end of pregnancy no.1. But this time I lost 28 pounds within a month of giving birth, then slowly lost another 7 over the next 6 months, then stopped. Again I breastfed exclusively for 6 months and now my son is 12 months I still feed him myself twice a day. But I have lost no more weight. I admit I comfort eat. And eat. And loathe. And eat and then I do it all again, it goes on in a vicious cycle. I haven’t seen my pubic hair for 4 years now due to the enormous overhanging lump of lard around my middle – and I used to have quite a flat stomach, proudly so. I am 4 dress sizes bigger than I used to be pre-children. I have a proper double chin that Tevye would proud to see on Golde. I have 3 huge boxes of beautiful, some expensive, clothes that I cannot wear and slump around in supermarket threads which are cheap in the hope that soon I will be able to get my real clothes out again. I avoid some old friends who want to see me after living abroad for many years because I’m so embarrassed about how I look compared to when they last saw me and I was slim. Every couple of months I manage to find some motivation and do some exercise and start a diet but when I lose only 3 or 4 pounds in a month or so I lose heart and binge on, well anything really. Half the problem with exercise is that the overhang really hurts if I do much more than a brisk walk – it literally slaps me on the upper thighs and swings from side to side.
I can barely look at myself in the mirror, every single bit of me looks like someone else. And I don’t like her.
Picture 1 shows me at 8 weeks pregnant, first pregnancy 2008
Pic 2 Approx 18 weeks
Pic 3 Approx 38 weeks
Pic 4 Today, 21st April 2012 (I didn’t take any pics of myself during pregnancy no. 2)