I found out I was pregnant on Thanksgiving Day 2009. I just kind of knew, and I took a pregnancy test early that morning. I then ran to the store and took several more — all positive. My emotions were all over the place, as the father was someone I was only casually dating and I had no idea what his reaction would be. We had faithfully been using protection. I told him a few weeks later, and his reaction was not a good one. It became evident early on that he was choosing not to be involved. Though I regularly sent him updates during my pregnancy, we haven’t spoken in 10 months. So I settled into the reality that I was going to be a single mother, and struggled with the stigma that is unfortunately attached to that title. I suffered from depression throughout my pregnancy, but was carried through by an amazing support system of friends, my midwife and a social worker I had been seeing. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes around 24 weeks and struggled to control it with diet until the end of my pregnancy. Unfortunately, my blood sugar got out of control toward the end (this is typical of GD) and I was hospitalized and put on insulin. I stayed in the hospital the last two weeks of my pregnancy, and my daughter was born vaginally on July 20, 2010.
I’ve never been a petite woman, and I guess I have always technically been “plus-sized.” I was a size 16 pre-pregnancy and weighed around 210 lbs. I never really had issues with body image though — I liked my breasts and knew how to dress my body to feel attractive. I gained around 40 lbs during my pregnancy, and the last month or so stretch marks started to appear everywhere. They weren’t just on my belly, but on my sides, arms, thighs and breasts. They didn’t bother me at the time as all my focus was on trying to stay healthy enough to deliver a full-term baby (I was just over 37 weeks when she was born).
I’m now almost 4 months post-partum, and I’ve been lying to everyone concerning how I feel about my body. I’ve told people that I’m proud of my stretch marks, that my breasts are feeding my child so its ok that they are saggy, that I’ve accepted that my stomach hangs down and I’m fine with it. I’m not. Taking pictures for this submission was the first time I have stood fully naked in front of a mirror since having my daughter, and I hate what I see. I have stretch marks for days and if I sit down without a bra I can actually make my nipples touch my belly button! My belly is all fat and loose skin and it hangs down horribly. I have two pairs of sweatpants that I switch off, and that’s all I wear. If I wear fitted pants you can see the pooch of my belly and it just looks so awful. I haven’t worn “real” clothes in months. When I did try and buy some better fitting clothes I found that even a pair of size 20 jeans were too small. I couldn’t bring myself to try on the 22s. I make excuses to myself and everyone else that as a new single mother its my “right” to wear sweats as long as I want. I don’t want to. I have to.
Here is my biggest fear. I’ve never admitted it, but here it is. I don’t think that I’ll ever find a man who will be able to see me as anything other than “damaged goods.” I truly believe that, at 24, I have no choice but to be single for the rest of my life. Of course people say its what’s on the inside that counts…but we all know that’s not always true, especially to men. They want what they see splashed all over the television and in magazines, and even if I lose 100 lbs I will never look like that. Ever. I feel unloveable. There. I said it. I love my daughter, and I will willingly sacrifice anything for her. And I did — I sacrificed my body.
~Your Age: 24
~Number of pregnancies and births: 1/1
~The age of your children, or how far postpartum you are: 3.5 months