The Stranger in the Mirror (Miserable)

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.

Age 38

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)

17 thoughts on “The Stranger in the Mirror (Miserable)

  • Monday, May 14, 2012 at 8:47 am

    I think you look beautiful! You have gorgeous breasts and amazing skin.

  • Monday, May 14, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Yes, your skin is a gorgeous color and looks so soft! Your pregnant belly was also simply beautiful. As hard as it is, try to love your body for what it accomplished (two wonderful children) I know it is a journey, but you’ve made a big step by sharing your story here. I think you are gorgeous.

  • Monday, May 14, 2012 at 4:00 pm

    We have similiar stories!i would also.always get asked.if i had twins!and was bigger but i didnt mind for me it meant my baby was growing!and we also have very similar body,s shapes expect that you got a nice bootty something.i Dont have lol and you also have very,nice breast! Ur beatiful and remember yoy body,change cuz of ur kids:)

  • Monday, May 14, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Notice the last picture, after your second child, looks like the idols of godesses in almost every ancient culture. Women have always been revered for the lives we bring into this world and then spend years nurturing and protecting.

    I too miss the days when I was slim and sexy in my own mind. I too look in the mirror some days,when I feel like I am looking good, and then get a sudden shock of reality. But I remind myself that bodies are just bodies. They do not reflect the real you, you as a soul and spirit. Bodies unfortunately are not made to last. And we have earned every stretch mark and every pound. Wear them proud, like battle scars.

  • Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 5:26 am

    Honey, no worries. You will lose the weight. It just takes a healthy diet, frequent exercise, and discipline.

    I’m sorry that woman told you that you were fat. You look normal to me. What she said was unnecessary and rude. In the States, no one would tell you something like that, especially a waitress in a restaurant.

    When I am not pregnant, I am usually 5’4″ and 133lbs.

    With my 3rd and 4th pregnancies, my weight climbed to almost 200lbs! I got pregnant with #4 when #3 was only 4 months old. I was only down to 150lbs, so I too put on weight on top of weight.

    But by 9 months postpartum (9 months to put the weight on, 9 months to take it off), I was back down to 133 lbs. It took daily exercise, and lots of sacrifices as far as changing my diet, but it’s worth it. And maintaining my weight is easier than losing. But once I return to eating my favorite foods, I still have to exercise 4 times a week. It’s just part of my life now.

    I’m now 38 going on 39, and pregnant with #5. I’m 18 weeks, and already 170lbs. And I’m not going to stress over my weight. I’m on bedrest, so i cannot exercise, and pregnancy is not the time to diet. I will do my best to enjoy my last pregnancy. Even if I end up back at 195lbs, I know once I have the baby I will get back to my normal weight. I’ve done it before, and I know it can be done again.

    And now you know too… so chin up, and believe in your beautiful body. You can do it.

    (Mommy to 5: ages 16, 14, 3, 2 and one on the way).

  • Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 9:54 am

    I read your story and really do not think it matches the pictures!If you are unhappy then you should try and change, but to be honest I think you’re being very harsh on yourself :)

  • Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Well, I think you look fine. But then I am 5 ft 0 on and weigh 174 as of this morning- 12 months post partum I weighed 185. So… may not think I have room to talk. I’m now 2 yrs post partum (3 months past m/c) and the belly has gotten a lot better. I do sit ups every night, and isometrics- lie on my back and suck my stomach in as much as I can, let go, (repeat about 500 times, or about 5-10 minutes). I think it helps!)

  • Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    I’m sorry people said such horrible things to you! That’s awful. They should’ve said, “your skin is gorgeous!!” (Because it is!) Or nothing at all, rude comments are so unnecessary.

  • Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    I agree with the above poster, great breasts and skin! I am so sorry that people were so incredibly rude to you when you were pregnant. I don’t why people seem to think that a pregnant woman’s body is public property to be openly criticized, judged, speculated upon etc. At my work they actually had a pool to guess how much weight a pregnant coworker would gain. Stop the insanity!!! At any rate, you are a beautiful and brave woman. You do NOT need to beat yourself up about your eating habits either. Good lord, do you know how many of us have been in those shoes? I hope you are able to see your true beauty!

  • Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 10:41 am

    I’m shocked that you got so many incredulous (and hateful!) comments about your pregnant size!! You’re a bit large for 18 weeks, I guess, but not shockingly large, and you’re all belly – you don’t look FAT at all! I totally understand your frustration at how much your body has changed, but you are still a beautiful woman and, as other posters have mentioned, your complexion is AMAZING! Try investing in some more exciting clothes (since it sounds like you’re a fashionista!) that fit well and flatter you, and maybe that will give you a shirt-term pick me up. Just focus on being your best and being healthy and I bet the weight will slowly start to melt away – that’s how it happened for me! I always fixed my hair, did my makeup, dressed well, and made it a point to exercise (nothing crazy – just a 30 minute jog 3 times a week to some music I liked) and eat right (again, nothing crazy, just cooking at home and making smarter choices like veggies instead of mashed potatoes and gravy and fish instead of fried chicken). Before I realized it, I had dropped 40 pounds!!

    Good luck to you, and please hold your head high, because you are a beautiful, wonderful person and your kid’s WANT you to love yourself like they love you! Also, lived the Fiddler on the Roof allusion. ;-)

  • Wednesday, May 23, 2012 at 9:51 pm

    I’m so sorry–it sounds like you’ve had a rough go of it with your pregnancies. As others have mentioned though, you have lovely skin! And I don’t think you look as bad as you think you do! You look good to me! It may help you in your dieting and exercising to try to make very small, achievable goals. If walking is what works for you right now, then just walk. But do it every day, for example. Or, instead of a very restrictive diet, just resolve to eat sweets only once a week. Doing this will keep your mind in a better place, at least it helps me.

  • Friday, June 22, 2012 at 6:02 am

    I feel you ,I’m 5″2 and i used to weigh 115lbs before i got pregnant. When i was 16 weeks every one thought i was 6months. I thought i looked gross because i was so skinny and just had a gigantic belly. But once I hit 7 months I started to gain drastically and got so swollen had to be put on bed rest. On my delivery day I weighed 165lbs! And through out my pregnancy I ate super healthy. I seriously had 3 burgers through out my pregnancy. I didnt drink soda for 8months. I didn’t eat chips. I took really good care of myself. I’m proof that no matter how much u take care of your body while being pregnant you will gain severe weight. I believe thats how the women body is ment to like. My husband tells me ” you were designed to have a home for my baby and the end result is what a real woman is suppose to like, don’t expect to look like heidi klum she’s probably not human lol”

  • Monday, July 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    You and i are body twins except you have bigger boobs. I am four months postpartum with my first. She was 9 lbs 3oz and i gained sixty pounds _ ended up with emergency c section. Facebook me @ Arielle wilson if you want and we can fight the belly together.

  • Thursday, July 5, 2012 at 3:26 am

    Thank you for sharing your story and for providing me with a mirror to better see my own journey. I too looked much larger than people thought I “should” throughout my pregnancy and like you, my pregnancy ended in an emergency C-section. Pregnancy, labor and motherhood are all such momentous life events, which can leave a woman feeling shaky for months after her baby’s birth, but there is something about a C-section that made me feel like I had been blind-sided by a train! I had a wonderful doctor and nurses, wonderful family and friends, and absolutely amazing baby, and still, the C-section was a traumatic experience for me. 16 months later I’m still coming to terms with the experience and my changed body. Reading your post, I was struck by how you’ve joined the chorus of negative voices in criticizing your body. Like you, I have criticized and berated my new post-pregnancy body. I think on some level I’ve felt people who criticize and judge me, or who I fear are doing that, that they will like me more or better if I hate me too. Have you ever felt that way?

    I want to add my voice to the other mothers who’ve posted on your page and say: You’re wonderful and beautiful! You’ve done something amazing – twice! – in creating a new life with your beautiful body! Please accept and love yourself – you deserve kind and generous thoughts about your body. All mothers do.

  • Sunday, July 8, 2012 at 5:20 pm

    you should try wearing those belt that “shrink you” optically it is not always comfortable but sort of reminds your skin of previous shape and when you take it off you see the difference and it is not as painful as exercise and try with small amounts of exercise, 3-5 minutes a day, you can do that much for yourself!!!!!!mother of Three

  • Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Hi and thanks for sharing your story. My body was like yours pp (but I have A cups!). I’m 5’1″ and my youngest of 2 is nearly 5 years now – I still have 5 kilos to lose (before kids I was 50 kilos and pp I was 72). Both my kids were HUGE and stretched by belly so I have an ‘apron’ of skin after the c-sections. I was recently told by a health professional that women with a waist over 80cm have a high risk of type 2 diabetes and heart attack. My waist is 86cm (yikes!) so it’s frightened me into eating 5 portions of veggies a day and cutting out the ice-cream, cookies and fatty foods. I’m going to get my waist down, because it frightens me to think I may not be there for my kids. By the way, I WILL NOT have surgery to remove my saggy skin, even if I get down to a 75cm waist. I’m proud of my “wobbly mummy belly skin” as my kids call it. I think it’s foxy – and you too :o)

  • Thursday, August 23, 2012 at 8:38 am

    Hi there. I just wanted to say that I can relate. My husband is from England and I am from the states. We both have family that we visit regularly in Portugal. When I was 4 months pregnant with my first we went to for a visit to Portugal and all I heard from family there was about how big I was already. Mind you at that time I was only about 10lbs heavier. I gained a total of 47lbs and remember talking to my FIL on a webcam a week PP and he didnt know I could hear him at first when we turned it on and proceeded to say to my MIL “look how fat she’s gotten” which my dear MIL reminded him to “shut up, she’s just had a baby”. I dont know why people criticize a pregnant woman. It blows my mind. As much flack as we get here in the US for being overweight, we definitly have a more understanding way of seeing pregnant women then they do in Europe and I’m sorry you were made to feel fat. As you pics show, you were not that big during your 1st PG. Your skin is beautiful and stretchmark free. Your brests are great too. When you look in the mirror, remind yourself of the positive and then step away. You can go back to a slimmer size but it takes work. We have to be realistic with ourselves. It takes more work as we get older and child bearing can slow down our metablolisms. It will take longer to take the weight off then it was to put it on. Dont get discouraged.

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