Shape of Me: Take Two (Mom)

Age : 28
Number of pregnancies : 2

I am a mom of two beautiful and I mean beautiful children. Not just saying that because I am mom ! My son was born ten years ago and two years or so after that, I completed an entry into this forum with photos. It was the scariest thing I had ever done. It was the first time anyone saw me naked, and in the light. It was the first time I shared my insecurities with what might as well have been the entire world. It was a freeing experience and though it did not resolve my body image issues, it did bring about a sense of adventure and a step into the unknown. It also allowed me to relate with hundreds of women and hopefully provide understanding with other women. Their comments truly made me smile. Their feedback was appreciated and it never left me, their words of positivity and wisdom.

I had my son at the young and impressionable age of 18. Back then media was worse than it is now. I was devastated to see the impact pregnancy and childbirth had on my body. I was a single parent , no visitation, nothing. Previous to that pregnancy I struggled with a major and almost deadly eating disorder. I was very small, underdeveloped. When I became pregnant I made the brave and selfless decision to devote every day to growing and making that little being as healthy as possible. For the first time, I ate and enjoyed meals. I gained a whopping 100 lbs. considering I was less than 100 prior to pregnancy, I gained a healthy weight and then a pregnancy weight. My son was born weighing in at 10.2.. I had major stitching, was hospitalized myself.

The years that followed were emotional not just with having a baby, but having a new and not improved (in my eyes) body, new relationships, new experiences at school. As my body shrunk back, I was left with thousands of stretch marks from arms to legs.. Deep and dark, lifeless breasts and a shredded stomach (not in a good way). I wore girdles , push up bras, I fake tanned, cream tanned, ran … I dedicated every ounce of my time to my body and what I thought could repair it, and my self esteem. I had relationships that failed, friendships that suffered and a lack of parenting found that I’ll never get back. I was receiving media messages that I could not filter. I had to be beautiful , I couldn’t afford it. What was I to do? My efforts in my own eyes were fruitless. Small improvements were made. Days were good, and then so low. I took photos of myself , I compared, I cried. I had sex with the lights off. I knew all the ways to conceal imperfections in moments that are meant to let go, be vulnerable. I had never been. I moved around , squirmed, sucked, tucked , rolled and mainly bent over for any intimate relationship. Imagining revealing my imperfections was mortifying. Imagining being abandoned for it was devastating, a nightmare.

Years later, I met my husband. This was after countless failed relationships. We met on a whim. An absolutely breath taking and handsome man. More than I could have imagined and a glowing loving personality that could not be beat. We fell in love. We made promises to help me become vulnerable. He was gentle and amazing and over the past four years of our marriage I have opened up more than I could have imagined. A man who loves me as I am. A year ago I had my daughter. The most beautiful creature I have ever seen, wild and gorgeous. My body minimally changed as I kept up my fitness in pregnancy and did yoga religiously (a huge passion of mine), but most of all I was grounded and loving and calm throughout my pregnancy. After having her I continued my fitness (which is much more to maintain my shape than for health) on a regular basis.

You know, I love my life, I love my husband but we live with more than just our children. We live with this angry other person in the room. Someone who tells me I am hideous and not good enough for my husband. That he deserves a woman with the perfect body, not me , used and destroyed …. I look back at my first pregnancy and I would do anything to go back and have more self restraint about food and knowledge about exercise. I ask why did this happen to me? Why did I get this body? Why do I work so hard to fix it all for nothing ? I see women in social media and the news and I cannot believe they have been so blessed with breasts and bodies and smiles and how were they dealt such an amazing hand ? I know I’ve read some stories here and then looked at the pictures and wondered , “what’s wrong with her !? She’s gorgeous!!” , but this is my personal fight and I try not to judge.

Body dysmorphic disorder is real. We don’t always see ourselves the way we are, or the way others do. I don’t have any answers. I have lots of questions and lots to learn. I feel always at the beginning of my body journey and nowhere near the end. I’m only here to bare all again and share and show and expose myself because it’s a tiny piece of my healing that I wish to share with you. I don’t wish you all to be cured in one day, I just hope like me, that you find small ways when and if you can on some days and moments in time to really be in the moment, as who you are , as you are feeling the wind or maybe the sun or maybe just observing what’s happening around you and that not every moment is spent with focus on what you are missing or what you want. Sometimes we have so much and we don’t notice until we stop time. All the best to you.

A pain I would never wish on anyone. (Anonymous)

Age: 29

Number of pregnancies: 1

Number of births: 0

It’s very hard for me to write about my experience because I’m a very private person. That being said, I don’t know if my heart can withstand all the pain and sadness I’m feeling, so I figure it’s best to try and get it out.

I met my husband 10 years ago. We dated for a long time before getting engaged, and we were engaged for a long time before getting married. I really wanted kids right after we got married, but we waited because we wanted the timing to be such that we were more financially stable, more mature, more confidant in ourselves. We wanted to set ourselves up to be the best possible version of ourselves before we had a baby. It was hard waiting, but I was so excited when we finally felt ready.

What worried me about getting pregnant is my history of anorexia and bulimia. My self esteem, especially self image, is incredibly fragile and delicate. I am overcome with feelings of inadequacy about myself, my accomplishments, and my looks. I was worried what my body would look like after I had a baby, but then I was so angry at myself for feeling like this, and kept thinking that I would never let my future child see how much I struggled; how I would lay in bed and cry when I felt like I ate too much that day, or how I would work out at the gym until I felt physically sick to assuage my guilt for eating a hamburger or some ice cream. I couldn’t handle the thought of my future child learning to self loathe based on how they saw me treat myself.

January 2015 finally seemed like the right time to start. I work in healthcare, so I’m familiar with the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy. I started prenatal vitamins a full cycle before we started trying to conceive. Once we started trying, I cut caffeine down to one 8 oz cup a day. I stopped drinking. I was very careful about exposure to radiation in the workplace. I stopped using my face cream because it had a vitamin A derivative in it and I didn’t want to chance it. I worried about the sunscreen I was using and if the ingredients were potential endocrine disrupters for my developing baby. I washed my hands like crazy to minimize exposure to pathogens. I stopped eating deli meat. I even stopped green tea because I was afraid that my prenatal folic acid wouldn’t get absorbed properly, so I stuck to water. Whenever I went out to eat, I’d bug the servers and ask if the cheese they served is pasteurized.

After one month of trying to conceive, we got pregnant. I was so happy that it happened so quickly, and so scared, because all I could worry about was miscarriage. Scheduling my prenatal visit at 8 weeks seemed like forever. I stopped my one cup of coffee, stuck with my workouts at the gym as best I could (though exhaustion prevented me from running as much). Every day was constant fear of wiping and seeing blood, but I was always OK.

Until that first appointment.

My baby measured 2 weeks behind at 6 weeks when it should have been 8. My doctor was cautious and said things could go either way. There was a heartbeat, but he couldn’t measure it. He scheduled me for a follow up in a week. He also said my cervix was friable, so when I spotted dark brown the next few days, I didn’t worry because I figured the pap smear and the transvaginal ultrasound had irritated my cervix.

But then 4 days later, the spotting became heavier, and it was red. I went to my obgyn that morning and the baby still had a heartbeat, but it was slow. He still couldn’t measure it. The baby had grown over those few days, but the bleeding was a bad sign. He said I have an 80% chance of miscarriage.

So here I am today. It is the afternoon of the appointment where I was told my baby is almost certainly going to die. My heart hurts. My head hurts. Everything inside me hurts. It’s wrong to judge people, but I can’t help but feel angry at all the women I’ve seen throughout my career in healthcare who have so blatantly abused themselves and have had healthy babies. Women who have done meth, heroin, Percocet, and smoked while they were pregnant only to have healthy babies. I just wonder why my baby can’t be healthy when I have tried so hard to do everything “right.”

I don’t care if I get stretch marks or varicose veins. I don’t care about gaining weight now. I just want to meet my baby, to hold it and love it and hopefully teach it to love itself the way I never loved myself.

I hope things work out for me and my husband after this entire heartbreaking ordeal. Thank you so much for reading my story.

Facing Forty (Anonymous)

Age: 39
Children: 2, ages 10 and 5

I have had a love/hate relationship with my body for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a fairly volatile home – my bio dad passed away when I was very young and my mother remarried when I was six. My step dad and I always had a tenuous relationship – we fought a lot and he was quite verbally abusive – physical as well. I grew up hearing about how ugly, stupid, rotten, ungrateful and horrible I was. I believed every word. As I got older, I felt out of control and unloved in my own home. However, I learned early on that I could control one thing – my food and my body. I became obsessed with staying thin. I am a small person (only 5’2″) and have never thought I was thin (or good) enough. When I was in junior high I started dieting (though to be honest I remember watching my weight as early as 4th grade) and by high school I pretty much stopped eating. I would subsist on gum. I realized that I was only hungry if I actually ATE something – so I avoided food and tried to make it on as little as possible. I was never diagnosed with an eating disorder per se – but then again no one really knew the extent that I was avoiding food. On the flip side – when I finally did eat – I would binge. Entire boxes of cookies, or bags of candy – falling into a cycle of fast food and junk. Eventually I would begin to gain weight and I would start the process all over again. When I reached college age and moved out of the unhealthy environment of my parent’s home – I started to eat A LOT and gained quite a bit more then the freshman fifteen. I was traumatized and decided things were going to be different. So I cut back on the junk and began to exercise. Exercising changed my life. Unfortunately, I become obsessed with that too. If I thought I was going to miss an day of exercise I would become depressed. I restricted my food and increased my exercise. I was very thin – but it was never thin enough. I followed this pattern well into my twenties. Then I got pregnant. I gained quite a bit of weight quickly only to miscarry around 9 weeks. I was devastated – the loss of the pregnancy coupled with the weight gain completely set me off. I spent several weeks working out like crazy and eating little to regain control. I then got pregnant for a second time about 3 months later – and this one stuck. I gained almost 50 pounds with my son and it took me many many months to lose it. As soon as I could I started exercising again and making terrible food choices – lots of junk with salt and sugar. I finally lost the weight and got back to my pre-baby size – I felt really good about myself. While I was never able to truly kick my food/exercise cycle I was able to go about my life without constantly worrying about my appearance and what others thought. Five years later I had my second child and went through the same process as the first. I returned to the gym and took my first exercise class when my daughter was exactly 8 weeks old. I only felt in control at the gym – the rest of my life was a disaster with two kiddos, a husband that worked constantly and a touch of postpartum depression. Despite all of this, I quickly lost the 40lbs I gained with my daughter. I was so proud to put on my bikini that summer (i was 35) and show that I still had it. That was until I received an email from a girlfriend that said “women our age shouldn’t wear bikini’s – they look good on NO ONE.” I was immediately chastened and from that moment on never wore a bikini again. It was like someone had taken every insecurity I had and put it on display for the world to see. “I am fat, ugly and have been making a fool out of myself at the pool for the past 5 years.”

I wish I could say I walked away from that email and followed my own path – but I didn’t. I actually lost hope – stopped exercising – and decided she was right. I was old, fat and ugly – why bother. I gained 10lbs (which is a lot when you are short) and just felt discouraged. I spent a summer lounging at the pool in my tankini wishing I hadn’t spent the 10 years prior looking a fool in my bikini. However, this was not me. I went back to the gym, got healthy and lost the extra 10lbs and a few more. I felt better about myself. I felt almost (which is huge) in control of my eating and exercise. I felt like I could be thin, be healthy and NOT be obsessed. I will be 40 in July and feel like I am finally reaching a place where food and exercise do not control me. Don’t get me wrong – I still work out 5 times a week and watch what I eat – but I don’t let those things run my life. If I miss an exercise class or eat too much food I don’t spend days obsessing over it – I move on and realize that tomorrow is another day to make better choices. I recently traveled to Mexico with my family to celebrate some big milestones – my upcoming 40th birthday included. I felt happy and at ease with myself and my body – and purchased a new bikini for the trip. Maybe my girlfriend was right – and a women of my age shouldn’t be showing what two kids and a lifetime of gravity does to a body – but then again – maybe she was wrong. I had my husband take some pics of me just so I could remember what I looked like on this trip – and see the fruits of my labor – the Zumba, the Kickboxing, the Toning – and most importantly to realize that no – I’m not 20 – but I still look pretty darn good. I’m proud of myself – of my body – and the steps I’ve taken along way to minimize my bad choices and not let food or exercise (or really – what anyone else thinks) run my life. So – here I am – in my bikini at almost 40 – ready to share with the world my journey. Thanks for giving me a voice – even if I’m not quite ready to show my face. :-)

Working out and trying to love myself again. (Anonymous)

age: 19
children: 2 1/2 year old.

Previous post here.

I’ve been trying to take each day one day at a time.. I am now parentless. my dad passed away when I was 11, my mom last april. both to lung& brain cancer. Ive had lots of drama and had to put my sons father in jail for abuse. I recently moved to where my dad grew up to live with my step aunt& uncle. things didn’t work out there, now I am at a two bed apartment with my son. I am attending college for a free prep program so I can go into nursing or dental. 4 days a week and my son is in a home daycare, he likes it, im glad. I excersise every morning a cardio & night a weight lifting.. ive became an over excersiser since my mom passed away.. its like something to do.. then got into restrict & binging, it wasn’t good at all got to 92lbs and that left with bad inner thigh marks as shown in the picture.. I am now 114 lbs.. gained all that within 3 months from my grandpas sweets… I am now a beach body coach and I want to help other mothers learn to love their body as my journey moves along also.

I am currently getting a treatment called Derma pen to see if itll help my inner thigh stretchmarks… just had my second treatment. I will take pictures after my last one is complete in 5 months.

I love reading all of your stories and I hope I can help some <3 [gallery][gallery ids="11976,11977,11978"]

From Loving My Body to Loathing It (Anonymous)

I got pregnant at 17. It was unplanned and unexpected. I was scared, but a little excited too. My boyfriend was supportive and so were his family. I loved being pregnant.. I so enjoyed watching my belly grow each month. For the first time in my life, I felt womanly and sexy. Pre-pregnancy I was a mere 89 lbs. Keep in mind I am very petite- only 4″11. Well, by the time I delivered my son I was 115 lbs. I was happy though, because I really felt like I was all belly. I never got a single stretch mark. My beautiful baby boy entered this world weighing 6 lbs 3 oz.. a decent size for me I think. By the time I got home, I realized what pregnancy had really done to my body. My stomach was loose and flabby. My boobs were so saggy I hardly recognized them. Not to mention my nipples went from being small and pink to being giant and brown. My ass is too big to get into any of my jeans, which I wore my ENTIRE pregnancy, I might add. Every time I look in the mirror I want to scream. My vagina looks like complete roadkill.. I won’t include a pic because I’m honestly too embarrassed but my urethra is much lower than it used to be, and my labia is very stretched out. I also have a new ‘lip’ from getting snipped down there. I feel like no one will ever want me ever again. My boyfriend assures me my boobs aren’t ‘that’ saggy and I’m not ‘that’ fat, but then he tells me to curl ups and go running. If we ever break up, I know that no man would want me. I have battled anorexia, bulimia, depression, and bipolar disorder since I was 13. I have been self harming for many years as well. My body is already covered in scars. I no longer feel beautiful and womanly like I did when I was pregnant.. I feel empty, deflated, and disgusting. My son is so much more important than my body, but I am so depressed about the changes that came after him that I’m finding it really hard to enjoy being a mom. I cry during late night feedings, I hardly leave my house, when my dad offers to watch him I decline because I don’t have anyone to hangout with anyway. No one wants to hear me cry about how awful I feel.. and I really don’t blame them. I currently weigh 97 lbs, I’m hoping to get down to 90 by the time my son is 12 weeks old. I only hope that I can overcome this loathing of my body so that I can fully enjoy him while he’s this small. I feel like I’m missing out on being a mom because this is eating away at my self esteem. I don’t want to fall back into the cycle of cutting myself, starving myself, and purging because I want so badly to be happy for him. I hope god hears my prayers, because right now, I am lost.

Your Age: 18
Number of pregnancies and births: 1
The age of your children, or how far postpartum you are: 4 weeks postpartum

A young girl needs your help to save her life.

SOAM is here to help us learn how to love ourselves. Our focus here is body image after pregnancy, and we have had many mamas here talk about struggling with eating disorders. We try to learn how to love ourselves not only for ourselves, but so we can be living examples for the next generation. So when I read this story, about a family I know of through my local community of mamas, it hit close to my heart.

We have this chance right now to help one girl survive and, someday, to thrive. But if we can help her to live and to beat this disease, we will have made a difference in the world.

Please, take a moment to read her story and to donate something to help save her life. Do it for your daughters, for yourself, for all women who struggle with eating disorders on any scale.

Recovered/ing Anorexic and 36 Weeks Pregnant (May)

I am currently 24 years old and 36 weeks pregnant. I have struggled with self image my whole life, first started making myself sick after eating at age nine and advancing to anorexia around 14 years of age. I have been on the way to eating normally since I was 19 and in my own opinion doing quite well… regarding weight but my mind and feelings on my weight still needs lots of work.

My whole life I have wanted to be pregnant, I think some part of me believed I would love my body totally while pregnant because it would be ‘big’ for a reason other than me being ‘fat’. Since being pregnant I have realized that I may have misjudged my personal strength and also realized that people skip out on telling you many hardships of being pregnant.

Even though I have a wonderful loving partner who encourages me to feel beautiful and often times succeeds I can’t help but be terrified of what my body will look like after giving birth. Another reason I am afraid of my body after birth is because dieting and workouts have always been a struggle for me due to my history of eating disorders… It is very easy for me to get carried away with it and become unhealthy about it all. I have been lucky enough to avoid stretch marks on my belly (fingers crossed) but have gotten some on my breasts. I have also been lucky to have gained only a small amount of weight, going from 155lbs pre pregnancy to 170lbs currently.

So far I have found it very important to actively remove my fear in anyway I can and speaking to other mothers about my fears, of both motherhood and weight. This blog is a wonderful way to hear stories of women who have given life and to see how amazing their bodies and attitudes are, hopefully I can have such an amazing attitude about it all and can share my story later on.

Photo description:
~Me when I first met my partner, at my healthiest weight of 125lbs.
~Me the day after finding out I was pregnant. I had gained around 15lbs since I had first started dating my partner to when we got pregnant (happy weight I guess)
~Me feeling beautiful in my belly at 31 weeks.
~me last week.

1 Year PP & Positive Body Image (Emily)

Previous post here.

25yrs old
2 births
33 months and 12 months; 12 months pp

I am 12 months postpartum this month. I posted about 4 months ago here. I have always had body image issues and had an eating disorder as a teen. When I meet my husband at age 21 I had a healthy body weight for the first time and felt mostly good about myself. After my first pregnancy I gained weight and the self hate began. After my second pregnancy I decided the self hating had to end. I am worth loving just the way I am. I am beautiful. I am powerful. Its been a year now into my journey and I’ve made amazing progress. This site helped me a lot. After posting my 7 month pp photo, the picture was used on the yahoo article written about the site*. At first I was crushed by the negative commenters on yahoo and asked the picture be taken off the article. But the more I thought about all those crazy, mean comments on the article (yes, I read all 300!) the more I realized how wrong they were. How silly they were. How LAUGHABLE they were. And also, how cute my picture was. In other words, its was major therapy for me, and it was a blessing in disguise! I’m honestly loving my body. I think more positive thoughts daily than negative ones, and I’m quick to realize the silliness of my negative thoughts. I’m very proud of myself and I’m going to continue working on my positive body image.

*NOTE FROM BONNIE, site admin: When working with the media, I am careful to ONLY offer them photos that I have been specifically granted permission by the women who share them. In this case, the photo was taken without my consent and as soon as Emily contacted me I asked them to remove it and they did so fairly quickly. Emily, again, I am so sorry, but I am glad some good growth came out of a bad situation. Good for you!

Some pictures of my body at 12months pp & my sweet 1yr old boy.

Ashamed and Insecure (Anonymous)

25 years old one child, three months postpartum

In my early teens I suffered from purging anorexia. I’ve never been content with my body and looks since one summer my dad pointed out my growing belly when I was 12. I got the help I needed, but never got rid of that little voice that told me I could be more loved if I just lost a few pounds.

Looking back, I wish I had embraced the body I had before pregnancy.

My poor husband has had to deal with these crazy thoughts of mine and has paid the price. I never let him see me naked then or now. I feel terrible that I have held back from him.

Pregnancy weight gain and loss have brought back all the bad thoughts from my teen years. I’m trying so hard to not put emphasis on my looks, but it varies from day to day. I know that I never want my daughter to feel bad about herself or hear me put myself down. Each day it takes a real effort not to breakdown when I catch a glimpse of my body in the mirror.

Everyone Tells Me I Look Fine… NOT (Christina)

Pregnancies/Births: 1 pregnancy 1 birth
Childs Age: 14 months

Ok so I was 196lbs in March of 2010. I went on weight watchers and got down to 160lbs. June 8th,2010 I stopped weight watchers and my doctor said I had gotten pregnant that first week of June. So long story short, nine months later, at 6:15 pm I delivered my first born. I delivered at 196. How ironic! Anywho, I am now 160 lbs again but I dont feel the same. My husband says that I look great. I dont think so.

I began purging around 17. Stopped for a couple years and then picked up around 6 months PP to try to drop a few extra pounds. I just cant get there. So its off and on now.

Before my son, I had a navel piercing. After I gave birth it stretched out and now looks kind of funny. My breasts sag and I really dont like that. As far as stretchmarks, I got a few more than I already had on my sides, and my stomach ones are centralized around my navel. So although I didnt make out too bad, Im still not 100% comfortable in my “new” skin. Everyone tells me that “I’m a tiger (a mother) that has earned her stripes”. Its an empowering quote but then I look in the mirror. I want to lose 10-15 more pounds.

I would ultimately like to have another kid but when I look in the mirror I am not sure. I am afraid of the effects it will have on my body. Hubby says he loved me at 196, and loves me at 160. But I dont love myself enough yet. I feel like sometimes I am all over the place with my emotions. Just hope I can get a grip. Im tired of everyone telling me that I am trying to get to small. I know where I want to be, and if I cant get there then I will never be happy. The pics are at 39 weeks and now.