This is going to be a difficult post to write. But one that has been 3 months in the making, maybe even more.
There are so many changes that happen to your body during the journey of pregnancy and childbirth. Despite all the tabloid images of celebrities slimming down merely weeks after producing another human, the general consensus is that childbirth should be celebrated. Your body is a beautiful thing, we are told, to have housed another human being.
But when I look in the mirror, I don’t see beautiful. I see a monster.
Let me back up a bit: I have always struggled with low self-esteem when it comes to my body. I have struggled with my weight my whole life and when I became pregnant I was afraid of going down a path I wouldn’t be able to return from.
Growing up I was always chubby. I loved dessert as a kid and the pounds packed on throughout my preteen and teen years. Given my height (or lack thereof), my weight gain is always apparent. It can’t hide anywhere on all 5 feet and 1 inch of me. I eat a cookie and I’ve gained a pound.
A few years ago, I got sick of always being the fat girl, of always not knowing what to wear and of feeling so ugly. My self esteem was intrinsically tied to my weight and I wanted to feel good again.
So I embarked on a crazy diet. I hated exercise and so decided that dieting was the way to go. I cut out all sugar and carbs from my diet and I lost almost 30 pounds in a year. I gained about 5 back after that but I more or less maintained it over the years after losing it. I could go into a store to buy clothes and come out with my self-confidence intact. I almost felt beautiful.
After marriage, I gained some more weight. I’ve always been an emotional eater and the stress and drastic changes in my life made me double up on the cookies and cupcakes and cake. If there was dessert, I wanted it.
When I became pregnant, I knew I had to be careful. Because I gain weight quickly and lose it slowly, I knew that the pounds would pack on pretty quickly. And they did.
But I kept hearing how breastfeeding would help me to slim down quickly and that I would drop several pounds right away, once the baby was out.
But as my body would have it, I barely lost 20 pounds. Even after my daughter was born and I was 6 weeks post-partum, the scale still read that hateful number it had read the day I came home from the hospital. Even though I was breastfeeding around the clock, every two hours, sometimes even every hour. Even though there were days where I felt so hungry I was dizzy. Even though I felt like my energy was so low from all the running around I did. Even though there were days I barely ate more than 2 meals, that number did not budge.
As a breastfeeding mom, I get HUNGRY. Hungry in a way I wasn’t during pregnancy. Hungry enough that when I have a chance to sit and eat, I can go on for a long time. So hungry that I will eat anything and everything my hand finds.
I know I should eat healthier. But I find easy comfort in chocolate on the days that are extra hard. There are moments where I hate myself as I gorge on chips and cookies and chocolate in the small twenty minute nap my daughter takes. I hate myself even more when I see myself in fitting room mirrors, with a pile of clothes that don’t fit on the floor. But I still don’t stop.
I know I should exercise, and trust me I tried. But after a night of barely sleeping and hours where I feel like all I do is feed and put the baby to sleep, the last thing I feel like doing is moving. I want to sleep and not get up for a long time.
I know all of these probably sound like excuses for not being able to lose the weight. And that’s because some of them are. I promised myself that I would work hard after giving birth, that I wouldn’t stay this way, that I would lose the weight. But I didn’t know how hard it was going to be.
It’s hard to feel beautiful when your wedding rings are too tight to even make it down your finger. It’s hard when all that fits are still your maternity clothes, 3 months later. It’s hard when your feet still look swollen and have grown an extra size. It’s hard when the largest size in your favourite store no longer fits.
I have friends that tell me to be proud of my body and all that it has achieved. And to be honest, I am proud. When I look at my daughter and her growing tummy and legs, I feel amazed that she is growing because of food that she gets from my body. She is surviving and thriving because of what I am able to provide for her and that is a miracle in itself. But it still doesn’t stop me from feeling like a failure.
It’s even harder when my Instagram feed and Facebook is filled with friends who bounced back weeks after giving birth. Girls who didn’t breastfeed and lost the weight. Girls who breastfed and lost the weight. Girls who exercised accordingly and lost the weight quickly. Girls who aren’t celebrities, but real girls who slimmed down and who look amazing. So all I can think of when I see them is my own failures. If they can do it, why can’t I? Why is this so hard for me?
I should applaud and appreciate this body that has done so much and continues to do so much. But I don’t. Because all I see in the mirror are lumps and bumps and bruises.