All this has been milling around in my head (and my drafts section) for months now. It took reading Lauren from Hobo Mama's post last week on feeling fat during pregnancy to get everything stirred up enough to hopefully make some sense:
celebrate our largeness when we're pregnant. We should be not only allowed, but praised and revered for looking "...ample, bounteous, abundant, and ripe.... overflowing with life!" Unlike Paige, however, I do not comment on how huge other women look when they're pregnant, even though I wholeheartedly agree that the pregnant body is incredibly amazingly beautiful and womanly.
I don't comment on other people's bodies because sometimes when people did that to me when I was pregnant, it hurt my feelings. I really tried to take the comments from my friends and family members about my size in a positive light; I did. But when someone was talking about how big I was with concern in their face and voice, I felt like shouting, "I'm PREGNANT for goodness sake! Let me be really big and gloriously ROUND without guilt or shame for once in my life!" Then, when the receptionist at my chiropractor's office told me one day (at about six months pregnant) that I looked chubby, I wanted to cry. That's never a nice thing to say to a person; I don't care how much you appreciate the pregnant form. I think it's risky to tell someone they're "huge!" because even if you mean it in a nice way, someone else saying those same words might not share your good intentions.
Those times when people commented in a not-totally-nice way, and that day I was called chubby, I felt fat...in a bad way. So when I read Lauren's post last week about feeling fat, all those feelings started flooding back to me. I totally understand feeling like maybe I don't look like one of those beautiful pregnant people. I gained weight in my whole body when I was pregnant (not just my belly) even though I was eating healthily (albeit, a lot). I was also doing yoga and water aerobics four times per week until I had to go on bed rest after I went into preterm labor.
We all know it's ridiculous to compare ourselves to celebrity moms. They give birth and then show up two weeks later on the cover of a magazine, airbrushed and glowing, thin and hot as ever. We know it's not reasonable to expect ourselves to "bounce back" from pregnancy in a matter of weeks to regain a teenager's figure—and yet—there's still a pressure in our society to achieve that. There's a huge stigma attached to being fat, whether or not you just gave birth to a baby. God forbid your body never looks the same afterward. You're ruined.
coming up on the socially acceptable time frame for losing the baby
weight ("Nine months on and nine months off!") and I'm not even close to
my pre-pregnancy weight. There are many factors affecting my weight,
some of which include: breastfeeding hormones, sleep deprivation, the
stress of caring for a child who until just recently was spending many hours a day screaming. Even though I've resumed my cycle (I experienced less than half of the 14.6 month average for lactational amenorrhea) Daniel is still almost entirely breastfed, so my body is still sustaining life for
I've found that my appetite is even greater since I've been breastfeeding than it ever was when I was pregnant. (This makes sense, since it expends about 500 extra calories per day to breastfeed, versus 300 calories per day sustaining a pregnancy.) My appetite is starting to be not as big some days, but other days, I am hungry all the time. The fact is, in spite of the extra calories expended through nursing our babies, many breastfeeding mothers don't start to lose their pregnancy weight until their babies start solid foods. Some don't lose pregnancy weight until their babies wean completely. Some women will even gain weight while breastfeeding. Since my plan is to allow Daniel to wean at his own pace, I'm not going to push the weight loss thing.
I've been actively trying not to think about my weight since Daniel was born because, frankly,
our little family has been in survival mode for much of these
past seven months. I should be "allowed" as much time as my body needs to
get to a weight that is normal for me. If I never get back into my favorite jeans, I'm totally OK with that. I can find a new favorite pair of jeans.
I went to have a physical when Daniel was about five
months old, when we were deep in the throes of day after day of crying
(and not knowing about his sensory issues yet). My new physician told me that I really needed to lose the baby weight as quickly as I can.
According to my BMI, I was obese. I'm not going to go into how much crap the BMI metric is (but you should definitely watch this BMI project slide show, if you haven't seen it already). What I will say is: it was hard to hear from my doctor that it was high time I lose some baby weight, especially when I felt like we were barely out of the newborn, he-needs-me-every-second-of-every-day phase with Daniel at that point. I understand the potential health benefits of weighing less. But I refuse to let the obese label get me down.
I can't look in the mirror
mean things to myself anymore, because my body has done great things. Very recently, I made an entire human being
body, and then gave birth to him at home after a very long labor. I did
that. With this body. This amazing, beautiful,
capable body. "Obese" or not, I'm worthy of love and respect. I'm beautiful inside and out. My
Unlike in years past, now I'm able to rail against
what I've been taught through observation of other women and the media's
definition of beauty. At this point in my life, I can do that, but
I'm not perfect at it all the time.
I still have trouble, like Lauren has written about also, with maintaining an exercise routine while still retaining a positive body image. I
am spending time on fitness activities regularly right now, for many
reasons. I'm doing it because I want to. Mostly I'm doing it so I can feel more comfortable in my body, so it can feel like it belongs to me again. I'm trying very hard to just enjoy moving and using my body, and to not let it morph into that familiar downward spiral from my teenage years of constant self-judgment about my body and character. It doesn't matter if I lose weight, I'm already doing a good thing for myself by being more active.
I can't always be the perfect role model for positive body image. What I can do, though, is to try very hard to always tell pregnant women that they look beautiful. To never hold back a compliment for a fellow mama (or anyone!) when I feel inspired to give one. I can decide to never scrutinize myself in the mirror—whether or not my child is watching—and I can refuse to entertain conversations with other women about how much our bodies disappoint us. I can surround myself and my home with a variety of images of what beauty looks like: different shapes, sizes, colors, ages, and genders. I can resist the urge to jokingly (and passive-aggressively, let's be honest) say, "I hate you" when another woman loses weight faster/fits into her regular jeans sooner/is a smaller size than I am, and instead tell her genuinely, "Congratulations! I'm happy for you."
I really think we need to be the change on this one. We get to show our kids what it means to be happy with our bodies. (We also get to show them what real women look like.) We get to demonstrate the beauty of variety, of non-homogeneity. We get to choose to have positive interactions with other women about body image, instead of perpetuating thinly-veiled self-hate as a regular topic of conversation.
We can do this. I'm ready to start anew today. (And again tomorrow, and then the next day.)
Are you with me?