(That's my new mantra anyway!).
I used to have a “uniform” of sorts, one that started in my teens and followed me all through my 20’s and half of my 30’s. Skinny jeans or shorts, tank tops and band tees and biker boots or Doc Martens. Dresses, leggings and boots. My weight didn’t fluctuate too much over those decades, maybe up or down a size or two at the very most, and I could tell exactly how something would fit by just looking at it in a shop, no need to try it on. That said, I was never comfortable with my body, some days it was too big, other days too small, some days my hips looked enormous, other days my breasts were non-existent. I never totally accepted that my body was strong, healthy and used to dealing with a less than optimal lifestyle of cigarettes, alcohol, meals when I felt like it, and long, long nights. When I look back at photos now I see this slim woman with long legs and arms and wonder how on earth I didn’t appreciate it when I had it!
I know that for some people, pregnancy doesn’t really change their body, or they find it easy to get back into the same shape as they were pre-pregnancy pretty easily. Some women barely put any weight on at all, naturally, and breastfeeding actually leaves them lighter post pregnancy than they were before. Neither of those statements worked for me. I put on 50lbs with my first, weight that was in a way much needed as I started off underweight, and it wasn’t from overeating. I think that for the first time in my adult life I was healthier than I had ever been before, and my body was soaking it all up. And for the first time in my life I felt 100% comfortable with myself and how my body was changing. I loved that I was all belly, and I loved dressing myself, layering cute band tees over maternity jeans, keeping my personal style and adapting it to my pregnant body. And I felt absolutely amazing, right up until the last few weeks when everything started to feel super uncomfortable and painful. I still look at those pictures and see how I was confident for the first time in my life, proudly displaying my little-big baby bump.
And then I gave birth and had a pretty tough recovery. Baby bump became baby flab and sleepless nights lead to days of fog. I will always remember going to the mall and trying jeans on, bursting into tears when nothing fit like it was supposed to anymore (I was only 3 weeks postpartum and it was the most stupid thing I could have done at that time for my self esteem). I emptied my closet of all of my skinny jeans, donating them to friends and the thrift store, knowing that I would never fit a hip in those jeans again. I naturally lost half of the weight gained but the rest stuck to me, my body refusing to let go of the extra pounds it needed to breastfeed and stay healthy. So I compromised with myself and bought pretty maxi dresses and skirts and decided to embrace the changes, knowing that at some point my body would drop the excess weight when it was ready.
That “at some point” wasn’t meant to happen for a few more years though, as I got pregnant again 7 months after I had my first. I started this pregnancy 25lbs heavier than I had started my first pregnancy, and even though I put on less weight, and I physically felt a lot better during the pregnancy, I also felt absolutely huge. And that belly just grew and grew and grew! Everyone thought that I was going to have a ginormous baby, even my doctor, but no, she was still under 8lbs, like her sister, just very long. I boxed up all of the clothes that I wore during the last few weeks of that pregnancy and will not be using them again – I felt huge, clumsy and just really BIG. I’m glad I forced myself to take pictures, but the idea of being that big again does worry me a little. Not because I don’t want to be “fat”, I’m not worried about that, but because of the sheer amount of time and effort it took to feeling like myself again. The second time around, I lost 20lbs post birth and then nothing.
Two months later, nothing. I was eating normally, walking with the kids, breastfeeding both of them around the clock and I still remained at the same weight that I was right before I gave birth to my first child. I weighed myself once a week (no more), and just wanted to cry every time I did, not understanding why it was so difficult to lose it. I saw people I knew who had had babies and they looked amazing and I just felt like a frumpy old woman. I realised that I needed to go back to seeing my body in a positive light again and to set myself some attainable goals that I could easily reach, starting with making sure that I got outside every day and walked at least 10,000 steps a day, and started making sure that I was eating three proper meals including snacks a day. Tandem nursing makes you ravenous at all times of the day and night and it’s so important to keep the blood sugar levels on an even keel, because otherwise you feel faint and even sick.
I gave myself a first goal of getting to the weight I was when I got pregnant with my second. With my new positive outlook, a few pieces of clothing that I bought that were cute, flattering and in my style, and a little perseverance I managed to get to that goal by the summer, the next goal being to meet my “ideal” weight on my second’s first birthday. My “ideal” weight was 15lbs over my pre-pregnancies weight, and I actually made it there, lowering my goal then to my “final” goal of being 5lbs lighter. I very nearly made it, and started my third pregnancy within 2lbs of my final weight goal. I’m really proud of myself for actually persevering, because it helped me learn a lot about my body but also how the way we view our own bodies can be very destructive. It is very important to me to teach my kids to accept and love themselves, physically and mentally (you can read more about that in an article I wrote for Mamazou a while back), and in order to do that I need to accept my OWN body.
This will be my last pregnancy, and I am determined to love every minute of it as much as I loved my first pregnancy, embracing the weight gain and the changes all over again. My wardrobe is a mismatch of things that are either too big or too small, and after seeing a photo of myself the other day, and wanting the delete it immediately I decided enough was enough, and to spend a little money on some clothes that help me feel like I am beautiful, rather than large and frumpy. And it worked! I will yet again be all belly, but if it means growing a happy, healthy baby again, for the last time, then I will happily display it to the world. Having three kids in three years means that I started showing before the baby was even bigger than a grape, but I’m ok with that. One of my plans for the new year is to make sure I take better care of myself again, and a bit of self love does wonders for the self-esteem. I don’t know if there is a message in all of this really, but I think it’s important to remember that we are ALL beautiful, whatever our shape or size, and we are the worst when it comes to judging ourselves. Here’s to a happy, healthy and wonderful third and last pregnancy!