I’ll never forget the way I felt when I saw the “Yes” on the pregnancy test screen. First there was disbelief, then panic, then later, after crying in a dazed state to my best friend and mother, joy. I had anticipated this for a long time; I had ALWAYS wanted to be a mother. But I anticipated this with dread and happiness simultaneously. Happiness, because I knew I would (minus the learning curve) be a great mother, and dread, because I didn’t know how I’d react to the weight gain, being in eating disorder recovery.
I seemed to worry less about my weight during the pregnancy. I think (and most doctors would shudder at this) I looked on it as the one time I could eat whatever I want and it wouldn’t matter. It was such an escape from my ED, in a sense. Society was cool with me getting bigger. I DID have to stop myself from calculating possible weight gain in my head, however (“If I’ve gained a pound a week then I’ll be X amount of pounds by nine months…AHHH!”) I was proud of myself though; I faced the numbers on the scale every couple of weeks and for the most part, left them at the OBGYN office. I didn’t hold back on eating.
But I worried incessantly about how quick my body would bounce back after. How long would it take to lose X amount of weight? Was I screwing myself by now by not curtailing what I ate? As soon as I gave birth, I looked down at my confused, tired stomach and wondered if it would ever change from it’s current war-torn state.
And I proceeded to have the strangest experience. The weight dropped off like NOTHING. I know, I know, you can call me a bitch if you want, but it was like a giant F%#$ you to my eating disorder. I had been obsessing about how I would lose weight, and my body ended up taking care of for me. This began my admiration for the power of the human body.
I marveled at how I simply produced milk for my daughter. I was astounded by the healing powers of my body when I, six weeks later, was able to run a mile after, well….let’s just say: there were some blood loss issues. And I was impressed again, when my body truly resumed its pre-pregnancy form post-breastfeeding. I have a trainer acquaintance who swears up and down that weight loss or gain is all hormone-related; I’m beginning to believe this. Hormones, in my opinion, are NUTS! (I’m sure my significant other, John, would attest to that. Notice that I’m not talking about the emotional piece of my pregnancy. That’s another book for another time. Ahem.)
Bottom line…I feel sexier now that I had a child. Even if I don’t look stereotypically sexier. Before you think I’m a total Pollyanna, you should know it’s not 80% of the day, when I’m in a shirt that’s been thrown-up on (holy acid reflux, my Fiona had) or my hair looks like Mom hair or when I’m wearing flannels next to John. It’s moments when I’m walking down the street to my job, and I realize, “I gave birth, goddamnit! And I’m still here!” Seriously, does anyone else take pride in that? I sure as hell do.
I think the other piece of it the lack of appreciation I had for my body pre-pregnancy. I just didn’t know what I had. This amazing, regenerating, life-giving machine that was capable of so much strength. But because I believed that it was just to be looked at…I hid it.
I don’t have perfect body image. No way. I have this little dimpled section of skin above my belly button that is a leftover physical mark of pregnancy. Do I wish it was there? Of course not. But I’m pretty damn amazed that I was able to push a baby out. I’m…proud of myself. I’m proud of my body. And after 14 years of criticizing my body, I’m pleasantly surprised at that.
I know this isn’t everyone’s experience. I’ve talked to friends who struggle with body image after giving birth. (I’m convinced whether you gain or lose weight during or after pregnancy is one big genetic, hormonal crapshoot.) I just wish for all of them that they can feel empowered after what they did. Cause I “still got it”, and so do you.