I have friends who marvel at how powerful they felt after giving birth. They say the experience of making and growing a whole human helped them realize what incredible feats they are capable of accomplishing.
Not me. I wish I would have felt that way post-baby, but instead I was dehydrated, lumpy, tired, and shocked. My entire pregnancy was a marvel of “I can’t even believe the shit that is happening to me right now.” Situations like when I was getting ready for my own baby shower, I choked on water from laughing too hard, and I puked and peed my pants at the same time. At the time I thought this was the most embarrassing thing that could possibly ever happen, but now I know it’s actually pretty common for those in the family way. In fact, my sister-in-law did this just a few weeks ago.
I found pregnancy to be a total trip. It was almost like an out of body experience. I’d look down at my belly and wonder how on earth it could get any bigger without my skin ripping in half, I wondered the same thing about my boobs, and I can’t even write about the dreams I had without blushing. OMG the dreams! The experience of cooking a baby was fun and exciting, but I certainly didn’t feel like it was anything I was doing, but rather that it was something that was being done to me.
What I did feel after having my son was grounded. I was peaceful and content. I was also exhausted, and the sound of my baby crying made my heart and my gut and my boobs ache, but that was something I could understand. What I didn’t understand was my weight. I came home from the hospital weighing more than when I went in. I had just given birth, and the number on the scale had gone up? I was sooo pissed.
I’ve never been small. I spent the bulk of my years as a size 8, from the ages 12-26. As a fairly sedentary person with a fierce love of bacon and beer, I knew I could weigh less if I wanted to get off the couch, but I couldn’t be bothered. My strong commitment to eating and not exercising was very apparent when my wedding dress had to be taken out three days before the wedding. If I couldn’t lose weight before my wedding, how was I going to take off the baby weight?
Well, I’ll tell ya. It took about six months for me to get cracking. Weight Watchers brought me back to my size 8, and when my daughter was born two years later, I was able to lose the weight more quickly but not as thoroughly. Something else happened, though, which was a total game-changer.
After having a daughter, my feelings about my size and weight shifted. Seeing my little girl whose tiny body had my exact pear shape made me realize that this is how I’m meant to be. I want to be healthy and fit, but I will never have lean hips. And that’s totally okay. If my daughter, who bears a strong resemblance to me is beautiful, than I must be, too.
I still dislike things about myself, and I still have a loyal devotion to the couch and to beer and bacon, but I eat more vegetables and I even exercise sometimes. Seeing myself through the mirror of my children makes me want to treat myself better, and makes me appreciate that my poor body has put up with my shit for 38 years.
It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually I let go of unrealistic expectations. I sometimes still wish I was taller and thinner, but I don’t stand in the mirror and complain or put myself down. When I’m unhappy with my body, it’s because I’m not strong, not because I’m not skinny. I’m sure that my daughter will learn that being dissatisfied with your appearance is what girls do, but I don’t plan on her learning it from me.