Friday, February 11, 2011

Body Talk

Ok, I owe this one to Amy at Anktangle for her post On Body Image, Pregnancy, and BMI and to Lauren at Hobo Mama for her post Fat and Pregnant: Heartbeat Video.

I have struggled with weight and food issues since I started college and began to use eating as a way to comfort and shield myself while in an emotionally abusive relationship.  And it's been a roller coaster of a ride ever since.  I've found a lot of healing along the way, and pregnancy was instrumental in accepting my body for the miraculous things it can do just as it is.

I called my sister when my regular pants didn't fit.  I called her when I could see the inside of my belly button.  I reveled in the fact I was carrying the boys all in front, looking like I had swallowed a basketball (or two).  I loved being round and pregnant.
This was taken at 30 weeks.  I used most of my standing up minutes that day getting good belly pictures.
I was put on bed rest at 24 weeks in an attempt to stop pre-term labor.  It worked for 10 weeks, but during that time, I stayed still.  I didn't move much at all for fear of harming the babies.  I surely didn't exercise.  And when it came time for Gus and Jack to be born, I was physically weak and mentally exhausted.

Between the babies being born, and the stress of them being in the NICU I lost about 50 pounds in 4 weeks.  I had yo-yo'ed in weight from the beginning, though.  I lost 15 pounds in the first trimester from not eating much due to near-constant nausea.  I only gained about 16 pounds from pre-pregnancy weight to delivery, but the doctors weren't concerned because with the first trimester weight loss it fell into an acceptable range of gain.

So there I was with colicky, refluxy newborns.  Weight was the last thing on my mind.  I ate more food, and of better quality, than I had ever eaten before.  Between pumping for and then nursing two babies, I needed all that fuel.

But-- and here's the kicker-- I was in survival mode.  I did not exercise.  I hardly even showered.  I certainly didn't sleep much.  Mostly I sat on the couch and nursed the boys and ate.  Day and night.  Literally all.the.time.  

I continued on like that for months.  And by the time things settled down and I actually began to see glimmers of a life off the couch, I had gained back ALL the weight, and then some.  And my new normal had settled onto me like the extra pounds.

Right now, I am heavier and unhealthier than I have ever been.  I am not brave enough to give you specific numbers, but suffice it to say, I am a fat mama.  I'm scared to diet because I intend to breastfeed the babies until they self-wean and I am terrified of losing my milk supply again, even if they don't rely on it as their only sustenance anymore.

I understand that I don't have to fit society's expectation of a woman's body.  I never will, and that I can embrace.  I loved my body when it was strong and healthy, no matter the numbers attached.

Right now I am searching to find a way back to strength, back to health.  I know it will be easier when spring arrives and we can go to the park again.  Until then, I have taken the first steps to reclaiming a part of myself from before, one that can co-exist with my mama-self.  I joined a yoga studio and started going to class again, and I scheduled an appointment to talk to a therapist to begin working through the trauma of this past year.

I will move more and eat less.  I will keep reading about other real women who love their bodies.  I will stop hiding behind the camera and allow myself to be photographed more right now, as I am.
I can't even find a good "bad" picture of me to share. 

And Lauren?  This one's for you.  Thanks for getting the ball rolling for me to write about this.
This ended up being the day before the boys were born.  I'm glad I have this picture.


  1. Aw, I love your smile in that last photo! Hooray to you for carrying those twins and nursing them still now. I understand the survival mode thing, and I didn't even have twins. Your body just does what it's going to do in that situation. I lost my pregnancy weight quickly the last time, but I didn't lose anymore after that, and I think breastfeeding definitely plays a role in that. Anyway, I'm glad to hear you're focusing on getting back to strength and health (physically and emotionally) and finding appealing ways to move. Our bodies really do amazing things by nurturing children, and it's a good thing to treat them kindly.

  2. It's so interesting to hear another Mom talk about her weight issues. I am certainly what I would consider a "fat mama". I have been heavy since I was a teenager and that hasn't changed BUT giving birth (many times) and nursing lots of babies has really changed how I feel about my body. I don't hate it anymore! I try to eat healthy foods and not worry about calories. I'm comfortable with who I am and how I look and even though there are days I'm not happy about how I look in an outfit or a picture I always try to remember how incredible my body is and what it has given me. It also helps to remember that at least my issues come with chocolate cake:)

  3. Wonderful post! I think if we all strive to do these things we're all talking about: treat our bodies with respect, make healthy choices, be intentional about movement, we can really change the way the next generation looks at and treats their bodies. You're beautiful and strong. Thank you for writing this.

  4. I love the belly shots. I really want to take one final one in the hospital this time if we can remember ... I also managed to lose practically no baby weight for the first year (stress, living alone with baby due to work, co-sleeping and nursing on demand while working) but I also remember being a bit worried about deliberately trying to lose weight while maintaining my supply. I hope that you have already found a lactation consultant who you trust, but I would certainly consult them about safe weight loss. I was told repeatedly that it would not be a problem, and in fact when I accidentally dropped 30 lbs in a month (stomach bug picked up while traveling when my daughter was 17 months old and the immense problem of finding a way to treat it that was still compatible with breastfeeding, even more critical since we were just about to start fertility treatments again) it did not affect my supply at all (not even my pumping supply). I know that one person's experience is hardly representative, but with the help of a good LC and monitoring your supply through the occasional pumping session, that hopefully shouldn't be the biggest obstacle to weight loss (which are obviously time and energy, like everything else when you have toddlers).

  5. @Lauren, thanks for the reminder to be kind... to myself. I need to remember that, even as I'm gentle and understanding with the boys, I can also be with myself.

    @csmith, yes, these issues do come with yummy desserts, which are part of my problem :-)

    @Amy, it will be a good life lesson for the boys, to find health and joyful movement. Thanks again for the inspiration to write about this.

    @Rachel, it never even crossed my mind to see a LC! That is a fabulous idea, although pumping might not be a good indicator for me since I never have been able to get much with one since the babies went to exclusive nursing. I do know of an LC who I could talk to, though. Thanks for the excellent idea!

  6. Lovely post! I don't struggle (emotionally) with my weight as much as I used to, even though I know intellectually I'm at my heaviest; I'm generally healthy. :D

    I think you're beautiful, by the by, and look really happy in that last picture! One of the last pictures of me when I was pregnant (other than in hospital) was of me scowling, in ratty pajamas, eating out of jar of applesauce balanced on my stomach, lol. It's not so flattering, but I kind of like it.

  7. I have a hard time looking at that last picture, simply because it brings back so many hard memories of bed rest... but now that you mention it, I do look happy in it. Thank you for pointing that out, Ashley. And I'm sure your applesauce picture is lovely, too!

  8. Hello! Lovely post! I'm very inspired by you :)
    I also struggled with my weight for years and after yo-yo-ing for so long I got to a point where I was giving up.
    When I decided to try and find a natural approach to my weight gain, depression and lethargy I found Sally Fallon and her book 'Nourishing Traditions'. It opened up a whole new world for me! I started eating the way the book mentions and I felt amazing and wasn't thinking of food all the time - something that had once seemed impossible.
    Since then I've read a ton and now? I'm pregnant! I feel so confident in what I eat that I'm not changing a thing, even though I lost weight eating this way when my husband and I first changed to this way of eating.
    Gary Taubes has a new book (Why We Get Fat) that I just finished and it's fantastic. It explains why a traditional diet works so well to keep you nourished and as lean as your genetics will allow. I recommend it fully. :)