Those who judge others by their appearance are often the most insecure themselves, and I was no different.
I’d always been fat to me.
The thing is, as soon as I was old enough to realize that my body was on display for judgement, I began judging myself, and I wasn’t nice. As a preteen and all throughout high school, I had acne, oily skin, oily hair, very little fashion sense, no idea how to wear makeup, and zero skills with a curling iron. I’d grown up a tomboy full of energy and zero fear for heights or dirty and live things that I could catch in the creek.
That life hadn’t prepared me for the never-ending parade of judgement from fifth grade onward.
I battled depression and severe body image issues, as most 12-18-year-olds do. It turned into attempting to starve myself in 9th grade (which I failed miserably at because…food) and falling hard for any boy who told me I was pretty. It prevailed into college, inviting boyfriends that dressed and undressed my body and confidence like a doll with new clothes, new criticisms, new hair colors and styles.
I changed as much as they wanted me to because I didn’t really know who I was anymore. As long as I was who they were looking for, I felt valued. I felt approved.
When I finally found a man who loved me for who I was and not what I looked like, it took another several years of dating and marriage before I believed him.
And it took getting to my highest ever weight during my first pregnancy to find self-love for my body.
Finally, my body was allowed to be fat.
And I enjoyed it without guilt.
I didn’t eat whatever I wanted and blame it on the baby or gorge myself unhealthily; I actually took greater care to feed my body appropriately, take my vitamins, exercise, sleep more, consciously de-stress.
My body was doing this incredible thing that it had been made to do, and when my son was born, I finally grasped that I couldn’t possibly hate the vessel that had brought me something so miraculous and beautiful.
Breastfeeding only further strengthened my bond with my body. It took a long time for me to feel confident that the only thing my baby needed was me. Despite society and even my closest relatives doubting my body, I stood firm, and my baby thrived; I thrived right alongside him.
I spent a good portion of my son’s second year of life dedicated to reviving my strength and speed and flexibility-with no scale number tied to it for once.I’d found an exercise program that motivated me daily to get it done.
Hell, it got me to try (and eventually enjoy) running.
I’d taken much better care of my body, consistently, than ever before because I finally felt like I deserved to. It wasn’t a punishment anymore. It was self-care, and it finally felt like it. I looked and felt strong again.
Exercise took a backseat as I dove headfirst into fertility treatments. I had more blood drawn over the course of five months than I’d had probably my entire life. I learned how to inject myself with needles (something I never EVER thought capable of doing). I had to buy one of those days-of-the-week pill containers to keep track of all my meds and vitamins. I bloated like a balloon with all of the hormone therapies, but I barely noticed because I was so focused on my goal of getting pregnant again. I just wanted my body to be fixed. I wanted to love myself again and stop feeling like a failure every month.
And when it happened, it took me months to feel like it was real. I came out of the fog and warily trusted my body to do its job again, only to face unexplained black outs during the majority of my second trimester. Over and over my body tested me to trust that it was capable. Finally, the blackouts stopped, and I once again started to feel confident in my growing body; I felt hopeful again to be able to meet my second son; I began preparing for his arrival with vigor. Then, just last weekend I was tested again. I started spotting. I ended up in the labor and delivery triage at 11 o’clock at night only to be told that I was fine, baby was fine, and to go home and rest. I was shaken, but not back into hiding.
While my first pregnancy taught me to love my body for the first time, the trials to achieve and keep this pregnancy have lit a fire in me to embrace this time with desperate hands and a confident heart.
So as I slowly achieve what I affectionately refer to as my “whale status” by the end of the summer, you better believe that poolside I’ll be showing off this body, stretchmarks and all, with no fear, no shame, and nothing but love…
…because I worked too hard for it to feel guilty from someone else’s judgement.
Rock on, mamas. Love yourselves and the beautiful bodies you have been given. It makes a world of difference in all the right ways. ❤