One of my biggest fears of pregnancy was that I would get fat and that there would be nothing I could do about it. I don't mean "fat" as in the baby belly, either. I mean fat everywhere else. The kind of fat that lingers long after baby is no longer camped out in the womb. This really did scare me. I can't express why without delving into the deep-seeded root for it.
At the age of about 12, I hit puberty, and gained a lot of weight. With all of the stress in our family, food became my comfort. Everyone in my own family, except for my mother, teased me about it. I don't blame my younger siblings for it at all, they were following suit without really thinking about it. I'm sure they thought I didn't care. But at the time, I was still very attached to my biological father, and he would go out of his way to tell me on a daily basis that I was fat. Then, there was my grandfather. I loved my grandpa, who passed away a few years ago, dearly. Goodness knows he was the responsible, traditional, proper man that Chinese culture taught him to be. Keyword here being: traditional. A couple times a week, if he saw me eating more than I really needed, he'd tell me in his limited English vocabulary, "Lalia, you eat too much. Fat, no good. Should look nice, so when you grow up, you find nice husband." My grandpa was just being my grandpa. It honestly didn't sting too much when he talked like that, since he was being honest, and truly trying to be helpful in the only way he knew how. The irony, however, was not lost on me, when my grandpa would also tell me not to exercise if he saw me exercising. Exercising is for gaining muscle, didn't you know? And girls shouldn't exercise. They should be thin and delicate. Apparently diet alone was the answer to my problems! Who knew?
No, that certainly isn't what bothered me. In fact, sometimes my grandfather's comments, especially about exercising, made me chuckle. He was traditional through and through. I couldn't expect him to be any other way, as a man in his 80's who knew no other way of life. What stung was being called a "fat cow" over and over, by my own biological father.
After about a year, I had had enough. I was sick of it. My solution was extreme dieting, coupled with extreme exercise. Some days I consumed 500 calories. As I am sure you realize, that's not healthy for a growing child. Especially coupled with two trips of 1 hour exercise routines at the gym, daily. My mom knew something was wrong when I started refusing dinner, saying that I wasn't hungry. I could tell she was hurt, and concerned. So I started accepting meals again, and I would eat the vegetables while skipping the carbs and protein, and then sneak the food back into the cooking pots when I knew she wasn't looking. This went on for a few months. But at around that time, I had my first boyfriend. He helped to build up my self esteem that had completely emptied out, and I started to feel better about myself. Thank goodness, I started eating three full meals again, and decreased my exercise regimen to one 1 1/2 hour trip a day. Slowly, I did thin out. I went from a bulky 190 pounds, wearing a size 12 in women's jeans, to a trim and toned 160 pounds, wearing a size 6. I realized I was at a good place, my body really isn't meant to be any smaller. I couldn't picture myself ever fitting into a size 2. My grandfather's comments stopped. In fact, his concerned comments turned into warm compliments. He'd randomly start chuckling, and I'd start chuckling just because he was. I'd ask, "What's so funny?" And he'd answer, "You so beautiful!" I didn't even know how to answer. I had become so conditioned to the insults, I didn't know how to respond to a compliment. To this day, I still don't.
What didn't stop, were the insults from my biological father. He didn't ever acknowledge any of my weight loss, and continued to call me a fat cow, with a nasty tone in his voice. There's no doubt it was intentionally meant to be hurtful. It was at that time, one morning, when a light bulb went off in my head. He was a miserable, unhappy person. And he was trying to make me miserable to feel better about himself. I would never be thin enough, I would never be smart enough, I would never be good enough. My relationship with him completely fell apart. I went from being the little girl who thought he was the center of the universe, to barely every acknowledging his existence again.
Before anyone jumps to any conclusions about my behavior towards him being too extreme... I will mention he was physically and emotionally abusive to my mother for 20 years. As well as to myself and my siblings, without my mother's knowledge while she was hard at work during the day. I will not get into that in depth until sometime in the future, however. That is another tale for another time.
This history is what made me worry so much about weight gain that would be inevitable to pregnancy. I could not allow myself to be in a position where that part of my life could repeat itself. Internally, I worried that if I got fat, my husband wouldn't love me anymore. It's horrible, and untrue, but subconsciously, I started to feel that if I
didn't look great, people couldn't, and wouldn't love me. So, as I briefly mentioned in my very first post about how my husband and I found ourselves beginning our adventure in parenthood, I decided I did not want children.
For the first few years of our marriage, my husband would mention things from time to time that told me how much he wanted to be a father. But I insisted we would not have any. However, quietly, in my head, I kept thinking about it. I mulled over all of the things that I was worried about, and, on the flip side, all the things my husband and I could gain through parenthood. And all that we could give to a child, including the type of love we both had lacking in certain aspects of our own childhoods. Finally, after we had been married for 2 1/2 years, I had hit a wall. I couldn't think about it anymore and come to a decision without discussing it with my husband. I voiced my concerns, and he reassured me that he wouldn't love me any less, even if I did gain weight.
During my pregnancy, it was both textbook and not. I never had much in the way of morning sickness, and the extent of my cravings were a two week period when I was 8 weeks along. I took my prenatal vitamins religiously, and did my best to eat healthy. What I did not do, was eat for two. Unfortunately, I think this common saying has contributed to a lot of grief for a lot of expectant mothers, since you are not eating for two (which projects the image that you're eating for two of yourself). You're eating for yourself, and a growing baby, who starts out smaller than a poppyseed, and eventually grows to the size of a small watermelon. While the baby has a lot of nutritional needs, the caloric demands that require you to eat more are not very great. It is advised to eat more meals, but in smaller potions throughout the day. At the end of the day, I'd find myself eating barely more than I would on a regular day. I was also getting mild exercise, and seemed to be in better shape than anyone I knew, pregnant or not. I went to the Canada Day fireworks, by which time I was 7 months pregnant, with three other people, and I beat all of them up the flight of about 40 stairs to get out of the park. I also climbed the grouse grind of Grouse Mountain while 6 months pregnant. It took me a grueling two hours and 1 1/2 water bottles to do it (my husband took maybe two sips from his by the way---this is why I joke he's a lizard), but, I did it. While the limits of each person are unique to that individual, I knew when I did each of these things, I was not exceeding mine.
To my surprise, at the end of it all, when I went to my postpartum check-up with my OB/GYN, I had lost 12 lbs. throughout my pregnancy. I had started at 190 lbs, wearing a size 6 in jeans. I had surely thought I had gained weight, since I was wearing a size 12 immediately post-baby and am now wearing a size 10. But I had gone down to 178 lbs! My hips had simply gotten larger enough that I had been bumped up two pant sizes. Prior to Baby E being born, I was also greatly concerned about how else my body might change. I seriously considered purchasing one of the products available on the market to shrink hips back down to pre-baby size after baby arrives. In the end, I decided against it. I told myself my body would change, and while I may not love it, I would learn to live with it.
What I hadn't expected, is that my husband would love my post-baby body. He informed me just the other night, that with my larger hips, I now have a barbie or supermodel figure (excuse me while I laugh really at that a little). While that could be perceived as good or bad, he went on to say that it was funny that my post-baby body was a better shape. And it's true, I seem to be an even hourglass over my more apple-shaped prior figure, and I still weigh 12 lbs. less now than I did before even getting pregnant. I certainly had never expected my post baby body to be an improvement!
Goodness knows we can all be our own worst critics. While, of course, the superficial things are not the most important, they are our first impression, which is probably why we place so much value in it. Post baby or not, we'll pick ourselves apart or compare ourselves to others, and feel inadequate. But it's important to remember that at the end of the day, attention goes to those who embrace those very "inadequacies." Whether it's Barbra Streisand with her nose, or Forest Whitaker with his "lazy eye" (from eye ptosis): these individuals aren't talked about as if their uniqueness is holding them back, instead, they are recognized and appreciated for it. We live in a society obsessed with perfection (or the appearance of it), getting so wrapped up in it, we forget that if everyone were to be successful at attaining perfection, we'd be a cloud of identical individuals. We would be boring, and surely we'd all feel as if we haven't reached perfect after all, because perfect is supposed to be something we're not. Like the holy grail, it is just another unattainable concept and idea we torment ourselves with.
It's now been 10 months since Baby E was born. And when I think of it, I haven't just come to live with my post baby body. Call me "the glass is half full," but while I could really do without the display of stretch marks along my belly and on my sides, I have learned to love the new curves it has given me. Heck, even the stretch marks play their part, in a way. Those stretch marks have significance, from a time when Baby E's knowledge of the world, was the world that exists within me. So what I thought would never happen, has happened. The impossible has become possible. I have embraced my post baby body. I am a lion, hear me roar.
If you haven't had your baby yet, are you worried about your body changing? What makes you feel the way that you do about your body? If you already have children... How has your body changed since having children? What do you feel has been a positive change?