“She’s got such a pretty face. It’s too bad she can’t do something about her weight.”
This remark can be attributed to a member of my own family. One I’ve secretly never forgiven.
My love/hate relationship with my physical self started very early. I have a crystal clear memory of being on the school playground in the third grade being called fat by a friend who was angry with me for one reason or another.
I spent high school in a fog of self conscious, shirt tugging anxiety, never happy with myself. Not until someone fell in love with me did I feel remotely confident. That helped, as did the roughly 30 pounds I lost over the summer following graduation. It wasn’t a conscious effort; I simply worked on my feet and rarely stopped to take a breath. Even relatively thin I dressed conservatively for someone my age, feeling as though other people shouldn’t have to be exposed to any more of my body than necessary.
Fast forward, past more than ten years of student and office life spent largely on my arse and I was back to where I was at 15; softer around the edges and thicker around the middle than I’d like.
By the time Sadie was born at 42 weeks I had gained just under 60 pounds. I was comically rotund but somehow I loved every stretch-marked inch of myself. Even though my knees creaked when I climbed the stairs and I couldn’t get out of bed without rolling out, I felt better than I had ever felt before. My mind was as clear as my skin. Months of clean eating and plenty of sleep had made what I thought would be an indelible impression on me.Within two weeks of Sadie’s birth I had lost 20 pounds. Four weeks later she was gone.
If I’m being honest, I completely lost interest in caring for myself the morning we said goodbye to her.
I’ve spent the past year eating and struggling and drinking and feeling excessively. I joined a gym and went sporadically for two months before abandoning it altogether for three. I suffered from random insomnia and popped pills in all moments of weakness: hangovers, backaches, constipation, and depression. Rest certainly hasn’t come easily for me since her death, not without some sort of help. Whether that was a glass or four of sauvignon blanc or a couple of herbal sleeping pills, it was always something. Like many parents here will understand, it’s when the lights go out and I’m left along with my thoughts and memories that is most painful.
So much for my body being a temple. At the moment it’s barely a lean-to. I can’t decide if I enjoy punishing myself or I don’t believe I deserve to feel good in the first place. Whatever the case, I feel as vulnerable now as that third grader in the schoolyard.
Less sensitive people have been asking us whether we’ll try again for months. Others have tactfully left it to us to bring up if and when we’re comfortable. I have often wondered if Sadie hadn’t been our first, would we be where we are right now. I am doubtful and terrified that my abused old body may not even be capable of making a healthy child. Am I strong enough, physically or emotionally, to try? Am I too far beyond repair to risk it?
My husband has lost more than 20 pounds since Christmas; regularly pounding out God knows how many frustrations at the gym. It wasn’t until he started annoying me with a daily ‘calories burned’ report that my latent competitive streak was roused. Then it got even worse: the bastard started shrinking (damn those men and their superior metabolism). I’ve literally had no choice but to get off the couch and pick up my sneakers.
I’m not making any promises, least of all to myself.
If I were brave I might ask myself why I’ve let the idle lifestyle go on so long. Knowing I won’t allow myself to get pregnant again without being in suitable physical shape first, I might also ask if there is a chance I’ve been using my body as an excuse to put off trying again. But I’ve never been much in the bravery area.
How has your body image changed after pregnancy, and after your loss? Have you ever knowingly punished your physical self, it be with neglect or otherwise?
This post is a part of The Body Shop at Glow in the Woods -- a month of themed reflections and memes that explore what we do in an effort to occupy these physical selves with grace after babyloss.