I was asked to participate in the #this_is-postpartum project by fellow Mommy-blogger and friend, Meg. I was both excited, because it is my intention to use this space in a meaningful and impactful way; and terrified, because I was being asked to bear my soul…and my stomach. This is a post about postpartum, and every bit as much a post about body image.
This wasn’t an easy photo for me to take, in fact I took it at the 11th hour of this project. I am a woman who considers herself to be in recovery from an eating disorder, negative self-talk and body-shaming. The area in which I held ALL of that negativity has always been my mid-section. In the past I have referred to my stomach as my ‘problem area’. I obsessed about the flatness (or lack thereof) of my stomach. There have been times in my life that I was a size 2, and times that I was a size 12. No matter what the scale said or how small my jeans size got, I always hated my stomach–yes, hated.
I could tell you about the years I spent resenting my body, and even more specifically, my belly. I could tell you how I would wake from a night’s sleep, walk past the bathroom mirror only to lift my shirt and begin criticizing, a narrative that would echo in my head all day long. I could tell you how I pinched at the inch(es), that separated skin from muscle, and how I spent hours at the gym not as an act of self-care, but rather as a punishment to my body for simply being… a body. I could describe the anguish and yes, even real anxiety attacks that accompanied trying to find an outfit that I didn’t ‘feel’ fat in, (note: ‘FAT’ is not a feeling). I could tell you about the nightmare that is being in the grips of an eating disorder that wants you skinny at any cost; even death. I could tell you all about the pain, the shame, the guilt, the embarrassment, the Prison that I not only created, but that I existed in.
Or, I could share my shift, my imperfect recovery from a seemingly hopeless state and maybe most importantly, my Gratitude. My gratitude for a body that despite enduring both physical and emotional abuse from its own occupant, PREVAILED. A body that grew, housed, nourished and fed the two most miraculous, beautiful and wondrous souls. I could thank the very stomach that I spent so many years despising, for expanding when my babies needed room to grow, and allowed me to feel those most precious baby kicks from the inside out. I could share with you that while postpartum has at times been lonely, scary and challenging; it has also been the catalyst for incredible personal growth.
Postpartum left me with extra weight on my body (my greatest fear for many years), and then asked me to love myself anyway. It forced me to do better; to be better because I have two young girls watching my every move, (even when I think they aren’t). I am thankful that I have always understood the weight of this. I knew that I simply could not hate myself, and then ask my perfect daughters to walk with confidence. Recovery from anything is never linear. It’s messy and ugly and jagged and beautiful. And as I navigate this role of ‘Mother’ so imperfectly, I can rest easy knowing my girls have never and will never hear me utter a negative word about this body–this belly, that they used to call home. So today, I am grateful for this postpartum journey, I am thankful for this body and I choose recovery.1