Friday, December 10, 2010

Body Image Part 2: Body Battles

As I was changing the profile picture on my facebook today, I hesitated. It was a new picture of me at the hospital with Ella, wearing her in my sling. I look at my face and I saw how much it had widened with the 56 pounds I gained during pregnancy. The width of my waist. The size of my arms. My heart clenched and all I could think was how fat I looked. How my post-pregnancy body looked like that of a sumo wrestler in training. I didn't want to share this picture with everyone because then they would see how...gasp...FAT I was.

Last month, Meg wrote about nursing and body image. I could relate to her post, not because I felt bad about my breasts but because I feel about every square inch of my skin. There isn't a body part I can't complain about. Believe me, I'm a professional hater of my own body. And it's exhausting. It's exhausting to focus on how much I dislike my body and it affects my relationship with my husband AND my kids. It affects my nursing relationship, even though I try not to let it. When I lift my shirt, I see my stomach, and the rolls I have. If I take my shirt off and I'm just wearing my nursing tank top, I think about how big my arms are and wonder if people are looking at them. When I'm looking down at my daughter while we're nursing, I think about my double chin. I'm's sick. I think about nursing in public after Ella comes home and I WILL do it because I believe that my baby shouldn't be forced to wait to eat, but I fear not so much the looks of people because I'm nursing in public but because of my heft.

Prior to pregnancy, I lost almost 40 lbs and I went from an 18/20 to a small size 14. I was really feeling good about myself but with this pregnancy, I was nauseas the entire thing and carbs were the ONLY thing that helped. Then I got PIH which later turned into severe preeclampsia and oh my God, did I gain. I gained about 25 lbs of water retention in a few weeks. At the end, I was gaining sometimes 3 or 4 pounds a a matter of hours sometimes! One day, while in the hospital, I gained 4 lbs in 12 hours. I have new stretch marks and loose skin from the rapid weight gain. It just adds more fuel to my abusive relationship I have with my own body. While I've lost almost 30 lbs of the weight I gained during pregnancy, I still have a long way to go and the loose skin isn't going anywhere without plastic surgery. I have some big girls in my family and it's a constant battle against brownies and genetics to not blow up.
Ella and I getting ready for our first walk in the ICC
This is a really difficult thing to write about. It's easy to hide behind an armor you put up, calling yourself fat so that someone else won't do it but to come right out and admit that it's how you truly feel and how you truly see yourself as well as just how much it affects your life is very difficult. I just hope that as I work through these issues, even if I never get back down to what I was pre-pregnancy or smaller as is my goal, I won't let it negatively affect my nursing relationship with Ella or worse, my relationship with my 2 girls, and later on their own image of themselves. I constantly worry about how my own body image will affect them emotionally and psychologically. It's something I know I need to work on.

What's your battle with body image and nursing, or even not nursing, just body image in general?


  1. Oh, yes... those genetics and brownies. Curse them both! Kudos to you for this post, Christa. One of the things I love best about The Good Letdown is the unvarnished frankness. You ladies write truth! I understand your struggles. I'm the heaviest and unhealthiest I've ever been. It's been 10 months and I'm still struggling to lose some of this weight. But being honest is a good start to knowing yourself enough to make the changes needed. As far as your body image, just remember, that whatever you look like now, LOOK at who your body made. Your girls are a perfect product of your powerful body. And to them, you are the very definition of beauty. You are mama. Live that, love yourself, and revel in the awesomeness of what you can do!!!

  2. Christa, you are beautiful just the way you are! You have had an extremely stressful year with a high risk pregnancy and being in the NICU with Ella and taking care of Olivia all at the same time.

    I too hate my skin! The roll that the c-sections helped to create is the one I hate the most. I'm trying to be healthy and eat healthy and not worry about the weight.

    It's Christy not Joe! I'm not sure why it posts that way.

  3. Yes, I can relate to this...

    I grew up with an eating disorder (anorexia for sevenish years) then swung hard and wide in the middle of college the exact opposite way (binge eating disorder for the last 8 years). I'm in treatment now for the eating disorder and I'm "still" it's something I struggle with, sometimes minute by minute.

    Some people benefit from the shape of a mother website (that always made me feel worse about myself).

    I constantly obsess about my "Belly flap" that I was left with after three kids (and now being obese). I was always one of those nursing-in-public mamas that didn't care if people saw my breast, but if they saw my STOMACH--oh, boy! THAT is what I was always trying to (and still try to) cover. It's hard to ignore the stretch marks and the puffiness...but what DOES help is focusing on my kiddos. Instead of, when I'm nursing, looking down and seeing the rolls of fat at my side, stretch marks gallore, puffy arms/face/everywhere...instead of focusing on ME and hating ME...I focus on my baby.

    I take a moment to be present, quiet the inner-hatred voice, and let love come in. Baby is snuggled up close, twiddling my hair, clutching my (albeit oversized) breast, clinging to my warmth, breathing short puffs of air...I can breath in my baby's scent, I can touch her soft skin, I can stroke her silky hair, and have a moment of LOVE and exchanging of LOVE (because SHE doesn't care my size, SHE doesn't notice my stretch marks, SHE doesn't see my fat--she loves me unconditionally--it doesn't even enter her mind to be disgusted by my body--I welcome her innocence and try to learn from her innocence, because I don't want HER to grow up with an eating disorder or to hate her body or for her to think she's "less than" if she weighs "more than" she thinks she should).

    PIH rips holy terror on your body--that will take time for that to all settle down (it wasn't your fault)--it took almost a year for my body to recovery from my first pregnancy, which I had PIH for (all other pregnancies did not have PIH). That water retention and stretched skin as a result was BRUTAL! Baby weight takes TIME to come off (especially if you're experiencing a tremendous amount of stress--which you have). It's ok to find something about your body that you can LOVE and learn to LOVE, even when it's not at your "ideal" or "desired weight/shape."

    You are a beautiful mama. You're more than your shell--you are SO MUCH more than your outsides. Your value and worth come from who you are on the INSIDE, not from a number on a scale or a size tag in your jeans.

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  6. Christa, I commend your honesty! You are such an amazing, beautiful mama. When I personally saw that photo? I saw joy, I saw happiness emanating from you...I mean LOOK at you! Holding your daughter!!!! So close to going home! I know you think other people notice the things you do, but I know the majority of people do not.

    Just keep breastfeeding, (which you will, duh) and remember how awesome your body is for that! Your body is making milk that sustains your child, so it can't be ALL bad, right? And it may take awhile, but breastfeeding does burn calories! With Maia I kept on about 10ish pounds of baby weight until she was 15, 16 months old. But I kept nursing and those pounds did fall off. Slowly but surely you will see progress, even if it's just a little bit. Nursing a baby all the time versus pumping should help :D

    Be gentle with yourself, if you can. You've been through a lot lately! *hugs*

  7. I understand... I truly do.. I feel FAT, ugly, not attractive AT ALL... I used to call myself ugly ALL THE TIME. When I first got with hubs I would get up and wash my face after he was asleep and get up and re-apply my makeup before he woke up. SERIOUSLY! Him seeing me without makeup was NOT an option. Makeup brings out my eyes (takes the focus off the fat some and they are my best feature).. my lips are ok I guess so up play those... maybe they won't see my FAT everywhere else.. long dangly earrings (they truly are slimming.. but they have to hang LOW).. I can look at ANY picture taken of me and tell you how everything is wrong.. and ugly. Then one day my step mom showed me pics of me and my oldest daughter. You really couldn't tell who was who.. if you look at pics of her NOW you will not believe how much she looks JUST LIKE ME. And I DARE you to call my kid ugly! She is gorgeous (all my kids look just like me and are gorgeous.. by other people's words.. not just mine) so I guess I am not too ugly after all lol.. but still fat.. Even after having lost nearly 30 pounds I am still not happy :( I want to get to 140 max... will probably never happen :( and now I think I have gained some of the weight back so that is TOTALLY not helping me feel good about myself right now. Christa.. I wasn't looking at weight.. I was looking at a beautiful momma holding her beautiful baby in the sling for the first time ever :)