My postpartum body has me in moods at times. And today, I want to talk a little about that, as honestly as I can because let’s face it, our postpartum bodies are strongly linked to our own body image pre-pregnancy, and I think society’s expectations of beautiful female bodies. Which I think haunts more women than that standard applies to. But, I am digressing a little here.
I became pregnant for the first time at 40, delivered my baby via C-section at 41 and am now nine months postpartum. At four months postpartum I asked my doctor with some dismay why some of the swelling in my belly above the waist line hadn’t gone down. I knew I wouldn’t be as flat stomached as I’d been before being pregnant, but I thought that the extra fluffiness if you will, would be contained to the area below my belly button. Not from my boobs down. My doctor made some comments about exercising when I was ready and it being safe to do so, made some vague references to Instagram bodies being misleading, and I left thinking, right okay, so this isn’t going away by itself. And feeling both stupid and discouraged.
Hating my Body
That was back in January. And after that, I really got into a funk. I mean, I hated the way my body looked. I hate the swelled, flab that is now my entire mid-section. I have never before in my life felt so fat and unattractive. And it’s not must my tummy area that I hate now, it’s the extra weight on my face and arms. It’s the way I don’t fit into any of my old clothes. It’s the way I look in everything I do fit into. It’s the sizes I have to buy now.
I don’t know if I was small or slim before. People told me I was slim. I certainly am petite at 5’1″ but I never really thought of myself as slim. I did fit into small sizes usually, sometimes extra small, but I was under no delusion that these sizes meant anything about my size because clothing sizes are just all over the place and absurd and weird. But when I went shopping at four or five months postpartum I suddenly needed large. I had somehow bypassed the medium size altogether, and that was a little upsetting. Even if sizes do mean very little to begin with, it was still upsetting.
Despair of Ever Losing Weight
I cried. Not in the store, but I cried and raged and felt utterly helpless to change my body. Losing weight and getting into shape after a certain age, is for a woman, an uphill battle with seemingly every morsel you eat working against you. While I not might eat the strictest diet for someone who wants to lose weight, I do eat a healthy diet and I try and portion control my meals as well. That brought me to the problem of exercise.
I don’t know if I have ever said this on the blog before, but I hate exercise. I’m not the sort to go for a run, I never played sports in my younger days, I don’t like lifting weights or walking on treadmills. And honestly, I don’t feel better after I exercise. That hit of whatever feel good chemical exercise gives you always winds me up way, way too much. So maybe it’s natural that when I did exercise in the past, I preferred yoga.
I no longer practice yoga. I have terrible back pain and after years in various threapies, I have learned that the kind of yoga we practice in the west, which is geared towards strength and flexibility actually isn’t that great for back health.
But exercise is clearly what is needed for me to improve both my weight and the appearance of my body. My goal would be to lose the extra weight left on my body from pregnancy and also to become more toned. But before I can even attempt any of this, I have to deal with my bigger problem: functional pain in my body, primarily my back.
Dealing with Chronic Back Pain
If you have followed me here on the blog or on my socials, you’ll have noticed from time to time that I talk about back pain. I have endured a lot of back pain, hip pain and an acute bout of plantar fasciitis and I have been seeking to remedy these problems for years now. They are all connected, and I do have a lot of them under control, however pregnancy does do a number on your body, shifting your hips and even rib cage so by the end of my pregnancy I was in a lot of pain and then after Baby J was born, I was subjecting myself to positions where I was hunched over, bearing ever increasing weight on my back and shoulders.
The intense back pain was back. I had ways to manage the pain, but I was back at square one in a sense, and even working out on my exercise bike would cause some of that pain to surge back up and I often didn’t have the time to take the steps I needed to take to manage the pain. No one wants to exercise when it makes your already hurting body hurt even more.
Long story short, I am finally back on track after about two months of at home treatments and months of osteopathic treatment. So I am finally beginning to work on strengthening my body (squats, core strengthening etc) as well as including walks and bike rides on my indoor cycle. Sadly however, I have not lost a single pound since I came from the hospital five days after Baby J was born. So despite the work I put into diet and now, even exercise, my body remains the same, and I continue to hate it.
Knowing Others See My Body as I Do
What’s worse is when others ask me if I have done anything to lose weight, or make comments about me eating dessert. I know I am overweight at the moment, I don’t need it pointed out, no matter how closely connected to me that person might be. It’s embarrassing and discouraging and not at all helpful as it just makes me feel worse about myself. Complicating all of this is also the fact that I’m on a prescribed diet. I have to eat three meals a day, I need to eat a certain amount of protein, and I can’t just live on chicken and salad as others seeking weight loss might. Knowing others see the fat on my body, even if it is postpartum fat, makes me feel small and ugly. So ugly. And not knowing if or when I will lose some of this weight, how much I have to monitor what I eat, when I eat it, how much exercise I have to do just makes me feel helpless and even, hopeless.
I never expected to feel this way about my postpartum body. I knew my body would be different, but I didn’t expect it to be different in quite this way. Certain areas that seem stretched out seem like they will always be stretched out now, and I am not fan of that possible fact. I am not always sure what to do to shed the extra weight, or how to dress my body.
I wish I could say I am embracing my new body, my postpartum body, but I am not, even though that might be the best thing to do in a lot of respects. I wish I could say I have a plan to shed the weight, but I’m not really sure that I do. Or if that plan is going to prove to be enough to shed this extra weight. I wish I knew what sort of plan might do that for me, or whether the exercises I am doing are doing to start yielding results, but I don’t know that either. But it is a plan, of sorts, if nothing else.
I hope that if you are suffering from some body image distress/anxiety/shame that this story helps you a little, especially if you are now struggling with this because you have a postpartum body, like I do. We all have to live in bodies that are imperfect, and sometimes they feel hopelessly imperfect, but although I feel ugly, I know that I am not ugly. Sometimes that makes me feel better, though most of the time I forget this fact.
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