My relationship with my whole self has always been tenuous at best. Sure, my hair is fantastic, the creative and analytical parts of my brain work happily in tandem and I can make my husband chuckle uncontrollably with my sarcastic humour, so there’s a lot to love. My body however, has never been on the receiving end of said love. Honestly, I never felt like it deserved it.
Years of disordered eating were followed by several more years of steady, excruciating weight gain and when many many years of feeling painfully unwell was finally explained by an endometriosis diagnosis, my disdain towards my body was solidified. My body gave up on me and in turn I gave up on my body. Why bother with kale and spin class when it was going to screw me internally anyway.
But then, one balmy June morning, whilst I was still waking up to the day, there were two little blue lines that jolted me awake and changed me in a truly unexpected way. I was thrilled. I was also trepidatious. I knew my limitations when it came to seeing myself rationally. The voice of my vanity was not one I’d ever managed to suppress and so I was fully prepared for pregnancy to send me into a self esteem tailspin. I’d be gaining weight rapidly and my body would change far beyond my control. The outfits carefully chosen to flatter my shape would be no good and there would be no smoothing of my silhouette with spanx. It was not going to be pretty nine months but knowing it was inevitable I girded myself.
Curiously however, that tailspin never even came close. For the first time in my life I looked in the mirror and was thrilled with what I saw.
Pre pregnancy I’d shower quickly, towel off quicker still and jump into clothes before I might catch sight of myself in the mirror. I had thought losing my waistline, always a point of pride, might cause me to lose my mind. At my very thinnest it spanned a mere 23 inches, a number forever seared in my mind as optimum. But suddenly I couldn’t stop staring at my ever growing body. It felt like I was getting bigger by the second and I would gaze at my expanding self. “Look how big I’ve gotten, my belly is huge,” I’d remark delightedly to my husband. I didn’t know this version of myself. After 15 years of holding my stomach in, I could suddenly breathe. It was the most liberating experience of my life.
Everything changed. There was no more denying myself. I ate anything I craved, happily indulged myself for chocolate and bread and full fat milk. It had taken a lifetime but suddenly I knew moderation. Now that nothing was off limits I never overindulged. Dressing too was a wonderful new frontier. With no figure to flatter I had the confidence to try garments I would never previously dreamt of donning.
I downloaded an app that would detail, week after week, the changes that my body was undergoing and crucially, how my little foetus was developing. I was in awe as it grew ears, eyes, fingers and fingernails. I woke up to the body that I had flagellated all these years. Each onward week, as I felt the little kicks of my growing son, so grew my love for myself.
Now that I’m on the other side I’m trying very hard to hold on to that feeling and to remain in wonderment of what my body has been through. Almost three months post-partum, my pregnant belly has dissolved into a pile of jiggles, (thanks to my baby majorly favouring one side) my breasts are insanely out of proportion and living in lockdown means that my brows are unkempt and my eyes always tired. The old me would be horrified. The new me is more concerned about keeping my body nourished so that I can continue to nourish my baby. Because surely, a body that can create and sustain life deserves a little more credit.