Body dysmorphia can happen to anybody – and pregnant me was NOT prepared for postpartum.
Here I was, this vegan and physically active woman, who followed lists and never forgot what she needed to get done that day. She could sit fully focused and bang out a work project in one sitting, and she had the ultimate discipline in every area of her life.
This girl was going to master pregnancy – and she did. Before getting pregnant, I mentally and emotionally prepared myself for this stage. I was ready to change physically, I was ready to support myself, and most importantly nurture myself. I was able to put myself first and really listen to what my body needed throughout my pregnancy journey. I’m going to be honest and say it paid off – I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect experience.
But then I gave birth, and the fallacies of “I got it together” and “Nothing can bring me down” shattered into a million pieces. Now I was surrounded by the rubble and dust of the past burning my pupils in shock over how quickly it all collapsed.
Here’s when I got my first warning from the nurse, “You’re going to experience what we call the baby blues, but don’t worry it’s temporary.”
What I actually needed to hear at that moment was:
This shit is intense, you’re gonna spiral, and it’s okay to not feel in control.
Aumatma Shah, a fertility specialist, and a naturopathic doctor tells Parents.com that “Pregnancy offers a surge of hormones and neurotransmitters that help us help us feel great. But what happens to those feel-good pregnancy hormones once your baby is born? Unfortunately, immediately postpartum and the week following delivery, estrogen and progesterone will both plummet.”
Nobody tells you that the hormonal changes in pregnancy vastly differ from the hormonal changes post-partum. You see, I was unphased by the nurse’s warning because I had already dealt with volatile hormones for 10 months, what’s a few more?
Screw a swanky baby shower and perfectly curated nursery, I should have had a “Tell me about your episodes of psychosis” party.
Had I known I was going to completely lose my shit over and over, I probably would have been much easier on myself when it was happening.
But over time, the chaos becomes your new normal, and you navigate this new person a little better, and I’m not talking about the baby!
I think a lot of parents can agree with me when I say, hitting the one-year mark with your kids provides a new level of freedom. Now they’re sleeping(ish), they’re walking, and sometimes they are done breastfeeding, and now you’re feeling ready to step out of the demolition zone you’ve been in so long.
I was ready to get back to things that made me feel good, whether it was hot yoga on Saturdays or a lunch out with my girlfriends. What I wanted more than anything, was to get dolled up and out of my breastmilk-stained sweats and feel like a person in society again.
Here’s another golden nugget I wish I knew:
Regardless of body type and genes, your body will change.
Post-birth, I had the misconception that I’d return to my original body. Yeah sure, I’d probably have stretch marks and some loose skin. Of course, after breastfeeding my chest would be a little different. And then I stopped breastfeeding, and here I am, confused amidst the rubble again.
I lost all of my pregnancy weight within two weeks of giving birth. This was largely in part because I was still maintaining my vegan diet. My body overall seemed to be the same, but it felt different. My shape was different, how I fit in my existing clothes was different. But I still fit in the same pant size, so I didn’t pay much mind.
When I decided to revert back to an omni-diet after I stopped breastfeeding, I started to fill up. And to my surprise, I absolutely loved the extra weight!
I looked in the mirror and noticed all these new additions I had never had before having a baby. My breasts were much larger, my hips were wider and curvier, and my butt was juicier. What’s not to love?
Then I went clothes shopping, and a mental breakdown ensued.
I wandered into the store grabbing items to try on, making sure to pick out things that were a size up than my usual – no big deal. Then I got into the dressing room and went through pairs of jeans in total shock – I had gone up two to three pant sizes.
This body was a complete stranger to me. Who is she?
I immediately started crying and began to think of ways I could lose some weight. Then I stopped myself and said, “You loved your body before you walked into this dressing room, why are you trying to change it now?”
I pulled myself together and returned to the clothing rack and grabbed more clothes, this time in the sizes that fit, and tried on full outfits until I felt positive about what I was wearing.
This brought me to my next big realization:
We can’t resurrect versions of ourselves we’ve outgrown.
As creators of life, we are challenged to transform our entire being. We are not only stretching out our bodies, changing our chemical and biological makeup but we are also faced with the dark night of the soul.
The process of physically creating a baby not only expands us out to the point where are organs are constricted, but also the wounds we’ve buried so deep inside are pushed to the surface.
We torture ourselves during this process, and we take it out on our physical vessel. She is only a direct reflection of the complete work of God that is happening inside of us, and in order to hold space for ourselves, we need to exercise this patience with our physical appearance.
Whether you are curvy, slender, athletic or something different altogether – you are not the same person you were before you created life.
You are now God in the flesh. You are the phoenix rising from the ashes (or in this case, rubble).
If you are anything like me, who was not totally prepared for the war I was about to fight, know this: You are built for this.