Tuesday, 1 September 2015

The Me In The Mirror - My Post Partum Self Image Issues

This is a post I've had both in my head and in my drafts folder for a while now.

Every so often there'll be these posts I so desperately want to write but the words get stuck somehow, they won't flow properly and I struggle to get across what I want to say....usually it happens when the subject matter is a particularly emotive one for me...and this one certainly is.

A couple of months ago, I made a YouTube video where I intended to chat about how I was getting on post-pregnancy and ended up having a bit of an on camera meltdown.

I never intended to publish that video but when I was trying to edit it and cut out all of the embarrassing crying parts, I realised that actually the way I was feeling was quite important and that acknowledging those feelings was important too...for myself and for any other new mums out there who might find themselves feeling a similar way to me and feeling as painfully alone in it all as I felt. 

So I published it and I was surprised to hear how many people said they had felt the same...it seems a pretty common thing.

Well a few months have gone by now and although I feel slightly better overall, there are days when I still really struggle.

Days like today.

It's pretty common knowledge that when we go through pregnancies and births our bodies change...we all expect that to some extent, we all hear how natural it is and we hear the same old statements of how proud we should be of our "tiger stripes" (Am I the only one who HATES that expression?! I am not Katy Perry, I do not feel the need to compare myself to a tiger! Stretch marks is FINE!), we hear again and again how we should embrace our new body shapes and love them for the wonderful lives they created and the joy of motherhood they allowed us to experience.

Well I'm sorry to be the naysayer here - yes I fully appreciate the miracle of life and how wonderful it is that my body created that and allowed me to be a mother - but I'm sorry, sometimes I just CAN'T and DON'T unconditionally love my new body...and sometimes I need to hear that THAT'S ok too!
Sometimes reading about how proud I should feel of it just makes me feel pretty sodding shit that I DON'T feel that way.

For some of us, it just isn't that easy....wouldn't life be lovely if we could all just flip a switch and automatically feel the way that we're told we should!

I've always struggled a bit with my body image - I'm not really sure why, but I have.

I was what you'd call a "gangly" child right up from pre-school through to my teen years - I was always one of the tallest kids in the class which I hated, I was always pale which I also hated, and I was always very thin...which when paired with my height and pale skin made me look quite poorly.

It led to some really lovely nicknames at school...Lurch & Skeletor being my favourites.

So I was never happy...I always wanted to be shorter, curvier, more "womanly"...

Then when I turned 18, things started to change...I developed a condition called Graves Disease which is an auto-immune disorder affecting the thyroid gland...this meant that my weight started to fluctuate pretty wildly and once I was put onto steroid based medication to control the disease, my weight suddenly rocketed and I went from being a size 8 and weighing just under 9 stone to being a size 16 and weighing closer to 15 stone in about a year.

It was a difficult change to adjust to, and although my weight continued to fluctuate over the years depending on whether I was on or off bouts of medication, I have struggled ever since to keep to a weight I was happy with for a long period of time.

Ironically when I fell pregnant with Tyne I was at my most physically comfortable in years, at a size 12/14 - a size I felt suited my height and gave me the curves I wanted, without feeling overweight.

After giving birth to Tyne, I was back on medication and my weight soon increased.

When I fell pregnant with Noah, I gained FIVE stone.

And since his birth, I have only lost 1.

I am the most uncomfortable with my body I have ever been.

For reasons I can't currently go into, I won't be able to diet properly for a while and so I'm kind of stuck this way for the immediate future until circumstances change and I'm given the all clear to try and lose weight.

I can't explain how uncomfortable with myself I feel.

The photographs in this post were taken 8 weeks post-partum after Noah's birth, and show all the parts of myself I feel the most uncomfortable with.

I struggled so much to look at this photos while editing them, they reduced me to tears.

I can't explain how horrible it is to look at photos and feel repulsed by your own image, and also almost unable to recognise it as yourself....because it looks so very different to the you inside your own head.

Inside I don't feel like somebody with an overhanging saggy stomach all covered in stretchmarks - I feel like somebody thankful to her body for having housed, nurtured and delivered two beautiful children - so why doesn't my mind recognise that when I look at these photos or my own reflection?

Inside I don't feel like somebody who hates the sight of their c-section scar - I feel like somebody who is grateful to modern medicine for giving her the chance to give birth in the way she felt safest and most appropriate for her - so why doesn't my mind let me remember that feeling when I look at myself?

So many things effect the way I feel about my appearance these days, and it bothers me endlessly that so many outside factors can contribute so greatly to my self worth and mood.

You hear a lot about how magazines and TV images of "perfect women" screw us all up, but in all honesty they don't ping up on my radar...I've come to kind of expect to only see women with stereotypically beautiful bodies on TV and I'm ok with that...that's not me and that's ok coz I'm not trying to be a TV star or a Kardashian.

What really effects me is my peer group.

So many of us think we're all for female empowerment and building each other up, but yet so much of what we say can knock others down so very easily. So much easier than we realise.

I worry myself that this very post could knock somebody who maybe gained more weight than I did in their pregnancy, or feels that their c-section scar looks "worse" than mine and that I could unintentionally negatively effect that person.

I know we can't all live our lives in fear of saying something that hurts someone else, but wow I wish I wasn't so easily stung.

When I read blog posts from people who've done a great job on losing a ton of weight and quite rightly congratulate themselves on how far they've come, I feel so happy for them and inspired by them - but you can guarantee that somewhere in that post they'll reference their former size and how "disgusting" they used to be, and what do I take away from that? Not that I can do it too or I should feel empowered by them, but that I'm bigger than they used to be so if they were so "disgusting" what am I?!

When I see Instagram Before & After Photos from people who've dropped a ton of dress sizes - you can almost guarantee they'll say something negative about their size in their before photo and if they were smaller than I am, I take that and store away in my mind as yet more self-abuse...

When I hear my friends talking about how "fat" they are when they're sizes 10, 12, 14...yes I understand that they may feel that way and they have a right to express it but all I take away from it is "Wow, if you think you're so fat and gross at that size what the hell do you think when you look at me?! How do you think I feel about myself at this size if thats how you feel at yours?!"

And of course, at the end of the day, my feelings are MY OWN problem - not anybody elses. And nobody else should have to worry about MY feelings when discussing their own.

All I'm saying is...it's HARD to be so very easily knocked down by someone elses words and feel so powerless to build yourself up beyond it.

I don't know what the answers are to struggling with these feelings of self-despise, I don't know quite how to get past it...but I know that these feelings are very real.

And I know that my right to feel this way is as valid as those Mums out there who are able to "embrace their new curves" and "Rock those tiger stripes!"

I guess what I'm telling you is I'm just gonna have to rock my low self esteem right now, and hope I can build it up over time...coz that's pretty much all I feel up to. I'm NOT super woman, and I can't force acceptance on myself when it just isn't happening.

And THAT'S ok too.

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