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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  1. Such a brave thing to post those pictures online - I certainly wouldn't be able to post pictures of the bits of me I feel uncomfortable with. Hopefully once you are able to get the all clear to diet again you will start to feel more comfortable within yourself and your body will be something with which you are happy.xxx

  2. I've always struggled with my body, more so since having kids, I have my ups and downs but like you I soldier through. Thing is people can tell you that you look good but until you feel it yourself the words don't mean as much as they should. All I can offer is ((hugs)) and the knowledge that you are definitely not alone with your thoughts xx

  3. So brave and I'm sure it will help lots of ladies out there xxx

  4. So brave! I admire you a lot for being so honest & open! I feel the exact same way! And personally, I think your absolutely beautiful!

  5. I really liked reading this. My pregnancy wasn't always great, but I mostly felt great - I loved looking pregnant and was pretty happy with my body. Now my son is 11 months old and I guess I'm not really post-partum anymore, but I still feel too big, and I avoid mirrors/pictures all the time because of that. But the weird thing is, I don't think we judge anyone as harshly as we judge ourselves! I look at your pictures and see all your good points and how beautiful you look. And so when someone says they are unhappy with their weight, of course they are not thinking about someone else who might happen to weigh more or less than them - or at least, I'm not, and I think most people are the same. I look at your pictures and think your stretchmarks look much better than mine (and I'm 11 months post-partum with just one baby) or that you have great hair (my hair is a mess recently, and I can't seem to do anything with it) or that you dress really well and do great make-up (things I struggle with) and I could go on, but hopefully I am making my points in a long-winded way.

  6. What a wonderfully written, highly emotional post. I am almost speechless as so many similar thoughts run through my own mind having battled with my weight all of my life, the almost relief when I was diagnosed with a medical condition that affects y weight and the despair when I had to accept that I would never lose weight as easily as my peers. I can relate to so much of what you have written, honestly I am close to tears having read it. Well done you xx
    Nicola xx

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  8. Hayley my dear, you are beautiful inside and out. You're also very brave to feature this post, I don't even like full length photos of me appearing anywhere! I think you look in great shape for a lady who's had two babies, one only in March. I had TL over two and half years ago and still have the tummy, the overhang, the horrid red stretch marks and like you I don't embrace them as 'a tiger who's earned her stripes' - in fact, I hate when people say that. You're amazing, remember that.

  9. This is a fantastic post Hayley. It's crazy how we hate our bodies. Mine doesn't look all that different to yours (and my last baby was 9 months ago so you're in fab shape!)- I absolutely hate mine but all I see when I look at yours is a beautiful body that carried two babies. Why can't I look at mine and see the same thing?

  10. Such a well written post Hayley. This is the first time I've visited your blog and I'll definitely be back :) For what it's worth, I think you're awesome for posting your story and feelings and will no doubt help so many women who are feeling the same way. Good for you. And I think you rock!

  11. Such a great post, I donned pictures of my pregnancy belly all over made for mums as part of a bepanthen campaign aimed around stretch marks and thankfully throughout I had none, then the campaign ended. Then I gave birth and BAM! I tend to forget about them being there but each morning as I shower I see them and to be honest it's strange seeing such bug and permanent changes. Xx

  12. Thank you so much Hayley for sharing this honest and open post about the reality of pregnancy. I really admire your bravery. x


  13. So brave posting this including your photos. I've only had 1 cs, but there's no way I'd ever get mine out. I'm like you in that I put on 5 stone with pregnancy. I lost 2.5 stone on having N, then lost and gained the same 1/2 stone before putting it all on again and a bit more. I am so unfit now, and I need to get healthy and lose at least 3/4 of the weight before my 40th next year. I just can't get motivated to start and stick at it.

    I always think, weight and self awareness is just that, for oneself, because everyone's different for a reason.

  14. Well done you for posting those pictures and such a heartfelt story. Bodies change so much and they go through so much during and after. I think I've yet to meet someone who is the same size. Usually something goes for good. We just have to embrace it xx

  15. I also put 5 stone on with Carson and had only lost 3 by the time I fell pregnant with finley thereafter. I dont think I'll ever be slim again! My stretch marks don't bother me though, I call them love lines :)

  16. Well done to you for posting these pictures and explaining how your feeling right now. I am not a mother but I have gone through so much ups and downs with my weight and recently went through the stage of the "is that really me" in the mirror. I think even though we like to think we have not been effected by social media's beauty standards, we have been deep down mentally. I also know totally how you feel when friends smaller then you mention how rotten they feel...What you are feeling is normal and you are not going through this alone. Take things at your own pace, I know it might take a bit longer but you will get back to where you used to be (weight wise) and hopefully your self esteem will rise too. Best of luck Hayley :)

  17. You're really brave and inspirational posting your private pictures online but its also a testimony to other women out there who might be in the same situation


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