When I went to university I was one of the unusual students, who started overweight and slimmed down whilst I was there, as others developed their beer bellies with all the partying.
I took up running and would spend a couple of hours before and after classes running around the local park blaring loud music into my headphones. I worked a couple of jobs around my studies and they were quite physical work, so I quickly slimmed from being a pretty round size 18/20 to an unrecognisable size 8/10 – and I was really proud of myself. I was fit, thin, healthy, had a six pack, felt like I was untouchable.
For a couple of years after graduating I continued in the same way – working 70 hour weeks, living on salad and coffee, running whenever I had a gap I could fill with it.
When I got pregnant it was a bit of a shock as, for a number of reasons, I’d been told I wouldn’t be able to have children. I was only 24 and had this body I’d worked hard to hone, was proud of.
The baby inside me was a miracle, though, and I was over the moon to be growing a new human that was part me and part this incredible man I was in love with – it was just the most wonderful, and terrifying, thing in the world.
Only I’m not great at pregnant – almost immediately my hips were so painful that walking anywhere was a terrible effort and very uncomfortable. My SPD meant my once very active life dropped away, and my work was, for the first time, office based and sedentary. So I gained weight. Not just a little bit – well over 5 stone.
I didn’t care at the time – I figured I’d slimmed down before and could do it again, I was young, I was fit.
Having my son – a 9lb9oz baby who was heaved out of me from his back to back position after 5 days of labour – was agony. It damaged my already struggling hips and I had a lot of physio to try and heal the wreckage left behind. I wasn’t allowed to run – the only exercise I had ever loved – and was told I had to build up very slowly to other strenuous exercise.
I accepted I was heavier. I slimmed some, but by no means all, of the weight off with diet and walking with the pushchair, but could only do so much.
Then I got pregnant again – surprise! This time the SPD was totally debilitating.
By 8 weeks I was on crutches. By 15 they gave me a wheelchair. At 30 weeks I had a meeting with a consultant that I sobbed throughout. At 36 weeks, after a week in hospital on pain relief so that I could, for the first time in weeks, sleep a little I had a cesarean and our second beautiful son was born.
Once again I had piled weight on – I’d been more careful about what I ate, learning lessons from the first pregnancy, but being unable to so much as stand without assistance for weeks took its toll, and I was back to being a size 20 after the birth.
This time the physio was harder, walking was harder, standing was harder. I had to wear a support belt for months to hold my hips in place so I could walk. I had crutches for the days I had to go any distance. Our youngest son is 17 months old and I still can’t run. I’m working up to it – but suspect I’ll never be a runner again, and mourn the loss.
This body surprises me whenever I see it. It doesn’t feel like mine. I am not happy in it. I cannot be proud of it. I am amazed by the children it grew, the life it created and supported and fed. I am proud of that. But it has let me down, and there are parts of it I loathe.
I can live with the changes to my boobs. They are lower, softer, less rounded – but I can live with those. I am quite fond of them.
My weight I have come to terms with, and am working on. It’s a long term project. I am now a size 14/16 – I will never be an 8/10 again but a 12/14 would be nice and I’m getting there.
The fact that my belly is round, soft, squishy? Hm. I don’t mind the stretchmarks. I don’t mind the lack of six pack. I’m realistic. I will never look as I did before – I created two ENTIRE humans, from scratch. Great big ones. (Even at 36 weeks the youngest came in at a hefty 8lb12oz) that’s going to change things.
My hips are wider. My rib cage wider. My feet are bigger. (Why?!) I can DEAL with that. I got a tattoo around my belly button at 18 that is now hilariously stretched, being devoured by the sagging skin on my lower abdomen. The shape, colour and design is almost unrecognisable compared to what I had before. I can deal with that.
But the scar? I can’t. The apron of fatty skin that hangs over it? I can’t. The fact it hangs at an angle? I can’t. The fact it is still,17 months later, painful? No. The damaged tissue around it that is tender, that I can fit my entire thumb into, that I can feel my internal organs through? No. The knowledge that I can never fix it? It hurts.
I don’t like my husband seeing me naked. I don’t like him touching, looking at, mentioning my abdomen. I don’t like being undressed around him. I get angry with him. I act, if he sees me naked, as if he has committed some heinous crime, betrayed me. I hate it. When I see it, when I dress it, when I wash it, I cry.
People think I have a lot of confidence, that I am bold, bright, cheerful, happy, that I feel good about my appearance. I don’t.
I hate it. I hate it, and it makes me question everything about my body. I torture myself with it. I am angry, sad, bitter.
I love my miracle babies, they are more than worth the damage and pain and changes, more than. I would have a thousand scars, a lifetime of pain, be altered more, forever, no matter how hard just to have them, to be their Mummy. But knowing it was worth it doesn’t stop me hurting when I have to see it.
About Love Mum-Body
This month on story of mum, we’re sharing photos of how our bodies have changed since we became mums and grandmums. You can photograph your actual body, or you can shape your body in plasticine. We don’t mind how you share it, as long as you do your very best to love it.
For some more inspiration, check out the guest posts we’ve had so far: