I’m pretty sure I love my body as much as the next person, which means that some days, I am deeply ashamed by it; some days I detest it; most days I’m too busy to think about it; and once in a while, I totally love it. I used to be one of those people who would carefully choose something flattering to my body shape before leaving the house — who would wear dresses instead of skirts in hopes of hiding the bulge of my tummy. I would avoid ruffles and pleats and any adornment that might add volume where I was trying to cut it down. But then I got pregnant — and I stopped giving a shit.
Five days after I found out I was going to have a baby, I started to feel sick. Anything touching my stomach made it worse, so it was goodbye to flattering waistlines and hello to tracksuit pants and jumpers three sizes too big. The morning sickness lasted five-and-a-half horrid months. I had enough discomfort in my life already, so the only thing I looked for in clothing was how comfortable it was. I didn’t care how I looked. Not one little bit.
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But then I stopped feeling sick. And I had this gorgeous little belly bulge that was hardening by the day. I had always had a bit of a belly — but now, as I watched myself grow, I finally had a belly I wanted
people to notice.
So I went out of my way to show it off. I chose tight-fitting dresses and tops; I wore clothes that accentuated my stomach instead of hiding it. Being pregnant was the most comfortable I’d ever felt in my body. Finally, my belly was something to be proud of. “Finally,” I thought, “there is something precious inside me that is worth flaunting.” And then, with a lurch of sadness, I realized that, of course, there had always been something precious inside me — and that “something” was I.
And then the baby arrived, and I stopped thinking about me entirely. Everything became about ensuring my baby didn’t die — and it didn’t even occur to me to worry about the fact that I still looked pregnant. I was too busy, too preoccupied, too much in love with this incredible new creature. That love put everything into perspective. This little being was the most important thing in my life, and all the old things I used to worry about just sort of melted away into the shadows.
Meanwhile, all those fat stores I’d accumulated during the pregnancy were magically converting inside me into this life-giving breast milk that could not only a) keep my baby alive, but could b) soothe, heal, kill warts, fix pink eye and squirt like a fountain. My body was amazing. My fat was amazing! I was suddenly so grateful for my fat.
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As this point, I also made a conscious decision to eat whatever I wanted for a while and to refuse to feel guilty for it. I was so happy — the happiest I’d ever been in my life — and I wanted to indulge in lots of tasty food and just bloody enjoy myself. So I did. Some of my favorite memories of this time are of lying in our caravan (I did a six-month trip around Australia starting when my baby was 3-1/2 months old) gazing at the view, breastfeeding, reading a book over Little Bub’s shoulder and eating my way through a box of chocolates. Life was decadent and delicious.
In the middle of our journey, we did a day trip to a national park in the north of Australia — a really hot part of the world. We spent the day doing bush walks and swimming in waterholes and under waterfalls, and at sunset, I suddenly realized that I’d spent the entire day in just a swimsuit. No shirt, no skirt, nothing to hide my stomach or my thighs. I’d felt completely comfortable in my exposed body the whole day long, and when I stopped and thought about it, I realized this was probably the first time since childhood that I’d felt such physical freedom. I’d like to say it was because I’d somehow “learned to love” my body, but in all honesty, it was probably more that I was just too busy to care. Too focused on real things to worry about stuff that I can’t change — and if I’m being honest, don’t particularly want to change anyway.
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Now that my kid is older, I’ve decided I’m ready to focus on my body a little more again. Not to try and “get my body back” or the perfect “bikini body” or anything meaningless like that, but to acknowledge it and be mindful of my physical self and to care for my body the way it deserves.
My body has produced, carried and fed a human — and now it needs to be strong so it can keep up with that ever-faster human. Sure, I may not ever be entirely head-over-heels in love with my body, but I’ve learned to respect it for the amazing things it can do. That’s what my baby taught me. That and the fact that I’ve got way bigger things to worry about these days than a bit of happy fat.