Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of postpartum depression and anxiety that may be triggering to some.
“‘I’m not going to do this anymore. I’m sick of feeling ashamed of my body.’ I said this statement to myself just this last April.
I’m an adopted only child. I spent my life from the beginning just a little bit different in every situation. I was always the adopted one. The loud one. The one with ADHD. The small one. The younger one. The weird one. The one without many friends. The one with too many friends. I was never just ‘normal.’
However, I did live a rather good life. I grew up with great parents, went to college, met my husband, fell in love, and got married. As I entered life as a newlywed, our first year was marital bliss. Everything was perfect, so perfect in fact we decided it was time to think about growing our family. In order to think about getting pregnant, I knew that meant I had to let go of a medication I had been taking since fifth grade. Having a lifelong battle with ADD and ADHD, my doctors told me my life would be quite a bit different living unmedicated. I never turn down a challenge so I went for it.
While I noticed it took some time to adjust, I came to a place where I was mentally functioning okay throughout my daily life. But one thing no one warned me about: if you’ve been on a stimulant since the fourth grade, the second you get off of it, you are going to gain weight almost immediately. As someone who had been below average in size her entire life, I wasn’t even aware it was happening. 2 months later, I looked down at the scale and I had gained 35 pounds.
While I was living at the largest I had ever been, I still kept my eye on the prize: having a baby. I got pregnant after a few months and 9 months later, we welcomed our beautiful baby boy, Dean. While my pregnancy was mostly normal, I did gain quite a bit of weight. I had always expected to gain weight during pregnancy, but no one told me I could gain 40 pounds!
After the initial excitement of having a child wore off and I finally healed from my physically taxing birth, I was ready to start ‘getting back to normal.’ I woke up one day, got out of bed, and walked past a mirror. I stopped and stared at the person looking back at me. I didn’t even recognize her. I started crying, because the girl I had known my whole life, was gone.
From that point until I was 11 months postpartum, I suffered from extreme postpartum anxiety. It took everything I could to adjust to being a new mother, fighting a daily battle with PPA, and having a mild identity crisis. Back in 2017, PPA was just beginning to be recognized as it’s own illness separate from Postpartum Depression. I was so lost and scared for so long. I wish I would have told someone. I wish I would have gotten help. I kept telling myself, ‘If it’s still an issue when he turns 1, I will go to a doctor.’ I look back now and think if I would have broken my arm, would I have waited a whole year to see a doctor? Why did I think my mental health was any less important?
Once I finally beat PPA, I decided it was time to get back into shape. I threw myself into fad diets, working out daily, and using my weight to shame myself at every turn. I genuinely believed my worth was less because I was heavier than I used to be.
So I did it, after a year of thinking about nothing but my weight, I got down to a weight I believed was ‘acceptable.’ But then we decided we wanted another baby, and the whole cycle started over again, except this time, I never let up. My entire pregnancy was spent watching what I ate, working out, and crying when I stepped on the scale. The true irony was by the time I gave birth to my second son, I still gained 40 pounds despite working SO hard to control my weight.
My doctor kept telling me it was normal and it was obvious my body needed that much weight to sustain my kids, but it didn’t make me feel better.
Fast forward to February 2020. Things were just beginning to shut down and the world as we knew it was changing. My youngest son was 9 months old, I still had more than half of the baby weight I gained from carrying him. My husband and I started discussions about when we may want to have another baby, and 4 weeks later, I was pregnant.
We were shocked and didn’t expect it to happen so fast. I was on the phone with my best friend, crying about how I was going to be so heavy by the time this baby was born because I started heavy. That night, I looked in the mirror. I remember saying out loud:
‘You are carrying life. You are singlehandedly growing a human, your weight does not matter.’
That was the moment when I first believed ‘my weight does not define my worth.’ Being heavier didn’t make me any less beautiful or worthy of love.
The next morning, I put away my scale, bought clothes that actually fit, and decided I would make it a daily ritual to speak positive words to myself out loud.
I can’t explain how it happened but it was like a switch flipped inside of me. I was happy and confident and enjoying my pregnancy in a different way than I had in the past.
I carried Nola for 37 beautiful weeks and with each new stretch mark and every pound gained, I felt more and more at peace with myself. As I walked into postpartum I didn’t fear the saggy stomach, I didn’t stress about the extra weight I was certainly going to gain while breastfeeding.
I went into it focused on the fact my body did incredible, amazing things. I looked at my daughter and remembered her little life started inside of me. While body confidence is a journey and no one is ever completely perfect, this year I found my joy and I found what I have been missing my whole life.
I finally love myself.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lauren Cross. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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