So it’s 00:25 in the morning, I’ve got a hacking cough which has kept me up night after night so I’m sitting here writing a thing because its been on my mind and I might as well. I’m not a body, beauty or lifestyle blogger. I have nowhere to put this but I need to write it so here we go.
Oh where to begin. It’s a long, complicated and mixed up feeling and I’m no good with the words.
I’m 31, I have a 3 year old little girl who I love, a business in it’s infancy, a husband and I am overweight. I think that defines me pretty well right there. I struggle with all of these things at various different points but its the last one I have, and continue to struggle with the most.
The concept of being “overweight” or whatever you prefer to define it as, is a difficult thing to pin down. The NHS defines it as someone who has a BMI of over a certain number. This is infuriating. Most people who have a high muscle density are classed as obese by these standards which is completely insane. So I’m entirely dismissing that highly convenient way of pigeon-holing people.
I work as a corsetiere, I spent a lot of time looking at women’s bodies, their natural shape and desired shape. Curvy women are more appealing to me, no offence to the slimmer ladies out there but I prefer the hourglass silhouette. I mean I wouldn’t do what I do if I didn’t. These days “curvy” has come to mean so many different things. “Plus size” is starting to be considered a derogatory term and so more and more clothing companies are defining there 16+ size range as “Curvy” (which is nuts because 50% of the time they’re the same shapeless cut as their 16- sizes just scaled up, please address this issue high-street clothing stores) To me, though, curvy isn’t anything to do with overall size but the relationship between measurements. You can be a size 8 and still have a perfect hourglass figure…. Anyway I’ve gone off on a tangent here.
I follow A LOT of plus-size (oo dirty word) bloggers and models, and body positivity bloggers and such and they’re all amazing. I think I initially started doing this with the weight gain I experienced post baby, to try to come to terms with “The skin I’m in”… yeah it didn’t work.
I so want to be positive about my body but its hard to when all the people are up there going “yeah I’m a size 18 and I love myself and you should to”. That’s totally awesome but look at yourself for a minute there. Yes you’re an 18+ but look, just look, you’ve got a magnificent bosom, lovely full hips, amazingly round bum, small waist and almost a flat tummy. Your face is stunning, you’ve got hair that wouldn’t be amiss on a “gives a shiny coat” dog food advert and you’ve totally got your wardrobe sorted. You look AMAZING at your given size and it’s totally not hard to be body positive when you look that good. Some of us at a size 18 are a f*cking mess and are completely not coping with it one little bit. Honestly, seeing you being all redonkulous at the same size as me is making me feel a little worse about it all.
Perhaps I feel this way because the “skin that I’m in” isn’t as straight forward as having put on a bit of weight (though is it ever, really?)
I love my daughter to absolute pieces, lets just clarify that first, but being pregnant and giving birth completely destroyed my body. And absolutely no one prepared me for that.
I’ve always had a slightly dysfunctional relationship with my body and weight. My boobs came in early and BOY did they come in. My first bra at the age of 10 was a D cup would you believe. I got fitted professionally at 14 and put into an E. They’ve got bigger ever since. I spent most of my life fluctuating between a size 10 and a size 14 (I very briefly flirted with a size 8 for about 3 months at the end of a very dysfunctional relationship in my early 20s). Because of the UBER BOOBS I’ve always felt I looked fat, or hefty. There is nothing “delicate” or “elfin like” about massive tits and I felt elfin like on the inside and so I struggled with that. I wanted to wear delicate summer dresses and strapless things but I always had to have a substantial strap to keep the girls in check. I wanted to be able to buy a two pack of tshirt bras from New Look for £12… but no it was £30 a bra from bravissimo right from the early days. Don’t get me wrong, Bravissimo are amazing but £30 is a lot when you’re 16 (it’s a lot when you’re 31 lets be honest)!
I’ve spent nearly all of adult life on a diet, and as someone who genuinely doesn’t like vegetables, I have always found this very hard. I don’t enjoy eating healthy, I have to force myself with steely reserve. I see all these people on low sugar, vegan, raw diets sharing photos of the super-food salad with “mmm I can’t wait to tuck into this” captions… and I don’t get it, I’m sorry. I’d rather have a curry and a giant bag of mini eggs (and half a bottle of wine…or a whole bottle of wine)! I’m not that megga into the exercise either. I was always the one with a million excuses as to why I couldn’t partake in PE when I was at school. I didn’t like sports. It was only when I met my husband I started to get into it… and that’s purely because he was SO involved with rowing I remember thinking a few months in “I really like this guy but I’ve got to make a decision; I can either become a rower and we can have a relationship, or I don’t and we split up”. So I became a rower. I got into running too (well bumpy walking short distances and then throwing up really, not what most people would call running) and I even joined a gym. Fitness was a big thing for him so it became a big thing for me… but after going on many runs together, and attending gym sessions together, it quickly became apparent that I’m not normal (as if we didn’t already know that). We’d finish a run or whatever and he’d be all jazzed like “yeah endorphins! that was amazing!” and I was all “shut up, I’m going to dye, once I’ve thrown up I’m going to eat my body weight in pasta”. I don’t know if it’s a case of me not getting endorphins or if I’m just not sensitive to them but I NEVER feel great after a workout. EVER. I remember finishing a 10k run, being in the most horrific mood, demanding a big mac and then falling asleep on the sofa. The only thing I enjoyed from doing all the exercise feeling strong. I mean I wasn’t strong… I couldn’t lift significant weights or anything… but I felt stronger.. and that was nice.
I’ve gone off on a tangent again….
So with an already mildly unhealthy relationship with my body I fell pregnant. I was overjoyed because I’d been told I wouldn’t be able to have children due to PCOS (thats a whole other story). I had horrible morning sickness in the first (and part of the second) trimester so I didn’t gain much weight at all… but I was very “bumpy” from early on. As my pregnancy progressed it became more and more obvious I was going to be MASSIVE. I slathered myself in body butters and oils three times daily… and all the stuff that’s recommended to fight stretch marks.. but at the end of the day skin is only going to stretch so far and I really was HUGE. I’d say I got to a normal “full term” look when I was about 7 months. I still had two months to go. I don’t know why I got so massive. My little lady was a healthy (but not huge) 8lb6oz when born… there was an awful lot of water though.. like I could have filled a swimming pool.
I didn’t really notice the stretch marks when they started because the were all the lower hemisphere of the bump and I couldn’t see that bit. I do remember as I hit the 8 month mark feeling very sore right at the bottom of the bump, just above the pubic bone, and I thought it was because the seam on my leggings was rubbing.. turned out it wasn’t, my skin was tearing. I now have the most epic stretch mark that is over an inch wide and runs right down to my lady parts. I embraced my massive bump though and enjoyed pregnancy once I stopped vomiting, but no one prepares you for what your body is going to look like once you’ve popped out that sprog. I went to NCT, we went over everything to do with labour and the early days of baby but didn’t even touch on the “what the actual F has happened to my body” moment.
Its such a shock. It happens so fast. When you gain weight normally its a relatively slow process and you come to terms with it and the effect it has. Even pregnancy, yeah bumps appear and grow rapidly but it’s still a process. Labour and birth happens in a matter of hours (20 and a bit hours for me) and I went from a firm if significant bump to something akin to road kill. I remember being wheeled around to the recovery ward, I felt my tummy and completely freaked out asking the nurse to check because what the hell has happened to me? My middle feels like a bowl of custard and what is this hard bit? “That’s just your uterus dear, it will all sort it’s self out in a couple of days” WHAT?! NO ONE TOLD ME ABOUT ANY OF THIS!
It’s hard enough to cope with this new bundle of screaming fury (I mean joy) you’re bleeding everywhere, you’re pelvic floor has run away, you can’t stand up without feeling like your organs are going to fall out and then you’re boobs start leaking. Its horrific, you are a mess. A complete and utter mess… but it will be OK. Everyone says things will slowly return to normal, or a variation of it..
It didn’t for me.
As the weeks past, I started to notice my NCT friends post baby bumps rescinding, but mine wasn’t. With every passing day my tummy was looking worse. I was now able to asses the stretch mark damage and, frankly, it was horrific. I remember at about 6 weeks laying in the bath in absolute floods of tears mourning the loss of my baby bump, because that was the last time I’d felt OK about my body. It was shortly after that I was diagnosed with PND.
I spoke to my GP about the condition of my body “will it ever get any better?”
“No” was the resounding answer, whilst looking at me with a “what did you expect?” expression. Some sit-ups and core exercises might help a little but it wont ever be the same. The size of my bump… yadda yadda… damage to connective tissue… yadda yadda… irreparable damage… mumble.. only surgery will fix. I zoned out at the realisation this wasn’t going to get better.
I’d expected a bit of tummy wobble, a pooch, a bit of mum tum. I was in no way prepared for this. I think its most commonly described as a “mothers apron” these days. And normally occurs in women who’ve had a c section. The tension in the scar tissue from the wound means the loose skin sort of flops over the top. I didn’t have a c section, but the damage done to my skin from the sheer volume of the bump created the same effect, and apparently mine is worse than the average. I am stretch marks from nipples to knees (most of which are an inch or so wide) and I have a 2 inch deep overlap of skin. 2 inches! This is more than most peoples boobs. I need a tummy bra. Or a gut underwire… I dunno.
I simply COULD NOT COPE with this. It seems pretty shallow to be so effected by the change in my body. I should just be happy to have such a healthy and happy little girl… and I was… but…
So many mums post up photos of their (very small) stretch marks with all this “I love my body, I created life, these are my tiger stripes”. Great, wonderful, I’m so happy for you that you can deal with that but this is more than I can take. My already dysfunctional relationship with my body was now completely torn to shreds. Every single ounce of confidence had gone. I couldn’t bear to look at myself in the mirror, or be seen without clothes on. I couldn’t even think about it… so I ate.
Seems odd really, I didn’t put much weight on whilst pregnant other than bump growth. Mine all went on in the following year. Part of me wonders if I ate because I was trying to find comfort in something when everything around me felt like it was falling apart, or if I ate in some way to try and fill out my sagging stomach again. Perhaps if it was “fuller” it would be less offensive? I dunno I’m grabbing at straws here. I should have had counselling but, hey it’s the NHS, so it didn’t get offered, and I couldn’t afford it. Just higher and higher doses of antidepressants which I hated taking. Its like someone throwing a damp blanket over your head. I’m a creative person, and it felt like the pills turned off that creativity tap… I felt less and less like me with every passing day. For so long it was just one step in front of the other. Don’t look in the mirror. Leggings and baggy jumpers. Don’t make me go to an event where I have to look nice I can’t cope with that trauma. Don’t touch me.
I actually remember standing in-front of the mirror holding my fabric scissors (they’re very sharp for those who don’t know) wondering if I could just cut off the excess skin. I mean… scary head stuff right there!
I constantly blamed myself. There is this idea that if you’re not back in your skinny jeans by 6 weeks post-partum you’ve done something wrong. I felt like a failure. Not only because I hadn’t been able to stand the pain of labour (I ended up with an epidural and forceps, as my daughter decided to come out face first) but I’d now let myself and my husband down by turning into this round sagging mess of a human… then to be diagnosed with PND, one more tick on the failure list, and shortly after returning to my old office job, I had to make the decision to leave for my own mental health (again another story) and yet another tick on the failure list. I felt like I was failing at every single aspect of my life. No one prepared me for any of this shit!
I ended up burying my head so deep in the sand I was half way to Australia… and I continued to gain weight.
It’s only been since I dragged myself off the antidepressants and my daughter turned 3, that I’ve started to feel like I need to sort this out. I still can’t look in the mirror, I still hate events I have to look nice for, I still don’t like being touched, I still cry in the bath… but I can’t carry on like this. I’m trying to take baby steps, increasing the amount of exercise I do until I feel strong enough to tackle some of the eating habits. But everytime a little weight comes off, the gut looks worse, and I emotionally eat the cadbury factory.
I get so much advice from people who I know only mean well. “You need to do this exercise and eat these meals”. Thanks, I know you’re only trying to help… but I know all of this. I know what exercise I should be doing, I know what I should and should not be eating… but issue here isn’t a lack of knowledge… its a deep psychological issue that I’m trying to work out all on my own because I can’t afford the professional help. I am not going to go cliff diving into the sea of healthy eating and high intensity exercise because I know I will drown in it. I need to take baby steps in the shallows if this is going to work.
The funny thing is I am less bothered about my size, as I said earlier I like a curvy look, a “plus size lady” is fine with me. I am more bothered about the “state” of that size.. but I can control my size (to a certain extent) I can’t control the state short of paying for surgery, and that’s not going to happen.
I just cant help wondering if perhaps I would have dealt with this all a lot better if someone had prepared me for it.
At the end of the day I will never have the same body and I need to find some way to come to terms with that. I have no idea how. I really cant see how I will ever be able to “Love the skin I’m in”.