Trigger warning: This post will discuss eating disorders, body image, and weight. It has no intention of triggering, but if you are easily triggered or tempted by these topics, feel free to skip this one.
While I loved my pregnant body and didn’t struggle overly with the added weight, I was a little nervous about how well I would cope with accepting my post-pregnant body.
The difference? The weight meant something while I was pregnant. The added pounds were made up of my baby boy (10 whole pounds), placenta, extra blood, extra breast tissue, extra water, and, yes, of course some extra fat.
But, after birth, none of those things would be there anymore, and, well…I secretly hoped my body would be one to “bounce back” quickly.
And, well…to my shock, it did.
I remember looking in the large mirror in our basement about 45 minutes after giving birth and delivering the placenta (I gave birth at home) and discovering that my stomach was flat. Like, completely, scarily flat. As someone who has been diagnosed with body dysmorphia and eating disorders, I wouldn’t say that if it weren’t true.
Now, I had been told that I would still have a belly after birth, that it could take days, even weeks to not look pregnant anymore. So I was shocked to see my stomach looking flatter than I’d seen it in years just moments after delivering the placenta.
I wonder how much I weigh right now.
Just having given birth and meeting my beautiful baby boy, I was incredibly frustrated by this pervasive thought. Why, oh why is this what I’m thinking about? Who cares?
Since my water broke at 3:40am and Theo was born at 11:16am and I was vomiting throughout my labour, I hadn’t yet eaten anything that day. 30 minutes after that run-in with the mirror, I was transported by ambulance to the hospital for surgery.
I was assessed and then whisked off to surgery by 2:30pm.
The surgery took two hours. I was in a recovery room from 5pm-7pm.
Still no food.
When I got back finally to Theo and Johnny, my mom came to visit and brought us Subway. That sub ended up being all I could eat that day and, unfortunately, lack of food is probably the most intense trigger I have.
I couldn’t help but think about how I’d probably burned an insane amount of calories giving birth, and then even more producing breast milk. My output would have been much, much greater than my input for the day.
I wonder how much I weigh now.
These kind of thoughts were quickly replaced by a concern for my milk supply. I knew I needed to eat a good amount to maintain a good supply, not to mention we were already behind since Theo and I were separated.
Despite the concern and care for my milk supply, the thoughts crept in.
I wonder how few calories I can eat while still maintaining good supply.
It seems I’m already lighter than I was pre-pregnancy…and I started off postpartum not eating much…might as well keep this up.
But, as quickly as these thoughts crept in, they were whisked away by a 24/7-busy schedule of feeding, not to mention bedrest, severe pain, and no sleep. I couldn’t stand for long enough to get up for a snack, let alone to cook. And the breastfeeding was making me STARVING.
So, whenever I even had an opportunity to eat, I was eating whatever I was able to. And, praise the Lord, we had wonderful friends and family who brought us food for 5 weeks straight after Theo was born, so I never even needed to worry about cooking.
I ate SO FREELY in those days because, well, I didn’t have a choice. My milk-producing body was asking for it, and so was my baby. And my mind quickly had capacity for very few things besides Theo’s needs.
So it was lactation cookies and dairy-free banana bread slathered with peanut butter. Pastas and salads and chilis and roast dinners. Bone broth chicken noodle soup, roasted almonds, baked goods from a local bakery. I ate lots and all kinds of variety and whenever I was hungry. And, guess what?
2 weeks postpartum, when I weighed myself, I had lost 40 pounds. 40 pounds from the weight I was the day before Theo was born.
And this was amidst eating freely, no restrictions, and no stress. Not bingeing, but not counting. Just living. Feeding and taking care of my baby.
Again, the Lord was trying to teach me that body knows what it’s doing. It didn’t hold on to the pregnancy weight because it didn’t need to. My rapidly increasing appetite knew what it needed to fuel my postpartum body and milk supply without eating in excess. Ahhhh. Freedom!
And, this freedom would have still been the case, and what was needed, if I didn’t lose that kind of weight. The weight loss was just one additional way God showed me how much I can trust His ways and His plans.
1 Timothy 2:15 says that “women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” This has been my experience in more ways than one. Spending my days looking after my beautiful baby boy who depends completely on me for survival has shown me just how much I’m called to depend on my Heavenly Father completely for survival: not on diets or a certain body type. Not bowing to the idols of vanity, self, and pride.
Now, just about 4 months postpartum, I’ve continued to walk in this freedom, not letting the still-small voices convince me to starve myself. I’m eating when I’m hungry. Not eating when I’m not. Not overthinking it. Fuelling my body and honouring the extra hunger that’s there because my body is literally providing another human’s entire food intake. I find I’m more physically active throughout the day as a stay-at-home mom than I was with a 9-5 desk job. I also take a 60-90-minute walk most days of the week with Theo while he naps in the stroller. At the advice of my practitioners, I held off on working out until very recently, and I’ve been enjoying easing back into it with calisthenics and stretching.
Most weekdays are spent at home, taking care of the house and Theo, studying God’s Word and spending time in prayer. It’s A LOT busier than I expected, taking care of a baby, and so food really just needs to fit where it can. I find I don’t have much time for more than 3 meals, and so when I’m preparing food, I’m a lot more conscious of making the meal satiating, whereas I used to skimp on all my portions. This helps a ton with avoiding obsessing about food and portions and just. simply. eating.
So, yeah. There’s a lot of healing that happens when you a) are completely in charge of keeping another human alive and b) you realize that you want to model for that human the importance of taking care of themselves and eating properly.
Have you found postpartum healing in terms of body image, or harmful? I would love to hear about your experience in the comments below!