Since August 2005, I have spent:
- 2 years, 6 months being pregnant
- 1 year, 10 months breast-feeding
That’s a total of 4 years and 4 months where my body has been responsible for providing nutrition for itself and another person.
Its hard to be that responsible without having a crutch to lean on. My crutch has been food. Crunchy food to keep me company; white food to soothe nausea; nibble food to cure boredom; starchy food to satiate a ravenous breast-feeding appetite, and sweet food to keep me going when naps just aren’t on the menu.
Total weight gained during pregnancies: 47 kilos total (average 16 kilos per baby)
My attitude has been that the whole child-rearing thing would be better for everyone if I relaxed on the food front (and by consequence, the weight front). The boys could have a party, do their thing, and I would clean up the mess afterwards. Pregnancy involves a series of body-related indignities – if I can handle a team of medical staff examining my perineal area as a child is pushed into the world, I can put up with a little extra fat. Fat for purpose.
This all sounds very neat and tidy. Neat and tidy, it is not. Throughout this time, I still wrestled with my appetite, weight gain and self-image just as I always had. I avoided mirrors and being in photographs, sang along to the hymn book of elasticised clothing and tried not to socialise with new people. If I met someone, I would always have on the tip of my tongue “I’m not usually this fat/plump/rotund”. The result: we have a billion photos of our children as they grow up, but only a handful of the woman behind the camera. And she is wearing the same stretchy, stripy top in every one of them.
I took photos the day I packed up my ‘normal’ clothes: the moment felt heavy, much like my swollen frame. I would never fit into them again, but at least I had a picture – a tiny time capsule that I could dig up and say to my kids “Back in 2005, would you believe I was a size 8/10?”
When I was in labour with Boy 1, all I could think about was being split into two. “PLEASE Body, please don’t break …” In my head, I could hear Johnny Cash singing “Ring of Fire”: this is what it felt like as his head was pushed through my body, a burning ring of fire somewhere up inside me. My insides would become my outsides, and I would be forever broken. If I let myself go, I would be gone for good.
Clearly, I didn’t break, as I went back to do it again 2 more times (although nature had different plans for Boy 2, who made his own way out via emergency Caesarian section). And now as my body takes a well-earned hiatus from baby making, I have begun my bodily tidy up. No longer breast-feeding boy 3, I am free to diet. And so I am. Dieting.
I have never been good at dieting. I am better at budgeting with money than calories (and even then, not-so-much …), so I have put my money where my mouth is. For the last 4 weeks I have been on a healthy eating plan whereby my lunch and dinners are planned, prepared and delivered to my porch once a week in a GIGANTIC polystyrene esky. Nothing screams fatty pants like THE WORLD’S MOST CONSPICUOUS FOOD RECEPTACLE. With this expensive, Husband-Approved venture into weight loss, I am on my Best Behaviour, and kinda sorta sticking with the food the Big Ass Diet Company is providing me.
I have lost some weight and am back into my normal jeans – not my thin person jeans, but jeans that button, as opposed to maternity jeans which are bulky and uncomfortable. I’m about halfway to normal, healthy Karen weight. It’s time to assess the damage of our half-decade long party. Everything is a little looser. My boobs are remarkably, surprisingly, the smallest they have been since I was 13: party balloons that have lost their fullness. I am also discovering the things that have broken and been hidden under the rug: varicose veins are emerging; Left Boob is bigger than Right Boob (!?!); I have one chin hair (this is so remarkable, I almost want to name it and keep it as a pet – I am a famously unhairy person).
(Boy 2, I must have words with you about my rib cage, which now sticks out in a distinct point on my right side, as if a new limb or perhaps a horn is about to sprout. Your head did this, my breech little nugget. I’ll thank you to be more courteous of your hostess in future.)
Yesterday was weigh day. This is where the numbers become irrelevent. My body is changing, but more significantly, so too is my mind. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see the faults that I used to see. I see a woman at peace. She is a little tired, stretched, scarred, wonky. She is certainly no beauty queen. But she is soft. Her skin is soft, soft to little boy hands as she buckles them into their car seats. Her arms are soft as she cradles Boy 3 after a feed. Her hair is the same colour as her mum’s – the same colour as her 2 big brothers – as she is no longer dying it Shocking Auburn. Its natural, and she no longer has to dye it to hide her roots.
I have not felt more at peace with my body since I was a child. I feel like the woman I was made to become. I don’t know that I would have found her if I didn’t let myself go.