That prams and art are not mutually exclusive.

Letting Myself Go

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.

22 Responses to “Letting Myself Go”

  1. Lauren

    Oh my gosh Karen, this is wonderful. Ok so you have three babies, so what is my excuse for those extra kilos? Ha ha. Love the blog, can’t wait to read more!

    • karencharlton

      Thanks for visiting Lauren. We are all our own worst critics – you’re gorgeous!! I’m sure Mr Lauren doesn’t have a problem with your body. And none of your friends would see the faults that you see. Women are far too hard on themselves, and the best thing cure for my own ‘fat goggles’ was to have some babies. xo

  2. Sarah Prout

    Karen, I love it! Oh boy, you had me laughing out loud. Especially at “Nothing screams fatty pants like THE WORLD’S MOST CONSPICUOUS FOOD RECEPTACLE.”

    This blog post should be in a magazine. Women everywhere would identify with what you’re saying. I know I did. Especially with the boob, chin and ‘exit area’.

    Can’t wait to read more!

    • karencharlton

      Thanks Miss Sarah, you have blazed a trail for me and now I am Hansel and Gretel trying to follow the cookie crumbs through the forest. Glad I made you laugh. xo

  3. Georgia

    Hi Karen,
    What a beautiful piece of writing about your journey into motherhood. Have you considered submitting to Melbourne’s child? I think so many other woman would enjoy & see themselves in your story.
    As you said to Lauren above- I don’t think too many of our other halves see or care about our wobbly bits when faced with the very rare opportunity of a naked woman or some action!
    Good luck!

    Good luck

    • karencharlton

      Thank you Georgia, your comment made me cry just a little bit (mainly because you’re the first person to comment who isn’t already a friend). It is a truly scary journey, but I am a better me for having had the guts (girl guts) to jump in and swim for dear life!! Please visit me in blogland again. I am still figuring it out, but have heaps more blog entry ideas in my head. This is very much ‘to be continued …’

  4. keepcatebusy (Cate)

    That’s one *beautiful* post!!!! (Can I put enough exclamation points after that?).
    And I can relate to the ribs/breech baby thing. But I’m sure about the adding up total kg gained thing (me: 81kg…holy crap, let’s never mention this again)
    have a great weekend

  5. life in a pink fibro

    Love this. I think the pregnancy and birth change the relationship every woman has with her body. It’s like accepting that you’re no longer 18 and dancing every night. You’re more at home on the couch with a DVD. Sad, but inevitable. Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro!

  6. MultipleMum

    I totally relate to this post, only I *also* have ‘twin skin’! I wrote a post about it sometime last year (if I were a better blogger I would whip the url in here). If I were to add up my total weight gain for my pregnancies it is 69kg! Given that I actually weigh less than I did before I had kids (but am still overweight, sigh) I reckon I should be a bit nicer to myself! I can see why this would be your top post for 2010. It is a ripper x

    • the rhythm method

      I will look it up. You SHOULD be nicer to yourself. I was always my own worst critic. The best thing I have ever done is cut myself some slack – in many ways, it makes losing weight easier because its no longer such a heated topic. Take the sting out of it – all the emotional crap – and then its just a matter of input vs. output.
      Thanks for the comments ladies!! 🙂

  7. Tenille @ Help!Mum

    I identify so much with this post; the changes that pregnancy and breastfeeding leave on your body are significant, but they mean something. And by the time you realise they’re there, you have more important things to worry about. Found you via the Fibro, and glad I did 🙂

  8. Suzie G

    😀 Ring of Fire… I have a childless friend (who does want kids, just not for another 2 years) who is always asking about pregnancy and childbirth. I don’t think I will share that one with her, as I think it might scare her right off it. But how true!!
    And don’t kids just suck the life right out of you – why oh why do boobs have to shrink so? They are nice while pregnant, even better while breastfeeding, then ZAM, there they go again…

    • the rhythm method

      True. My boobs were always like fruit – plump. I didn’t always like that, particularly as I got them when I was 11 and was not ready to let go of being a kid. But now they are more like sultanas, and I miss the plump boobs of old. Grass is greener, right?

  9. Stacia

    “And she is wearing the same stretchy, stripy top in every one of them.” Yes! But your stretchy top is my pair of gray pants. I really should pack up all my “thin-person” stuff and just let it go already, but I’m not quite there. Though, like you, I am grateful for all that my wonky bits and chin hairs helped me accomplish. =>

  10. Rhiannon

    Hello! This is such a great post… I’m just about at the end of my breastfeeding journey with my #2 (I think..) which means I am about to face the reality of saggy boobs again, and I have quite a few kgs to lose.. but we are also thinking of trying for a third baby, and so maybe I can delay all of this for another few years , phew! eeek! … I love your tally at the start of this post, but I don’t think I am ready to finalise my own tally yet. 🙂 I’m a new follower xx

  11. Siobhan

    Hi Karen – found this blog from the one that was posted on Mamamia!

    This entry is hilarious and heartwarming at the same time. The way you ended this story was so beautiful… “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.”

    It sent shivers down my spine! I am yet to have any babies but I can tell you that this has made me start to leave behind my young superficial thoughts and realise the amazing things that women’s bodies are capable of!!


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