During a recent IM conversation (as in a few seconds ago), a friend said my comments seems fatphobic. I was talking about how I perceive my body currently. You see, prior to pregnancy, I was what my doctor would call “a healthy body weight”. I wore a size 5-6 jeans, which American culture deems an “appropriate” size. I dressed in revealing costumes, such as Black Canary, Queen Gorgo, Fire Faerie or wore full spandex outfits, such as Batwoman. I prided myself on being proud of my body because it was “right”.
After my wedding and honeymoon, I gained 30 lbs in what seemed like an over-night period of time. I had a bad lupus flare-up and couldn’t go to the gym or do much that involved going outside, really. When my clothes stopped fitting well, and I told him — “Hey, I’ve gained a lot of weight”, we thought one of two things: 1) I was having complications due to lupus and needed to get to a specialist the next day or 2) I was pregnant, which wasn’t supposed to be possible. He ran out and got a pregnancy test, always the optimist. A few minutes later, a plus sign. We were pregnant. A miracle.
Throughout my pregnancy, from that point, my weight gain was normal. It is expected you’ll gain around 25-40 lbs. I was within that amount. If you didn’t count the 30 lbs I gained prior to knowing I was pregnant.
I saw my ob/gyn, my GP. I asked them why I was gaining weight. I mean, I was on bed rest, restricted from exercise, but I was eating healthier and far less than normal. I also suffered from pretty severe “morning” sickness. Both told me that my abnormally high progesterone levels caused my normally hyperactive thyroid to go inactive. Unfortunately, neither felt the medicine required to help jump-start the little bugger would be safe for me to take while pregnancy, especially since they both know how I feel about taking pills. (Hell, I fought and fought about pre-natals. I dislike non-homeopathic medicine.) When I begged them to give me a solution, like letting me exercise or diet — they both told me my body knew what was best for my baby. They warned me that if I took my medical care into my own hands, there could be repercussions. So, I continued to eat right, walk as much as possible and hide from all mirrors. I covered my body in large dresses and jackets or scarves. I avoided photography. When people would post pictures of me on facebook, I’d delete them, as though that would invalidate them or make them “less real”.
I saw a baby book of photography at my ob/gyn’s office. It was filled with these adorable photos of little babies, most were less than a week old, and it helped Ryan and I realize we wanted to do some new born photography with Ellie. We emailed the photographer and tentatively set-up a date. She also said she would be able to give us a discounted maternity shoot, as well. I hadn’t thought of doing any maternity photography. I mean, I had only taken three real belly photos and they were cropped in a way that most of my body was hidden — the only way I was able to deal with posting any pregnancy photos. The more we thought about it, especially how much of a miracle Ellie is, the more we felt we should document this occasion and my pregnancy. So, I set up a date. And then was sick for that date. So, I set up another date. And missed that date. And another and another. I somehow subconsciously orchestrated reasons to not go to this scheduled photoshoot. I was too sick, too busy, too puffy, too this, too that.
Abby contacted me again and scheduled a shoot for Friday, November 11th. I’d been dealing with contractions, although not bad enough to expect labor right away, as well as my mucus plug already saying “Ciao!” to us. I knew — it’s either now or, potentially, never. It’s not like I can call a redo on this moment after I have Ellie. So, I picked out an outfit, put a little powder on my face, got my nails done and trekked out in the 35 degree weather to do our maternity photoshoot in Liberty Hills. I knew I wasn’t going to like what was represented on film, but I convinced myself it would be fine.
After the shoot, I stayed positive. Ryan told me I looked beautiful and my Ellie Belly looked beautiful, too. The photographer said we were a beautiful couple and complimented me on my ease in front of the camera. (Yay cosplay!)
She told us to expect a few photos to go on her blog today. And so, I checked it out. And there they were.
And there I was.
And…there I was.
I had to repeat that to myself. Over and over again. This is what I look like. That is me. What I saw staring back at me seemed like a stranger. I didn’t recognize that girl. And I thought to myself, “God, she’s fat. She’s ugly.”
And I kept thinking that over and over again. And this shame washed over me, like I was bad. I was wrong. Who would want to look at these photos? Everyone would judge me and think I was lazy, eating poorly, disgusting.
I was having trouble dealing with these emotions and the thought that ANYONE could see these photos. I mean, they were posted on a public blog. I talked to one of my oldest friends and she made the accurate statement that my comments seemed very “fatphobic”. And they did. They were. They are.
I’ve always considered myself an open person. I’m open to different people, different circumstances. I’ve never chosen a friend over something superficial, like weight. But, I’ve also always given “excuses” for their weight. This person is supposed to look this way — they do everything “right” but still look this way, etc. I would reason in my head why my friends were “allowed” to be zaftig. I would never just let them be. There always had to be a justification.
Why does weight matter to me so much?
It all stems from my own perception issues.
I was a heavier kid. My family was full of tall, thin people. I was surrounded by beautiful aunts, cousins, second cousins. I was raised to believe that thin was the right way to be. If you’re not thin, something is wrong. You must work at being thin by dieting and exercising. My mother was heavier than the rest of her sisters and was constantly judged because of this. When she reached over 300 lbs or so, due to an inactive thyroid, combined with some bad eating habits, I never thought she was anything but beautiful. Everyone else would call her disgusting or ugly. I never saw it, though. And, as if my perception was grossly inappropriate, people tried to force their opinion on me. “Your mother needs to change,” or “You never want to be that fat, because it’s ugly.” Now, I agree that obesity is unhealthy. But, people would rarely talk about her health concerns. It was always about aesthetics. How she looked, not how her health was doing. Eventually, my mother went through a medical procedure of having her stomach stapled that would almost end her life. At least three times, I remember being in the hospital and the doctor telling us she may not make it. Once, they were ready to read last rites. But, she wanted to be thin. And it came at a price. That was the first time I’d learn a lesson about being thin at any and all cost.
While growing up, I was compared to other people. “She’s a size zero, doesn’t she look nice?” “You’d look so cute in that outfit, if you could fit into it.” Even my mother would say things to me about what I could and could not wear. She would take me clothing shopping and tell me not to look at certain things because girls like me could never wear those things. Funny, though, I never once questioned why she was allowed to judge me. I just thought that I wished I could be one of those girls. The girls who could wear those things.
Even after my mom experienced being “heavy” and the unfair treatment she received, once she lost the weight, she continued to perpetuate this idea that skinny was right and that being fat meant you were wrong. She told me I, “need to drop my baby weight, so people will think I’m pretty.” She would say, “At least you have a pretty face.”
Baby weight was a term I got very familiar with. “She still has her baby weight,” my grandmother would tell people, in order to justify my extra weight. I heard this term constantly through most of my young life and into high school. Baby weight. Baby weight was the justification for why I wasn’t thin, like I should be.
I remember two instances, involving uncles, that stuck with me as I got older. To preface, people didn’t call me pretty very often. I can’t recall being called pretty at all, although I’m guessing it happened. They called me smart, funny, interesting. Not pretty, though. I guess, maybe, that should matter. I’d rather be smart, funny and interesting, but…the grass is always greener. When I was young, likely 8 or so, I was at my uncle’s house. He was always particularly mean to me. I never knew why, but when I was older, he apologized for his actions. That being said, this one day really stuck with me. I was playing and joking, per usual. I ran into the kitchen to get a drink and he yelled at me. He told me I was too fat to get anything else from the kitchen. He put me in the corner and told me to stand there until I learned my lesson. I can’t recall how long I had to stand there. In kid time, it was years. I do remember running into my grandmother’s arm when she finally came to get me and asking never to have to go there again, which she obliged. Another instance was after my prom. My uncle was visiting and Nanny gave him a picture of me in my prom dress. He looked at it and said, “Wow, Beth, you really look kind of pretty in this picture.” It was the first time he’d ever said anything like that to me. I remember this feeling of validation that washed over me. I looked kind of pretty. Me. This same uncle would make fun of my weight when I was younger, so this was a small victory.
When I got old enough to take control, I promised myself I would always be in shape. I became obsessed with looking “pretty”. And, in my mind, pretty meant thin. I exercised daily. I took different diet pills that I would later learn were fairly unhealthy (and somewhat illegal). I was losing weight, but not fast enough. I starved myself, purged what I’d eat. I just wanted to be thin at any cost.
Once I reached 19 or so, my weight started to regulate. By the time I was 21, my metabolism shifted and I could eat what I wanted without penalty. This stayed with me until this pregnancy, really. My weight would fluctuate by 5-10 pounds, but the doctor said, for me, that was normal. I have a lot of internal issues from my illnesses that cause water weight, digestive issues, etc.
So, as one can imagine, this pregnancy and weight gain has triggered a lot of emotional and psychological baggage. This pregnancy and weight gain brought back this old trauma that I buried because it no longer mattered. I had won. I was skinny.
And with everything going on, I still haven’t truly been able to cope or deal with it — other than recognizing what it is I’m feeling and why I’m feeling it. Recognizing that I had this prejudice, this fatphobia, but that it had nothing to do with others and only had to do with myself.
I know, if I work at it, I can lose 8 pounds a month. And do it in a healthy manner. Eat right, exercise. Eat right, exercise. Lather, rinse, repeat. But, my biggest concern is…will it fix this problem? Or will it be another band-aid. I’m pretty again. Things are fine.
As I work on losing this pregnancy weight, I will need to work on my body issues and my perception issues. And really work on them. Not just get to a happy place because I’m “skinny”, but get to a place where I find myself beautiful no matter what I look like.
In the meantime, at least I can just call this “baby weight” again.