Some of you know that I gained about more than 70 pounds after I got pregnant, mostly due to my prenatal depression. I had spent some time losing weight in 2011, 2012 and 2013. I was at my high school weight in March of 2013. It was hard work, but I did it.
145. It felt great to be there.
My weight slowly climbed upward as I was less rigorous about my diet. I got injured and had to take some time off from running, which didn’t help. Running was a great stress reliever for me – something I really enjoyed…and it helped keep off the pounds when I would go out with friends or share a bottle of wine with neighbors. In 2014 I started training for the Marine Corps Marathon and gained about 10 or 15 pounds as I was eating everything in sight.
So when we discovered that I was pregnant, I was already about 15 pounds heavier than I wanted to be. As morning sickness (or really, all afternoon and evening sickness) set in, I lost a bit. I did OK for the first couple of months. But prenatal depression killed my energy. At the time I thought it was just pregnancy, but it progressed into the second and then third trimester. Not only that, I was eating my feelings. Some people fail to eat when they are depressed…but I eat. Even with my shrinking stomach, I ate pastas, muffins, “second breakfasts”, cakes and anything carb related. For those who know me – it was strange behavior. I can’t stand pastas and rarely eat carbs outside of chocolate cake (which I also don’t eat that frequently).
My OBGYN broached the subject of my weight around 18 weeks. I told her I would work on it and for about four weeks, I kept my weight gain down to 1 pound a week.
I was miserable.
I was hungry all the time and wanted to eat even if I wasn’t hungry.
As the pregnancy progressed, my master’s program became more taxing and my depression deepened. I was huge. I was driving to the campus almost every night to meet with my group and grabbing something from the student union to shove down my pie hole as quickly as I could. The week before I was induced, I clocked in at a whopping 223 pounds. I was horrified but didn’t know what else to do.
I was fat, bloated, tired, had a killer case of acid reflux and was miserable. For the last month, I was eating nothing but Panera mac and cheese and Corn Chex. Corn Chex…all the time.
Seriously. It was Corn Chex. ALL. The. Time. My husband would go to the store and buy about seven boxes. They lasted a week.
People would tell me that I looked good, or that I was just gaining weight because of the pregnancy, but that made me feel worse. I knew that I was gaining way more weight than I was supposed to – but I was powerless to stop it in the face of depression. My face, shoulders, chest and back were puffed with excess fat.
Then I gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
My friends had warned me not to weigh myself immediately. I did. 217 pounds. Holy shit, I thought! How am I going to lose all of this weight??
That was 72 pounds to lose to get back to my high school weight. Dear god. Plus I was ravenous from the breastfeeding.
I hit the streets for walks with the Little Buddy, 3 days after coming home, 9 days after having major abdominal surgery. I slowed and turned back when my incision bothered me, but the truth was that that was rare. I asked my mom to buy me some large shirts and pants to wear, because nothing fit me. My maternity clothing was more office appropriate and I just wanted something soft and big.
12 days after the c-section, the water weight sweated out of me. For 3 nights, I woke up drenched from the night sweats. On the fourth morning, I gingerly walked to the scale and saw that I was down to 206.
Day after day, I continued to trudge through the heat and humidity of the swampy Virginia summer. I would put on my maternity clothing while looking at my old clothing, longingly.
Because I always deflect with humor, I joked with people that I was getting my money’s worth of that maternity clothing. I truly did. Some of the pieces shredded over time. I threw out tank tops, slacks and t-shirts as they split around the seams from overuse and (over)weight.
I found myself plateauing at a chubby 180. I had started slowly running. Recovered from postpartum depression, I was now finding the energy to hit the gym. I dieted, cutting out wine and ratcheting back my caloric intake.
I moved into two pairs of my normal jeans. Nothing else fit. Some of my shirts were starting to fit, if I didn’t mind the awful muffin top. But worst of all was (and is) my stomach.
And I’m not talking about my c-section scar…that barely left a mark. I’m talking about stretch marks.
Huge stretch marks scrawled downward, like claw marks from a panther. My belly hung like an deflated balloon. I know that lots of women write essays about how pregnancy wrecked their bodies and that they’re zen with it…but I’m not. Frankly I think they’re full of crap. My body’s a wreck and I hate that fact. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t gained so much weight. Maybe my body will look better as I continue my weight loss journey, but my dermatologist assures me the stretch marks will still be pretty prominent.
I wish I could say, “Oh I love my mom body! Each of these scars is a badge of honor! My baby makes it worth it!”
But that’s not reality. The two aren’t linked, or even related. My love for my baby has nothing to do with the hate for what my body has become. Because we’re complex beings, I can say that I hate my stomach without “my stomach” being a proxy for my relationship with my baby boy. Pregnancy can be the best thing that ever happened to me because it produced my little guy…and it can also be the worst thing that ever happened to me because it took my figure, was a miserable experience and gave me crippling depression. None of these statements mean that I love my kid any less (now that I’ve conquered perinatal depression).
We can also sit here and talk about how that’s superficial or make some shitty comments about how “beauty comes from within”, but at the end of the day, feeling slim or athletic or in shape means something to me. I feel better when I look good and feel healthy. I feel impressive when I put on my size 6 power suit. I’m not shallow if I acknowledge that looking my best helps my self-esteem.
It’s so hard to see those saggy scars as I look at my belly in the mirror. I feel pained when I look down and see numbers on the scale that I never thought I’d see. I choke back tears when I open my closet and realize that I can’t fit into 95% of my beautiful clothing. It makes me angry as I pull out the same tired shirt, pants and vest (to camouflage my heavier torso) to wear when we go out on a date…because nothing else fits. I stare longingly at my dusty wedding ring which has been resting in my jewelry bowl because it’s been too small since I was five months pregnant.
Why did I do this to myself, my poor brain asks, why didn’t I exercise or watch what I was eating?
Oh yeah, it pipes up, thanks…depression.
I’m starting at a new gym, where we made the decision to invest some of our money into personal training for me. I’m excited and hopeful that while I took off the first 43 pounds, they can help me take off the next 30 in four or five months. Maybe it will help me with my new found body issues…or maybe it won’t.
But as I’ve discovered with all of this motherhood stuff…it’s OK if I’m not OK with it.