My body and I have never had a great relationship. Years of getting picked on for being overweight and struggling to manage chronic physical and mental illnesses often made it feel like my body and I were mortal enemies. The idea of loving my body was laughable. My weight loss and subsequent pregnancy are really what made me start to appreciate my body, not for its looks or even its abilities, but for its resilience and strength.
Growing up my weight was a point of amusement or contention with family members, my peers, and even one particular high school teacher. The younger antagonists got straight to the point, calling me Fat Girl Around the World (whatever that means), Thunder Thighs, or just old-fashioned “fat.” My adult bullies were more subtle: pointing out the extra time/money spent on finding/making something to fit me, or encouraging me to cover up some part of my body that was “not [my] best feature” so as not to offend judgey strangers.
I continued to gain weight pretty consistently from middle school through post-college. Some of that weight gain was caused by depression and emotional eating, but much of it toward the end was that weight you gain when you’re in a happy relationship and go out to eat or stay in and order a lot of take-out. This was compounded by my baking obsession and lack of self-control around baked goods sitting on my counter. Eventually I got up to 250 lbs and my doctor very nicely told me she was concerned about my weight.
Over the course of 3 years I managed to lose 80 lbs with good old-fashioned diet and exercise. I started working out in my living room because I was too embarrassed to work out in front of other people, but after losing the first 15 lbs I gained more confidence and wasn’t as worried about potential spectators at the gym. Initially my goal was to lose weight for my wedding, but after Tom and I got married the goal transitioned into wanting to have a healthy pregnancy.
I saw a direct correlation between the weight loss and managing my Fibromyalgia. There were still days where the pain would require me to take it easy, and it often felt like it would take me longer to recover between workouts than it should, but eventually my body got used to the regular physical stress, and even began to rely on it. And while the regular exercise helped me to feel somewhat better in my day to day, I was still forced to address physical symptoms that were consistently impacting my ability to exercise.
For months on and off I went to doctors appointments and underwent tests in an attempt to resolve first my near-constant nausea, heart palpitations, and my ever-present sleep issues. It was frustrating and embarrassing going seeing specialist after specialist only to be told they didn’t know what was wrong with me. It wasn’t until I started having regular panic attacks at work that I began to understand that these symptoms weren’t related to some rare illness, but actually the physical manifestation of my unresolved trauma issues. I had been ignoring the signs from my brain for so long that my body started crying out for help.
After a couple of years of various forms of therapy, the physical ailments started to subside and I was able to gain some control over my persistent panic attacks. And now that I understood that my body was only trying to help me, not play tricks on me, I started listening to it more closely when it wasn’t feeling normal, taking into account the current stressors in my life.
A couple of months after I was in a good place mentally and physically, almost exactly 2 years after Tom and I got married, I got pregnant. We were thrilled! We found out at the beginning of June and for a couple of weeks we started to think about what our lives would be like as parents living in Natick. By the beginning of July we were making plans to move to Ireland.
Despite the stressors of moving to a new country on top of preparing for our first baby I’ve had no new mysterious physical ailments, and that has really made me appreciate my body. I’ve had rough days trying to adjust to my new life in Dublin but I was able to recognize my patterns and make some changes to help myself feel better. My body adapted to the baby growing inside of me. Pregnancy symptoms came up, and when they did, I managed them. A couple of years ago I never would have been able to manage the mental or physical stress this move and pregnancy caused without feeling completely sick or miserable most of the time. Now I can see that over the course of my journeys through weight loss and getting a handle on my PTSD, I’ve developed resilience. My body has displayed resilience in its ability to feel and perform better as I continued to lose weight, and adapt to all of the body changes pregnancy throws at you. My brain has learned this mental skill of resilience that was crucial in being able to work through my trauma, and manage each obstacle that presented itself leading up to, moving to, and getting settled in Dublin without any mysterious physical symptoms. This skill will surely come in handy, and be tested essentially every day once Tom and I become parents.
I know that even after I go through labor, my postpartum body will never be the same as it was before pregnancy. It may take a long time for my body to get back to being as in-shape as I was before getting pregnant (if it ever does). Despite that, I will still appreciate how resilient my body is, physically and mentally. This body that will have brought life into the world, as cliche as that sounds.