I had a mini realisation today.
I always struggle to manage my weight (and subsequently a healthy sense of my own body image) in the year or so after having my babies.
I know – revelatory right?!
(Quietly face-palms at own genius.)
But it’s true.
Like many women, I still wrestle with my feelings towards my body size, which fluctuates depending on so many different factors.
Post-pregnancy I am keenly aware that when – a year or so on – I am still on the larger end of my weight continuum, I have a much bigger battle on my hands, to resist feeling ashamed about it.
I have been through five pregnancies in eight years, although the fourth sadly only made it to the 19 week mark, with our most recent child born just over a year ago – and each one has made my body work hard to fulfil that beautiful calling of mother.
This is not something to be cast aside lightly – it is major work, and my body has been put through its paces in full. I have grown, nourished and birthed five human beings. I have surrendered my body for the blessing and serving of ones who needed me utterly, therefore any remaining scars or squashy bits, are testimonies of the love I have given.
I have gained and lost weight during pregnancy and delivery, however I tend to forget how, in the following year or two – depending especially on how long I breastfeed – I am more likely to get fatter rather than thinner.
I always struggle to manage my weight (and subsequently a healthy sense of my own body image) in the year or so following having a baby. But things are seasonal -and this is ok.Tweet
Kindness to yourself isn’t giving up.
This is for a variety of reasons – hormones climbing and dropping as my body gets used to no longer being pregnant. Exhaustion from consistently bad sleep and low energy levels. Said exhaustion meaning that I am more likely to reach for high carb, high sugar foods, in order to try to substitute the energy I lack.
This past year, the fact of the global Covid-19 pandemic with it’s many practical restrictions, has taken a bigger impact on my mental and emotional health.
The practical challenges of being stuck at home in lockdown with a newborn baby, two children with special needs and a bright, neuro-typical eldest daughter – all four of whom I am home-educating – has taken an additional toll.
Our first UK lockdown hit us around the three month mark post delivery, just at the time when the initial overwhelm of another child had begun to level off and I was ready to start a gentle return to pilates and dance classes. This has all added to the lack of impetus or opportunity to do the kind of exercise I really enjoy and am motivated for – i.e. in a class with other, physically-present people.
I am still breastfeeding on demand, which means that my body remains in a kind of ‘pregnancy and postpartum phase’, and is not able or ready to respond to exercise and weight loss, as it would if I had already stopped.
And we are currently back in lockdown, it is still wintry, wet and dreary, and I miss being with people.
Subsequently, I am the heaviest I have been in the past two years, but due to the above, our continued difficult sleep patterns, and the extended needs of my other children, I am simply too exhausted to galvanise myself to do much about it.
Can you relate to this too?
But here is the thing.
Does it even matter all that much right now?
No. I don’t think it really does, because I am alive and loved, my husband, children and Heavenly Father call me beautiful.
And I don’t need to buy into the instant-fix culture we live in, which insists that everything worth having should be fun, fast and easy (thanks Brené for that one!), and which still body-shames people, especially women, when we don’t live up to a ‘socially acceptable’ standards of beauty.
Instead, perhaps I extend grace to myself – acknowledging my struggles with my self-image and the varying fit of my clothes right now, own my weakness and ask for help to see myself how God sees me. With kindness and understanding, and no less love and delight.
This is a season where I cannot ‘push myself harder’.
I want to look after my body better, I want to exercise and enjoy it again, and I would like to be slightly lighter – but given all my current limitations, I don’t have the energy to force myself to conform to some standard I don’t even want to live by.
And I won’t succeed if shame and self-loathing are the methods I use.
What I do want to do is learn to love myself better, then like a flower opening to the warmth and light of the sun – relaxed and willing – I will be more able to love myself actively, with better care and attention to my food, rest and movement.
The season where I have more impetus, will come again. Then I will be ready to seize the energy and focus I need, to respond from a place of self-care.
Because after all, it’s about being fit-for-purpose.
How I look, is really only a helpful gauge if I am looking at myself through the right lens. Because if beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I need the eyes of the one who loves me best, and through his heavenly eyes, I will begin to see and value myself truly.
Child-bearing is major work, my body has been put through its paces in full.Tweet
I have grown, nourished and birthed human beings, surrendering my body for the blessing and serving of one who needed me utterly.
Any scars or squashy bits I now have, are testimonies of love.