The Juggle: Pregnancy Weight Gain & Mental Health
I looked at myself in the mirror and felt happy, beautiful, desirable and with a lot of energy, so it came as a total shock when I saw a photograph of myself and saw someone unrecognisable.
My first birth experience was remarkable, quick and beautiful. Not that there’s ever an easy birth, but I remember it as something easy that I accepted I would be able to do over and over again. It was a life-changing experience, in a way that truly stuck with me as I ended up having five children in the five consecutive years!
After the adrenaline of my first birth concluded, I realised that it would take years to reverse the changes that my body had gone through. At the time I could only see one thing, a belly that had once been home to a growing baby was now a reminder of a new version of myself I wasn't fully prepared for.
I used to joke and say I kept becoming pregnant just for the sake of camouflaging those extra pounds. Obviously, anybody who knows me well would know that my husband and I decided on our third date that we wanted to have six children, and we were incredibly blessed to be able to conceive so easily. A moment I remember so vividly was when a neighbour stopped me in the street, six months after having my fifth baby, and congratulated me for the great news, "the impending birth…" they said.
I went home and cried all evening, unable to reconcile the way I saw myself years ago and how my body had changed after so many years of consistent pregnancies. Neither the kindest words from my husband, who always saw me as the goddess of beauty or my parents' comforting words that it all “goes back into place” could help me recover from that lack of self-worth I felt then.
I was left feeling ugly as if my body would have been the only thing that granted me any type of status in society. In a way, being pregnant excused my weight gain and helped to mask the insecurities I had about my new mum body. Not being pregnant made the reality of feeling considered 'fat' and insecure about appearance very painfully real. I was shockingly brutal to myself and to this day, the feeling accompanies me even despite nearly being back to the size I had before having my first child. The psychological scarring remains there and notwithstanding the fact that it is completely unjustified, we do continue to warrant bad thoughts against ourselves when we should be respecting the journey we're going through.
Much of what we read nowadays is an ode to feeling good about yourself, being comfortable in your body and wearing the clothes that you feel like wearing. We applaud womanhood in every shape and form, being true to yourself and loving who you are is the first step. Words cannot describe how wonderful it is to see that shift in the social paradigm, the images I see today I find genuinely beautiful regardless of shape or size, in a way I subconsciously looked forward to being a smaller size and dreamt of wearing a bikini. Weight loss was a dreaded experiment during the years that followed my fifth birth.