This essay is a part of Verily magazine’s ongoing series Making of a Mom.
I stood in the hospital bathroom and examined myself in the mirror for the first time since giving birth: My greasy hair was pulled into a makeshift bun. I had new bags under my eyes, the circles so dark they looked like bruises. My stomach was a deflated kickball, revealing stretch marks I hadn’t realized were there. My flesh spilled out of the mesh underwear a nurse had lined with a frozen pad and then helped me step into. (If I had any sense of privacy left after giving birth, that moment forced me to release it.)
I had never been so tired in my life—my legs shook with the effort of standing, and my limbs felt as though they were filled with sand.
And yet, when I looked in the mirror, what I felt was not disgust or shame or a desire to fix myself.
What I felt was a deep sense of admiration.
Before I became a mother, I had never been particularly connected to my body. I thought of my body as a possession, something I could control and subdue. Add in a personality bent on achieving perfection, and the result was plain cruelty.
I believed my body was most worthy at its smallest, and everything I did was to serve that goal. From middle school on, I lived in a constant state of food restriction. I overexercised, “earned” what I ate, punished myself when I binged, and for a while, had a full-blown eating disorder. I tried on my smallest pair of jeans daily, pinching my flesh in punishment and shame when they got a little too tight.
And then I got pregnant.
For the first time in my life, the choices I made about food and exercise weren’t just about me—my baby would be directly impacted by everything I did. Restricting myself could have dire consequences for the baby during pregnancy, not to mention after she was born. I knew I didn’t want to pass on my disordered eating to my daughter, and trying to hide it from her wouldn’t be enough. I needed to get healthy for both of us.
Before getting pregnant, I would have rolled my eyes at anyone who told me to listen to my body. But during pregnancy, my body discovered its voice—and it would not be ignored.
To read the rest of this essay, head over to Verily!
If you liked this essay, you’ll love my new book, Expecting Wonder: The Transformative Experience of Becoming a Mother.