Birth, Body-image, Self-love and Sisterhood

I have always had a complex relationship with body. I am a very happy and confident person, but also one that suffers with anxiety. I’m not going to get into it properly (that’s another post for another time!), but this all culminated in me becoming anorexic 4 years ago when I was 19, at the end of my 1st year at uni.

They say 1/3 of sufferers live with the illness forever, 1/3 get completely better, and shockingly, for 1/3, the illness claims their life. I’m so lucky to be in the middle category, and honestly every day I feel so thankful and proud of myself for that. It took time, a cocktail of doctors and therapists who I had to see weekly (the NHS and Exeter Uni are amazing); an ocean of tears (mostly from myself and my poor mum), and a threat from uni for me to get better, but eventually, because of SO much support from my friends and mostly my mum, it happened. I had to start reintroducing foods (plus up the quantities), and start by eating a really small amount extra each day, beginning with half a Ryvita. Unbelievably, at the time this was so hard for me. The key thing was removing scales from my life. I went from weighing myself every morning, to never ever weighing myself at all, I and to thus day I have no idea how much I weigh. My mum always said that its about how you feel rather than look, and you can tell a lot by how your clothes fit and this is a mantra that I truly live by.

Another big part of it was also that I had to stop exercising so much. I used to gym daily, sometimes for hours (and would get into a hysterical crying state if I couldn’t go), to the extent that the uni revoked my membership. This was the scariest thing at the time, but such a blessing in retrospect, and I can honestly say that I have never stepped foot into a gym since. Instead of gyming, I started running outside which I MUCH prefer. I used to run back to a place where I had made myself sick once (there was a touch of bulimia thrown in there too for good measure) to remind myself that I NEVER want to go back to that place emotionally. Running gradually got a lot more lighthearted and fun since then (lol) and going out with one of our dogs became one of my favourite things ever to do… partly because going with him gave me the excuse to walk whenever I wanted to!

So… exercise since conceiving? About as likely as O changing her own nappy. I’m trying to remember if I ran at all since I found out I was pregnant… I don’t think I did? I remained active and would walk a mile or two on the way home from work (I still go on a long walk pretty much every day- only now, with O!), but I had such awful ‘morning’ (the biggest lie of motherhood) sickness for four months that the thought of doing anything more strenuous was a no-go. Also, before conceiving, I mostly exercised because I wanted to counteract the effect of the alcohol that I was drinking throughout the week, so when I found out I was pregnant and stopped drinking, I felt like the need wasn’t as great… especially because I was being so sick! I was so sick that I used to get told that I’d lost weight in the first trimester (can confirm this was not actually true). Though by this point I was well enough that I could eat pretty much whatever I wanted, throughout pregnancy I would still have small freak outs if I felt like I had been too unhealthy for a couple of days running. These thoughts were easily extinguished by my mum and Jo (my best friend)- these two know my inner most darkest thoughts and know me inside out.

I prided in keeping my figure throughout pregnancy and moisturised like a mad-woman to prevent stretch marks… HOWEVER the big game changer for me was giving birth. Literally IMMEDIATELY since then I have had a completely different relationship with my body. It’s no longer just a tool for vanity, it’s got a purpose, and its genuinely the most important purpose in the world – it grew and then PUSHED OUT my baby girl (I didn’t have a period for about a year when I was ill, so genuinely didn’t know if I could have children).  Suddenly, literally nothing else mattered, and it still doesn’t, so long as I am healthy and present for her. My body continues to feed my baby and the stretch marks that I have garnered on my boobs since they expanded post-birth are a sign of that and I’m proud of it. I honestly, honestly couldn’t care less. I never was one that was overly desperate to breastfeed before giving birth because I know that its simply not possible for some women, and I think that the abuse that other women get for bottle feeding is disgusting. Ottilie really led the way with that one- knowing exactly what to do almost as soon as she was put on my chest.

I have this fantastic quote that is ‘if you don’t take care of your body, where are you going to live?’ and I think it’s amazing. Looking after yourself INCLUDES indulging when you feel like it, and food is such a pleasurable thing to engage in- it shouldn’t just be fuel. I’ve got shitloads of cellulite, I’m naturally pale (I’m sort of known for fake tanning daily- not to make me orange, just ‘glowy’, (though saying there were some mishaps in the past would be an understatement) but this has almost completely stopped!) I also noticed as soon as O was born that she has cellulite. BABIES HAVE CELLULITE! If that’s not a sign that it is natural, something we’re BORN with, something NOT to be shamed, then I don’t know what is. She has made me feel so much better about my cottage cheese-y bumps!

As a mum I do of course have days when I eat just as fuel to survive because I don’t have an appetite or simply don’t have time to make a proper meal… and I also have days where I eat too many Jammy Dodgers (my biscuit of choice at the moment), but its about balance. I have days when I look at myself with a critical eye and think that I don’t look good enough, but F and my friends and family are so quick to remind me that that’s bollocks, and to remember how proud I was of my body after giving birth. I’ve also got Instagram to help. Interesting, I know that social media platforms such as Insta are linked to a lot of mental illness, and perhaps in the past, they contributed to my own mental illness, but I’ve tailored who I follow and now the images that I see really uplift me and are so positive, especially in the ‘mum community’. Right on sisters!

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