When I was eleven I was 160 pounds.
Every single day of middle school I was tormented about my shoes not being Adidas, how I was a loser, and about how incredibly fat I was. I very distinctly remember a group of kids who made it their life goal to completely shatter my self esteem. They would yell insults at me and mock me in the cafeteria. They would whisper about me during class. They would tell other people not to be my friend. They did everything they could to try to break me.
And they did.
I can remember days and weeks that went past where I would take a snack box of raisins and ration them out throughout the day. Chug water, eat a few raisins, chug water, eat 5 raisins, chug water, 7 raisins, until the box was gone, then I was done for the day. I’d eat my dinner at the table then immediately run to the bathroom. I remember the day one of my tormentors passed me a note in orchestra class. She wrote
“Looks like you’ve lost weight.”
I hesitantly thought about my reply. After a few moments I wrote back and owned up to her that I had practically stopped eating.
“Good.” she wrote back.
And that was apparently all the reinforcement I needed to continue on my path of starvation and self harm. I was of no worth to anyone else unless I was losing weight. I spent the next 4 years losing weight. I’d lose 5 pounds, go back to eating, stop eating, lose 5 more pounds, go back to eating, stop eating, lose 5 pounds. By the time I turned 16 and met, unbeknown to me, my future husband, I was down to around 100 pounds.
Rowing crew was my outlet. I’d burn off the 60 calories I’d consumed that day and then some. I’d go for weight-ins for my lightweight category for regattas. One morning an adult pulled me aside after I’d weighed in and said “You need to go eat a bagel. PLEASE.” And I was proud. I was beaming the rest of the day that I was THAT skinny that someone thought I actually needed to eat, instead of encouraging me to starve. But I didn’t eat a bagel. I continued on and off with my destructive eating habits and poor body image until I got pregnant with Little S.
Then it got even worse.
I ballooned up 70+ pounds when I was pregnant and lost almost all of it by healthy means. I worked out and ate decently. I nursed and let nature take it’s course and return my body to it’s “new normal”. But one thing remained: that voice in my head telling me my body was ruined. Then I got pregnant with Rae and that voice got even louder.
Even as the numbers on the scale went down and even though I lost most of what I gained with both of my kids, I still look down at my belly and see the stretch marks and feel an immense amount of shame.
This isn’t what a 22 year old’s body looks like.
Big S will look at me, pull me in close and tell me I’m beautiful and all I want to do is run and hide. I turn my head down and feel even more ashamed of myself than before.
I look at Rae nursing and feel my stomach being exposed and pull my nursing wrap around me a little tighter.
I wake up in the morning, step on the scale and sigh.
I plop Little S on my lap and feel him poking the fat on my thighs and get uneasy.
I look in the mirror, turn to the side and wonder if my abs will ever return and if I’ll ever look “normal” again.
I wonder if I went out without my children if my body would give it away that I’ve given birth.
But every single time I look at her, my heart absolutely breaks thinking she may suffer through this very same thing far too soon.
I spend day in and day out watching her, taking care of her, teaching her and playing with her. She is perfect. To imagine a day where she looks at herself in the mirror with the same disappointed look in her eyes that I do is deplorable. And even more disgusting is that thought that she may be exposed to the same comments I was in middle school. Ones that will haunt her for years.
I think I’ve finally come to realize it starts with me.
Every sigh I make when I look in the mirror,
every time I look away from Big S when he compliments me,
every disgusted comment I make about my stomach,
every time I back away from being in a picture,
every flaw I point out to someone else is only going to tell my children that I don’t think I’m enough.
But I am.
I’m getting my confidence back.
Because, no, this isn’t the body of a 22 year old,
but it is the body given to me for hosting the 2 most beautiful children in the world.
And I no longer want it to look like it hasn’t.