For the first few months I felt fat even though I wasn’t (see image below). I think that feeling stems from being bloated and just losing a good sense of ourselves through changes in hormones. It’s a version of PMS, so to speak. And I do think it’s similar to what happens as we change over our menstrual cycle. Our brain is use to us feeling a certain way. Our parietal cortex and somatosensory cortex maintain a good sense of our body awareness and the awareness of its circumference, but then we go and change that several times throughout our monthly cycle. It’s hard to keep up, despite the best neuroplasticity.
To me, feeling fat is typically more than just physical sensations associated with my body circumference. Feeling fat is negative, depressive, filled with defeat and disgust. I used to feel this a lot when I was younger but I believe I have worked hard to overcome much of those body image issues. So what I was feeling while being pregnant wasn’t just that. I had a very good sense that I had a human growing inside of me. THAT was miraculous. THAT was amazing. THAT could easily explain away any negativity I felt toward or because of my body. And it did. For me at least. But I did feel like I was expanding and that’s because I was! Each week that went by I thought “I can’t possibly get any bigger!” and then I would get bigger and think that again. I felt like my skin would stretch beyond capacity. But it never did. I never got stretch marks and my belly has gone back to a similar shape. Different, but similar.
But one thing that did change and has not seemed to change back is my love for my body. I have gained such an incredible appreciation for my body that I have never ever experienced before. I mean, I knew, technically, how wonderful human development is, but to experience it firsthand put into perspective any dissatisfaction with my body. I keep thinking with awe I MADE A HUMAN BEING WITH THIS BODY!!! Absolutely amazing.
Almost a year after Ashar was born, I still feel so incredibly appreciative of my body. I know this isn’t the experience for everyone. I wish it was. But my eyes, experience, and brain has changed. I see women’s bodies, no matter what the type, including my own, as being an amazing biological experience and worthy of so much honour. We. Are. Amazing.
This love for my body was reinforced when Ashar was born and I saw myself through his eyes for the first time. He didn’t care what I looked like. He didn’t care about anything at all, except that I feed him and held him and showered him with love. He was biologically ready to love me no matter what I looked like, pretty or not, with make up or not, hair done or not. Seeing myself through the eyes of my newborn was so grounding and humbling and deeply moving. I hope I remember that forever. I hope my brain never lets go of that real beauty.
I also looked as Ashar as his mother, who loved him no matter what he looked like. I remember thinking about his feet, which were very big and all shrivelled up like raisins. I was told this happens to baby’s who go over term. I looked down at his little gorgeous feet and thought, What if he didn’t like his feet? What if he hated them? What if he hated any part of himself? How sad that would be for me, as his mom, who thinks he is perfect, to see him not like a part of his body. Then I thought, I have a mother who probably feels the same thing for me. I felt sad for ever hating anything about myself. To her, I was perfect. To me, he is perfect. I want nothing more than for Ashar to see himself as perfect and beautiful.
I know this will change. Many of us go on to lose the wisdom that we are all perfect as we begin to hear what others say and see with altered eyes. But maybe one day he will return to see perfection and beauty like I am in this moment. As his mom, I will help steer him in that direction.
I wish we could all look at ourselves and each other like how newborns and mothers look at each other. Every problem of humanity would be solved.