'I Haven't Lost A Single Pound Since Giving Birth - And That's Totally OK'
Words by Hattie Gladwell, 25
I gained 4 stone during pregnancy. My weight has always fluctuated and I've always been a curvy girl. I've been both a size 6 and a size 12, and I've always looked better with a little weight on me.
I didn't eat well throughout my pregnancy. I experienced bad morning sickness throughout the first 14 weeks, and only wanted salty, high carb foods. I was often ravenously hungry and had a craving for sweet things - which I usually gave into.
Joining online pregnancy groups soon led to feelings of guilt. I found there was a massive divide when it came to food, with those who were committed to a super healthy diet looking down on those of us who couldn't resist something a little more calorific.
I tried to keep it healthy at first. But, after numerous nights of waking up at 3am to demolish a bar of chocolate, I decided that I'd just go with what my body told me. There would be nights where I'd cook from scratch using a range of vegetables, and watermelon was my saving grace for morning sickness - but there were also times where I'd eat turkey dinosaurs and potato waffles every night for a week.
I knew I was gaining weight, but I told myself it would drop off after my baby was born. Countless posts from mummy bloggers going from big bumps to flat stomachs in a number of weeks convinced me of it.
By the time I was 20 weeks I had gained 18 lbs. At week 27, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and a few weeks later, pregnancy-induced hypertension. My blood sugars were all over the place and I was seriously swollen. My weight rapidly increased as time went on.
I gave birth to my son at 38 weeks by c-section. A week after having him, I weighed myself. I was upset. I was 15 stone. At 5ft 5in, it was the biggest I'd ever been. I spent a few days feeling bad about myself, but I was still adamant that as my postpartum body got back to normal, the weight would come off.
But it didn't. And now, 18 weeks after giving birth, I am still 15 stone.
There is such pressure to lose weight immediately after having a baby. As a society, we have been conditioned to believe that baby weight is something to be ashamed of. We see celebrities bounce back weeks after birth, posing in bikinis with flat, toned stomachs. We see mummy bloggers back in their skinny jeans, not looking remotely as though they've just popped a baby out.
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But when that doesn't happen for us, we question what we're doing wrong, whether we're not trying hard enough. Whether we're simply not as good or as impressive as these other mums.
The truth is, celebrities and parenting influencers who showcase washboard abs while carrying their newborn are not at all representative of the majority of women postpartum. In fact, statistically it takes most new mums between six and 12 months to lose their pregnancy weight.
And you know what? You really don't have to lose any baby weight. It is your body and your choice. Not anyone else's.
There is one thing that I've learned since having my baby: motherhood is bloody hard work. I spent the first eight weeks postpartum living on snacks, cereal, and ready meals. Anything that was quick and easy because I just didn't have the energy to cook. I simply did not have the energy to start exercising or working out bar a short walk.
Postpartum mental health issues have meant that I'm taking medication notorious for weight gain, and no, I don't intend to fight that - because my focus is being the best mum I can be for my baby, not fitting into size 12 jeans.
Over the last six weeks, I have slowly learned to accept my body. I've accepted the fact that it has changed. I'm at peace with the fact my pre-pregnancy clothes no longer fit. I have stopped looking at the Instagram pictures of other mothers because I used it as a way to compare myself and it was a toxic habit, and did not benefit me - and it feels like an enormous amount of pressure has lifted from my shoulders.
I've realised that it's not actually my weight that I have a problem with - it's the pressure from society and thousands of social media posts that tell us we're supposed to lose it.
I now look at my body and my stretch marks in the mirror and though it's not a body I'm familiar with, it's a body that I'm proud of for growing and protecting my baby for 38 weeks.
Now, when I do see new mums who don't even look like they've had a baby, I just think 'Good for them'. I no longer feel that pang of bitterness or resentment.
They are doing what works for them, and I am doing what works for me - and if and when I do decide to start losing the weight, I know that I'll be doing it for me, and not because I feel like society expects me to.
Featured Image Credit: Hattie Gladwell