Personal essay: Will I ever be able to forgive my body for giving birth?

By Aliya Zuberi

KARACHI: For as long as I can remember, I used to be that girl. The girl who would eat a truck load of junk food and not gain an inch on her body. Well into my twenties, while my friends used to gym and diet and complain about stretch marks and cellulite, I would sheepishly explain I have a very good metabolism. That’s not to say that I wasn’t skinny shamed, because I was! I was constantly told that I didn’t look like a woman, no one would want to marry a stick and there was no way my body was going to be able to bear a child. But eventually, I stopped caring and embraced my skinniness. I wouldn’t say I was proud, but I was definitely very happy I didn’t have to worry about my weight. But that was then and this is now. A C-Section and a child later, I am no longer that skinny girl. I had flab in places I couldn’t have imagined. I now look at my body and scrutinize every inch of it. I feel a gush of sadness when my clothes are snug on my hips. Logically, I know that my body had to change. Emotionally, I am not able to forgive my body for changing after childbirth. My body has endured so much, but I am still so hung up over my post baby weight gain that I forget to be kind to myself.

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It all started a few months after I had my son. He was born via C-Section and I was completely oblivious to how major a surgery it was. But what I wasn’t oblivious to was the slight tummy pouch that had developed post surgery. A quick Google search suggested there was nothing I could do about it and I resigned to the fact, that the pouch would be a part of me just like my scar was. As time went on, I lost myself to motherhood.

Nayel was colicky, I would be up all night feeding him and coaxing him to sleep. The only way to get through the long nights was with the help of caffeine and snacks, the unhealthy kinds. Then, he started crawling and walking and I was on my feet all day with a child who simply could not sit still. That often meant skipping lunch and then binge eating chips when I got a moment of peace in between. I was so focused on getting through the day that I didn’t really think twice about my unhealthy eating habits. Surely my fast metabolism would help, right? Or all that running around after my child would burn some serious calories, at least? Turns out, loosing post baby weight isn’t as easy as I thought.

My post baby weight gain really hit me when, after five years of marriage and three years of motherhood, I was trying my clothes on for a recent wedding. Two of the shirts could hardly get past my arms. I looked at my husband in absolute shock but all he could do was laugh, “Aliya, did you really expect to not have gained weight in five years? At least you can blame it on your delivery! I’ve gained and have no excuse.” The next two shirts I tried on were fairly decent but snug on my hips. Again, my husband couldn’t understand my dilemma, “You’re looking way too closely at yourself. It’s hardly noticeable.” By now I was having a full blown out meltdown, “None of my clothes fit! I’ve gained so much weight. This isn’t the body I have loved and this isn’t the body I want!” Deep down I knew these clothes had to become tight on me eventually but I just didn’t want to face that reality. I was still hung up on being the girl who could eat what she wanted and get away with it. Logic and emotions were at a constant tug of war, all throughout the night for me.

The amount of times I’ve heard people tell me, “You didn’t even gain weight post baby,” gives me mixed feelings. I know I have. I know the struggles with my body. I know every night I stand in front of the mirror and suck in my stomach to what I think would be an ideal shape. No one understands my struggle. They scoff at me when I tell them I have gained weight. But it’s when I talk to those closest to me, I realize how unkind I am to myself. My grandmother once told me, “Your body housed and then birthed a child. It created a wonderful human being. Why are you so hard on your body then? Accept it as it is and all that it has given you.” My husband laughs at what he calls me being dramatic, “Thank God you gained some weight! You were underweight and now you’re normal. That’s hardly something to complain about.” We put so much pressure on ourselves as women to look a certain way at different times in our lives that we end up overlooking all the circumstances that led us to that point. We become our worst enemy.

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I once read a post dedicated to mothers which talked about their post baby bodies that said, “If you saw her body, give, give, and give some more, π˜Ίπ˜°π˜Άβ€™π˜₯ 𝘳𝘦𝘒𝘭π˜ͺ𝘻𝘦.⁣⁣ There is nothing more beautiful than a mother.” I know in the back of my mind, just like every other aspect of my life, my body had to change. I had to change to become the mother I am today. I just have to value the body that has endured so much and stop being so hard on it. It’ll be tough but I’ll get there.

Till then, I just have to remember to be kind to myself, and be proud of the person that I am, regardless of how I look.

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