Body Image.

Seven years and one day ago, after what felt like a lifetime of fertility treatments and anxiety and fear that we’d never be parents, our son was born.

That moment I heard him cry in the operating room… it was, hands down, the best moment of my life. Release. Relief. Love. Amazement. Happiness. All the feelings.

For once, my body hadn’t betrayed me.

Even before infertility, I haven’t always had the best relationship with my body. Like all humans, I tend to eat my feelings when I am miserable. In my teenage years, I was miserable a lot.

So I yo-yo dieted. Gained weight, lost it. Gained more, lost some.

Infertility was hell on my already-sort-of-cracked body image.  When you spend month after month trying to conceive, then use doctors and assisted reproductive techniques which STILL don’t work… with every negative pregnancy test after a transfer of “beautiful” and “perfect” embryos, you start to think, I’m a failure. My body is a failure. This is my fault. I don’t deserve to be a mom.

Cue eating all your feelings.

Owen’s birth helped me start to repair my broken body image. I lost weight with the help of running and weight watchers when he was 2, and I haven’t gained it back. But. When O was 3, we started treatments again for another child, which culminated in two miscarriages and no baby. (I thank the universe I had running to help me cope with it the second time around. Thank you, thank you, thank you.) We quit treatments 3 years ago.

I’ve spent these past 3 years working hard on my body with the idea that maybe if I got down to certain target weight, I’d finally be able to accept it and love it. I expected that once I hit that magical number, I’d look in the mirror and love what I see.

Apparently it doesn’t work that way.

Because I did hit that number a few weeks ago. Yet whenever I look in the mirror, I still see Fat Karen. Even though when I see myself in pictures, I am surprised at how slim I look.

It’s fucked up.

And I don’t want to live like this anymore. It’s too much, and been too long, and it’s time I end this war with my body, and honor all the things it HAS done in the past 39 years.

This body has run 3 marathons and I-don’t-even-know-how-many half marathons.

This body nourished our son for 37 weeks and 2 days.

This body has run and biked and hiked and swam 5,732 miles in the past 4+ years.

This body hugs and snuggles my son and is strong enough to carry all 55lbs of him up the stairs in the moments where he needs his momma and wants to pretend he’s little.

Yesterday, this body swam a little over a mile without a break.

Today, this body ran 5 miles without a break.

When I think about where I’ve been, and the heartbreak and fear we went through to bring home our son, it seems unfair to be held captive to shame about our infertility and my body’s failure to provide us with the family we had hoped for.

And I don’t want to buy into the whole cultural idea that this body isn’t enough, that I just need to lose more weight or tone my stomach more or do whatever to be different, and THEN I’ll be happy.

I am me, and I want to embrace the me I am today, stretchmarks and all.

I’m just not sure how to go about doing it.

So I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’re willing to share.

What are some of the things you do to foster a healthy body image?

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9 Responses to Body Image.

  1. Sandi says:

    First off, you are amazing. Second, I don’t have any grand insights yet offer that I have been through the infertility ride. I remember thinking that I was just not enough. That my body fails me again and again. I had previously had my first born without medical assistance and ended up on bed rest because of my “incompetent cervix.” THAT label did wonders for my body esteem. I remember laying in bed because my body wanted to eject my baby and having small contractions when my do it told me I suffered from an “irritable uterus.” Good gracious! What? What my vagina depressed too? I mean, who comes UP with these labels?! Anyway… I offer comedy with my history of pain. What I do know, like you have mentioned – you also have a body that gets up out of bed when you think you can’t face another thing. A body that aside from what it may give you by way of let downs and frustrations, that is healthy and will live and love long. I have found that (being the “skinny girl” my whole life to the point of teasing and people questioning my eating much of my life) regardless of the exterior, it is not who I am. What lives inside our flawed or less than what we want bodies is pretty freakin amazing. That our body-gone-bad experiences really grow us in the places that count. It’s a place that can only get fuller and fatter and juicier. XO

  2. Sandi says:

    Insert proper words messed up by phone fingers – doctor and was

  3. Deborah says:

    All the examples you just have are related to physical strength. But your brains and your heart are also part of your body. And you have so much to be proud of there – you are kind and don’t like to speak ill of anyone. You’ve worked hard to succeed at your career, despite your doubts about your abilities. You love people and do nice thibgs for them. And you’ve been a great mom to O for seven years, not just the 37 weeks you grew him inside you.

    I guess I’m not a fan of separating “body” (arms, legs, stomach, face) from the other parts of your body. It’s all you.

  4. Catwoman73 says:

    For me, getting rid of my scale was a big step. But the biggest step of all was shifting my focus away from being thin and towards being HEALTHY. I wish I could give you a step by step guide as to how I did this, but to be honest, I’m really not sure. I got sick of being tired and sick, and sick and tired… so I changed my diet (which you already know all about), started having fun with my fitness endeavours, and everything fell into place. My self-loathing just started to disappear. Just keep treating yourself well, and I firmly believe you’ll get there. Hugs!

  5. loribeth says:

    (((HUGS))) Karen, your post left a lump in my throat. We are our own worst critics, it seems. I agree with Catwoman that focusing on being healthy vs the number on the scale helps. I’m nowhere near the weight I would like to be at… but after I lost my job last year, I wanted to take the opportunity to make some positive changes in my life… to eat better and not just sit around. We would go to the local farmers’ market every week & stock up on fresh local produce (especially fruit), and we walked 30-60 minutes, 3-5 mornings a week. Weight loss was not my primary goal, but I dropped 10-15 pounds without even really trying that hard, and I felt SO much better about myself. That’s kind of been on hold during the winter :p but I’m looking forward to starting again once the weather gets a little warmer. And I used to worry about my wrinkles and grey hair, but you know, the older I get, the less important they seem… I figure I earned them!! lol

  6. kir says:

    I think you’re wonderful, strong, beautiful inside and out.
    SO proud of all you’ve done to bring life into the world, friendship into my life and love yourself…knowing that you are LOVED. Just the way you are.

  7. Leighann says:

    I can relate to this so well. I struggled to have my daughter and then struggled again to have a second, which didn’t happen. So now I’m focusing on my health. I lose the weight but I don’t see a difference. I need to focus on who I am. I am worth it. Thank you for this.

  8. Turia says:

    This struck home for me, especially how you still see ‘fat Karen’ in the mirror. That is me, to a T. Even when I was skinnier than I’d ever been in my whole life, and photos surprised me, I still saw fat Turia in the mirror. I have absolutely no assvice on how to get better- I am still struggling. I can’t give up the scale because I am too scared that I will gain a whole bunch of weight. Right now I am plateaued at a weight that is a bit higher than I would like (5-6 pounds), but my body is happy there, so I am trying to accept it. I find my body image is directly related to how much anxiety I am feeling about other aspects of my life- my disordered eating comes out under stress.

    If you get there, tell me how you did it. I would love to love myself, but I just don’t know how to get there.

  9. I’m really working on body image. I made a board on Pinterest with positive, motivational images/sayings. I’m following body positive people on social media which has been really huge for me. I’m working on getting healthy and simultaneously loving myself. I can love myself and still want to change assume things, I change wait until I’m”perfect” because that will never happen.

    My biggest motivation is my children, I don’t want to pass my negative self talk on to them so I’ve really been practicing positive talk, self love, and not being ashamed of my body in this moment.

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