I love myself more each time I look at my son. My body did that, dammit! My perfect boy.
I’m so thankful for my body for the very first time, and that’s a lovely feeling that I’ve never been able to feel before.
But that wasn’t always how I looked at my body, and it’s not always how I look at it now.
My Plus-Size Pregnancy And Birth Story
My journey in self-love starts as a young girl and exists now as a new mom. It’s ever-changing, but nothing has taught me more about loving myself than pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
Growing Up In My Skin
I don’t love talking about my body. I was always bigger.
My friends were the bombshells, and I was always a little rough around the edges.
That’s still pretty accurate.
I played hockey in college, worked in the wilderness in Alaska for a number of years, and got in bar fights. I was raised by just my dad and wanted to be just like him for my whole life.
I was much more comfortable hiding under a hard exterior than talking about body insecurities.
But they were there… are there.
As I got older, and my weight went up, my insecurities grew, but they stayed locked in my head. I had no idea the journey my insecurities would embark on as my husband and I rounded the corner on our first year of marriage and we started trying to have a baby.
Troubles Trying To Conceive
For nearly a year we struggled to conceive naturally, so I went to the doctor to see what was wrong.
The first thing I was told by my doctor, before testing me or my husband, just by looking at the weight that was written on my chart and the body on the table in front of her, was that losing weight would help me conceive.
I shrank with disappointment.
The shame crushed me like an ant.
On the outside, I didn’t blink. I nodded and thanked her. I finished my appointment like a woman cut from stone, holding in everything I was feeling with all of my mental strength.
Once I got to my car, my head fell against my steering wheel, and I bawled. I’d never hated my body more. I was so mad at myself. For me, for my husband, for the baby, we didn’t have.
While I was making a plan to start a diet, we did a few other fertility tests for both my husband and me, and we discovered our fertility issues were actually male factor.
Nothing to do with my weight. Nothing to do with my husband’s weight. Nothing weight related at all.
Not only did I feel betrayed by my doctor because she assumed my size was the culprit, I also felt betrayed by her because she assumed our struggles were tied to my body and not my husband’s.
Her assumptions were not only wrong but extremely problematic in terms of size inclusivity and a history of women being blamed for all reproductive issues.
As a result of our infertility diagnosis, I left the women’s health clinic and became a patient at my local infertility clinic.
Positive Fertility Treatments
There’s a lot of grief that comes with infertility, and it was hard on both my husband and me.
My fertility doctor met with us and discussed our options. I held my breath and waited for him to tell me I would need to lose “X” amount of weight to go forward with treatment.
I held my chair, ready to create a dam that would stop my emotions from pouring out of me once again as he explained my body still wasn’t worthy of a baby.
But, it never came…
He told us what our options were and that he was extremely optimistic. This time I allowed the emotions to come.
This time, in gratitude. I am so thankful for our fertility doctor.
We did one unmedicated IUI procedure knowing it would probably take a few tries.
Against the odds, nearly two weeks later, on my husband’s birthday, we found out he was going to be a daddy!
Nine Months Of Love
I adored my pregnancy, but it was a journey of ups and downs.
I wouldn’t allow myself to love any of it at first, petrified it would be ripped from me.
After 12 weeks I felt better but still felt the fear.
Each listen to the heartbeat and each ultrasound helped me feel safe enough to really love this short time with my baby growing inside.
I went back to my original women’s health clinic, but with a different doctor, and braced for negativity surrounding my weight and my pregnancy.
Each appointment I was weighed, but my doctor only had positive things to say about my pregnancy and overall health.
I remember panicking that maybe they wouldn’t be able to hear the heartbeat because of my already bigger belly, or maybe that the ultrasound wouldn’t work as well. In both cases, my fears were unfounded.
My doctor treated me, my body, and my pregnancy with so much respect and love.
My belly wasn’t the perfect shape, and I found myself searching for bellies that looked like mine all over the internet, only to discover that there weren’t very many like mine I could find.
But slowly, through my insecurities, a feeling of self-love and appreciation began to breakthrough.
I began taking photos to watch this beautiful and unfathomable thing my body was doing. I started to experience a primal love expand through all of my cells and nerves.
My body was never a thing I liked paying attention to or discussing, or God forbid praising. And yet, I found myself so appreciative of it. For the very first time, I really loved how I looked.
But then, a bump in the road.
A Step Backward With Gestational Diabetes
I was so looking forward to crushing all of the stereotypes about plus-size pregnancy.
As I sailed through my pregnancy, I began to feel a sense of pride in shutting all that stuff down.
Society always told me I was super unhealthy because of my size, but I’ve never had health issues. I felt like maybe my pregnancy would be the same.
But then, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GDM). I was so mad that this was my fault, mad that I was enjoying my pregnancy, and mad that I had the audacity to love my body.
It was a giant mental step backward.
My doctor was surprised that I had gestational diabetes.
My health had been great through my pregnancy. She assured me that we would monitor it, but that I shouldn’t be ashamed.
I dusted myself off and tried my best to focus on me and my baby.
Slowly, my appreciation for my growing bump again outweighed my shame over the diagnosis. I allowed myself to continue to love this body while it grew around my son.
I was able to manage my GDM through diet alone up until the last week of my pregnancy when I had to take insulin.
My doctor held her hand on my knee as I cried when she told me I needed it. She told me how proud she was of me, and that I should be proud of myself as well.
Thank goodness for those good care providers out there. A few days later, I was scheduled to be induced and give birth to my baby.
I had to have weekly non-stress tests for a month before my induction date due to my GDM to make sure the baby was fine.
He passed them all with flying colors. We decided to induce one week before my due date because he was measuring large.
I arrived at the hospital with a plan to induce, get the epidural, and to hopefully have the baby vaginally.
The beginning was largely uneventful. I was dilated to a five with the help of pitocin, but then plateaued.
My doctor decided to break my water, and that’s when things got really eventful in terms of pain.
Walking didn’t help. Cursing didn’t help. Crying didn’t help. Not crying didn’t help. The pain was immense.
I decided it was time to get the epidural.
In hindsight, I got it too early…
Once I got the epidural, I couldn’t feel a thing.
Hours went by and suddenly I started to shiver but I wasn’t feeling cold.
The nurses told me this was a sign of transition, so we texted our doula. But soon I started to feel pain again. I kept hitting my button to give me more pain medication, but it didn’t seem to be working.
The nurses checked me and told me I was at a 10 and it was time to start pushing.
Despite my epidural wearing off, I knew I had no choice but to start pushing this baby out.
I hated that my body was on display as I pushed.
I tried to move those feelings from my brain and focus on the baby.
The pain was unbelievable. I didn’t feel like I was pushing correctly while on my back no matter what we tried.
Finally, I asked if I could get on my knees. At last, I felt progression.
I draped my body over the back of the bed and pushed as hard as I could. Now I could feel progress.
I don’t remember how the pain felt now, but I do remember that I was in pain. A lot of it. I remember thinking I wouldn’t be able to do it. I remember being shocked that nearly every woman I knew had done this.
As my baby got closer, the insecurities over people seeing my body push and feeling embarrassed were gone.
My head poured sweat into my hair.
My doula counted to eight as I pushed over and over and over again.
That poor woman must have counted to eight 7000 times. I was pushing so hard, but my doctor wasn’t there. Still, I kept pushing.
But on my knees, it’s hard for my nurses to see what’s going on.
Finally, I hear my doula say, “Oh my God, that’s his head!” They had no idea he was so close because of my position. They ran to get the on-call delivery doctor.
At this point, I didn’t care who delivered my baby as long as they GOT HIM OUT OF ME.
Just then, my doctor ran in the door.
She frantically threw on her gown and boots to get ready to deliver my son.
My OB was there, I knew it was almost over, so I gave it all I had. I felt him leave my body.
And then my baby was born. I heard him cry, and I heard everyone burst with excitement.
I had done it. We had done it. My baby was here.
I was so exhausted, but I had done it.
My husband came to me and said into my hair, “Our baby is here,” as he cried. It was an absolutely amazing moment.
I gathered my strength and flipped myself over, and they placed this warm, creamy, pink baby on my chest. I looked at him and said, “We did it, baby. Happy birthday.” And then the emotions poured out of my eyes.
I bawled while I held him. I remember thinking I’d never even held a baby before, but he fit into my body without a concern. He was here. It was the single most spectacular thing I’d ever done. I was overwhelmed with appreciation.
The thing I’d just done hurt more than my brain has the ability to comprehend, but all I felt was elation.
My husband held onto me while I held the baby, and I got to see him become a dad. His eyes were glossy as he gazed at his son, and I loved him even more than I thought I could.
Nearly 24 hours after arriving at the hospital, I was in recovery with my baby in my arms and had just had the most extraordinary experience of my life.
My body has created and birthed a miracle baby.
For the first few months after he was born, my body was working hard to repair from birth while my mind worked hard to comprehend this new phase of life.
For me, postpartum was a giant crash after months of highs. I was so in love with my son, but I fell down a slope of self-criticism as I entered motherhood.
My body that I was so proud of while growing my baby no longer felt strong and beautiful. It felt ugly and weak.
My hair was falling out in fistfuls. My skin was breaking out in clusters. My boobs leaked, sitting hurt for months, and I felt a wave of panic each time anyone else held my baby. Like I had just handed over one of my organs. I had dreams and visions of horrendous things happening to my son.
Once my hair began growing back, I adorned a crown of frizzy flyaways every day. I hated looking in the mirror. My body healed but still hurt at times.
Somehow, motherhood became the most challenging and fulfilling part of each day.
I wanted to love every minute, especially after infertility. I wanted to be better at being a mom, but some things didn’t come naturally.
The only thing that did was how much I loved him.
Everything else was hard.
I wanted to be appreciative of my body, but I felt embarrassed by it. I had no idea that my mental health would plummet and that I’d somehow simultaneously love my new life as a mom, and also feel like a failure.
My baby is now a little over one year old. He’s a tornado and a sunset — sour and sweet.
Each and every day has hard moments, but each and every day I hold him knowing there was a time when I thought I’d never have this.
My husband is a literal rock keeping things steady when the baby has a screaming day and I have a crying day.
I went back to therapy to help with the down feelings and intense self-criticism.
I am making a real effort to appreciate my body as it is now, and not always wishing it was something different. While I’m still not one to talk about it all the time, and I still hold onto my tough exterior a bit, I have found that it’s okay to talk about self-esteem and body feelings.
My journey in self-love truly went through a transformation through my plus-size pregnancy, birth, and motherhood.
This body grew my baby and kept him safe. It went through the amazing and unfathomable process of birthing the baby it had just grown. It healed itself while simultaneously feeding him. It is trying to grow my hair back while it holds my baby to rock him to sleep.
After all that work, it’s doing, it doesn’t deserve to be talked down to.
I know my journey isn’t over, and that I’ll have great days and bad days, and probably a lot of medium days. I’ve learned the difference it can make to have a doula and an OB who also sees the strength in my body even when I questioned it.
Thank you, body, for being a badass even when I questioned you. Thank you for my baby.
Thank you to Chelsy Meyer for sharing her plus-size pregnancy and birth story. Follow her @chelsywrites on Instagram.
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