The last time I was thin was when I was two. I remember some time in my teenage years, my mother told me that she regretted giving me food supplements when I was two because now she couldn’t stop me from gaining the weight. That’s how I know that I was thin when I was two.
When I was thirteen, I was enrolled into a slimming program with – what I just recently realised was – a group of moms with postpartum bodies. When I was sixteen, while watching the movie “Clueless”, my mom asked me who was prettier, Cher (played by Alicia Silverstone, who was basically a stick figure) or Tai (played by Brittany Murphy, who was still chubby at that time) before telling me herself that “of course thin girls are prettier.” When I was in my twenties, I received a slimming package as one of my birthday present. Oh, joy! But by this time, I might have wanted it myself.
During a conversation we had about my protruding belly once, I asked her why it’s okay for her to have a jiggly belly and it’s not okay for me. She told me that she birthed three babies so it’s okay. Even after I birthed the three of you, I still look down at my jiggly belly and still feel shameful. It was not okay for me.
I have struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember. I don’t wear tight fitting clothes because the clothes sticking to my body feels shameful to me. I have never looked down at my protruding belly and felt no shame either. Except for the time when I was pregnant. Oh, how I loved being pregnant, for it’s the only time I can say, “I’m not fat you ass! I’m pregnant!” And that felt soooo good! It was actually the times I felt most beautiful and confident.
I can’t remember the last time I ate without feeling guilty or thoughts about punishing myself with exercise or detox afterwards. It hasn’t worked, unfortunately, as you can see. No matter how long I have done it. My body weight or shape has not changed. I have never been thin all my life (except when I was two, apparently.)
A few days ago, my youngest son, M3, who had a sudden growth spurt during this pandemic and long periods of #stayathome, climbed up on my lap, almost unconsciously. We were watching TV together on the sofa and he just wanted to assume his natural position on my lap. I embraced him without hesitation. But then he stopped. He said, “Mama, I’m now 40 kilos already. I’m heavy. I’m going to hurt you.”
“I will carry you as long as I can do it, baby boy.” I said to him.
“You have to keep exercising so you can still be strong, okay Mama? You don’t have to carry me anymore because I am heavy and I’ll get heavier. But you have to be healthy until you’re old. And you can have a squishy mushy tummy for me to rub,” he told me, as he reached to rub and pinch my squish and mushy tummy.
My fat belly is my baby’s safe place. What I least love about my body is what all my children love (or loved, at one point in their lives) most about it. My body has been home for my babies for 9 months each. It has grown them, birthed them, fed them, carried them, cuddled them, made them feel safe, made them feel warm… When I look at it that way, it didn’t matter much that it was never thin or that it was flabby in the unideal places. I have never appreciated my body more than when I saw it from your perspectives, my children. And I thought that it’s probably time for me to stop shaming it. After all, it has done so much for me.
I am my hardest critic. I know that I need to get off my huge ass and get moving but I never really get around to doing it because too may excuses get in the way. I also know that, as a Mom, I need to love my body enough to show you, my children, what a healthy body image is really about. We live in a world where thin bodies are celebrated and bodies that are not thin are shamed. I guess in a way, I am fortunate enough to never been celebrated because I’ve never been thin. It’s not like I gained all this weight because I had you and therefore I resent having you… No, it’s nothing like that. In fact, having you inside my body was the best feeling I’ve ever had.
In all honestly, I still have a lot to learn about loving the shape that I am in – especially without having you in it. I am trying, my babies. If not for myself, I’ll do it for you.
I will remind myself to separate my size from my self-worth. I’ll tell myself that there is no ideal body, and the only achievable ideal is to feel good about myself in any circumstance. And I will take comfort in knowing that even if I never get around to walking to the nearest McDonald’s in a bikini JUST BECAUSE I CAN, my babies will rub my squishy belly and snuggle till they fall asleep just because they find comfort there.
Thank you for redeeming the thirteen year old, sixteen year old, and twenty year old me and freeing me from every shameful thought I have about my body. The path towards self love is a narrow and the journey is long. But thanks to you, I’m getting there – loving my body, one flabby, squishy, mushy part at a time.
I love you,