Four days after I delivered my baby, the nurse on duty on my floor, referring to my body, said to me:“This your stomach ehn, are you sure we didn’t forget another baby inside?”
That was the first of a long line of remarks and teases about the changes in my body after childbirth. For instance, ten days had barely gone by since the labour experience when another person— a neighbour this time, said to me:“Ahn, you are still big o.” By the time a month passed, an acquaintance looked at me and could only say: “Orobo, ahn ahn, you’re so big now; wasn’t it only a year you got married?”
Interestingly, no one considered or mentioned the fact that I just had a baby less than a month prior to the time. The comments just kept coming:
“When will you lose weight?”
“Iya beji, you no wan look my side”
It Wasn’t Supposed To Be This Way
Okay, so it’s been more than three months since I had my baby and I still look a little pregnant. The other day, I found myself thinking of doing a maternity shoot, firstly because we could not schedule one as my son came way before his due date. Secondly because I knew I could pull it off since I still carried a pseudo baby bump. I have also gone through a cycle of emotions with my changed body—from anger and resentment, to acceptance and a determination to get back in shape. And then, anger all over again.
The thing is, I had my pregnancy recovery all mapped out and scheduled. I would have my baby at 37 weeks, and it would be through a vaginal birth. Then, both baby and I would recover so quickly that we’d be discharged the next day. Once my son turned six weeks, I would start exercising. I would eat right, jog within the estate and do what was necessary. But then, life happened and quite beautifully, too.
First, my baby came through a cesarean section which meant that I couldn’t exercise for eight weeks. And then there was postpartum depression which (as I would come to find out later) affects breast milk production and causes a let-down. So my mum’s solution was for me to eat more: Pap in the morning, before the main breakfast, and then occasional meals spread across the day. By the time my son was a month old, I was only about 3kg less than my last pregnancy weight (my son weighed 2.5kg at birth which meant that I had gained a little more weight.)
Reclaiming My Love For My Body
People told me I could not diet. So I was stuck in my body, weighing 15kg more than my pre-pregnancy weight. However, I tried to diet a few times but it ended in disaster. (Like when I cried through the night because I changed my diet and it led to heartburn and ulcer pains). I also tried belly binding, but it made me cramp and bleed so I left it for a while. At a point, I realised I had come to love food. I was depressed and eating became a sort of indulgence. In the course of all these, I realised I had Diastacis Recti, which meant I could not do any intense core exercises.
The turning point came when I saw my son’s dedication photos. My sister had her tailor make a dress for me which didn’t fit and then my friend bought another dress that was one size up, which was ill-fitting too. I had planned to frame the pictures but was too disappointed by how I looked to do so. I was fat and round and looked very pregnant in them. So I made my peace. It did not seem logical that I could undo in three months what nature did in eight months. It also did not seem logical to continue to entertain people’s interest in how my body looked. Think about it: Why are women (Who should know better) the biggest culprits in postpartum body shaming? Who made it mandatory for a woman to get back to her former self after pregnancy? At what point did the woman’s maternity process stop being a wonder and become a subject of scrutiny?
The more I thought about it, the more resolved I was to celebrate life, both mine and that of my baby.
We Can Only Move Forward
Since that time, I have become more intentional about what goes into my mouth. I also make sure I get some exercise time indoors, even if it’s just a few minutes. These small efforts seem herculean for someone who indulged herself during pregnancy. So, I tell myself to take it one day at a time – one healthy meal and exercise at a time.
I am learning that as with all things in life, I have to trust the process. I will get to my target weight and dress size (hopefully), but like we fondly say here in Nigeria: I cannot come and go and kill myself. Na fat I fat, I no kill person.