That little box is the reason I started this blog. And this is my story.
Negative body image: a distorted perception. Everything about my body image in 2011 was distorted.
I was due January 1, 2011 with my first baby. I was convinced I would deliver my baby, hold him in my arms, nurse him immediately after delivery, rejoice in the fact that I delivered my baby, and fall in love with that little life. Only one of those things happened.
I immediately fell in love with my son, Elijah. If you are a mom, then you can’t help but believe in love at first sight.
But something happened with my delivery. Before E was even conceived, I knew in my heart that I did not want a ceserean delivery. I wanted to accomplish something only a woman’s body can do, birth a baby, as naturally as possible. But in those final two weeks, I gained 20 lbs of water weight top of the healthy 30 lbs I had gained throughout the pregnancy. My blood pressure was high and protein in my urine confirmed pre-eclampsia. As a result, I was induced. I was hooked up to monitors and not allowed to get out of bed. I was scared. And desperate to do anything that would allow me to avoid a C-section. After 24 hours of labor, lots of blood pressure medications, endless bags of Pitocin and 3 failed epidurals, it was deemed medically necessary to have a C-section. I broke down. I cried my heart out to my husband and my parents. But my pleas were met from the medical staff with “we really don’t have any other choice. You are at too high of a risk.”
My son was born in the OR, and my husband and I rejoiced as tears streamed down our eyes when we heard his first cry. It was amazing!
But shortly after delivery, I became nauseous, after my husband left with Eli for the nursery. I received medication that knocked me out cold. Other than those brief moments in the OR, I didn’t see much of E, until the drugs wore off 12 hours later.
When I finally came to, I faced the reality that my body had failed me. I know some women prefer a c-section, and that’s okay for them. But it is not what I wanted. So many people told me “what’s important is that you have a healthy baby.” And yes, I whole-heartedly agree that that is what is most important. And if I had to choose between healthy baby or a natural delivery, I would definitely choose a healthy baby! But I was still devastated. I was still sad. I was still mad. My heart was heavy and I was mourning. I was mourning that my body was incapable of something that meant so much to me.
And so began the spiral of distorted perception of 2011. We arrived home with E as tired new parents. As a nursery nurse, I had and still have a passion for breastfeeding. Again, my body failed me. I could barely make 1 oz at each feeding in the beginning and had to supplement with formula. With much dedication and lots of time on the phone with a lactation consultant, I was able to increase my supply and breastfeed for 5 months. At that point, I was on the last resort to increase milk supply, a drug called Reglan. It made me moody, and it made me depressed. I had to make a choice: be depressed and be able to breastfeed while on the Reglan, or go off the Reglan (which would result in being unable to breastfeed,) but hopefully get me out of the depression I was in.
As I pondered that choice, I kept asking myself “why is my body failing me again?”
I finally and miraculously came to the conclusion that postpartum depression sucks! And I went off the Reglan and the depression slowly, slowly began to lift away. But I was still mourning the C-section and my inability to breastfeed for a full year as I had planned. I began to hate my body and everything about it. I hated that it was incapable of a natural delivery. I hated that it was incapable of being able to breastfeed. And this led to me hating the way my body looked and how I felt in it. Postpartum depression had been replaced with just flat out “i hate myself” depression…
I was ashamed of my body and extremely self-conscious about it. I was convinced every part of me was ugly. I would look in the mirror and tell myself “You are ugly. It’s never going to get better. Nothing about you is pretty.” Harsh words. But I said them to myself, and worse yet, I believed them.
And that is what negative body image does to you. It convinces you that you must reach this unattainable standard of perfection. I love this quote in a book that I just adore called Body Clutter:
Perfectionism is everywhere; see it for what it really is: a standard that is unattainable by anyone and a disease of unhappiness. –Flylady
Perfection is a disease of unhappiness. And I was beyond unhappy. I was depressed. I put my self- worth into what I looked like on the outside. What I saw in the mirror was not at all what others saw. What I saw in the mirror was what Satan wanted me to see. And I believed him.
After nearly 8 months of living in self- loathing, I was crying out to my husband one night, when the Lord used him to help me begin to win this spiritual battle. My husband said to me :
“I love your body. It is what brought our son into this world. You mean the world to me and you mean the world to your son.”
My heart broke. What was I doing? I was letting Satan win, and how sad my heavenly Father must have been as He watched His child make these choices. I was so consumed by this negative body image and self-doubt that I was letting my marriage suffer; I was not enjoying being a new mother; and most of all, I was letting my relationship with Christ suffer. The Lord tugged on my heart and said “If your husband loves you this much, how much more do I, your Father in Heaven, love you?”
That is when I surrendered to Him and asked for Him to help me. That is when I began to escape the prison of self-doubt, and I began to replace hateful words about myself and my body with prayer and affirmations. That is when I realized that my battle was less about the physical aspect, but it was more emotional, and it was very,very spiritual. That is when I started my blog: to keep me accountable, to write because I find it therapeutic, and to hopefully help others find hope in Him.
Christ longs for us to feel valued. He delights in our beauty. In fact, he sees our beauty as a reflection of His beauty. Beauty to Him is not one dimensional as the world sees it, but multi-dimensional. It encompasses body, soul, spirit, mind and emotions.
The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.
Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16:7
It doesn’t matter what size jeans you wear or what number you see on the scale. It is your character that matters. It is your character that people will remember you for. The Lord looks at the heart.
I am so thankful that my eyes were finally opened. I see that living healthy is not just eating healthy and exercising. It is emotional, and it is extremely spiritual. I am happy to say I have overcome negative body image, but only with the help of Christ. I admit sometimes it is still a struggle. And when thoughts of self-doubt or negative self- talk enter my mind, I immediately go to Him with it.
I finally see my body as it truly is and I accept it. I had a baby, and I now wear that C-section scar and those “tiger stripes” proudly. I appreciate that I have a body capable of exercise, and I understand that it is a process and a lifestyle change to live healthy. I know I am fearfully and wonderfully made, and I believe that! I finally feel comfortable and confident in my body. And it is all thanks to Him!
We are our own worst enemy when perfectionism is our foundation and not love.
Perfection is defined as a belief that a state of completeness and flawlessness can, and should be attained.
There is only One that is complete and flawless.
He is perfection, and, my friends, with Him as your foundation, you can learn to love your body as He does.
You are His wonderful creation, and He delights in you!
I promise you, if you struggle with body image, that He can and WILL get you through it. You just have to let Him.
If you are looking for encouragement in this area, I strongly encourage you to join me on facebook, twitter and consider signing up for posts in your email and the weekly newsletter (found in the right sidebar). This is why I started this blog. Because of this story. And that is why I write. I pray God uses my words to bless others. That is the sole purpose of this blog. If you are looking for encouragement in the areas of healthy living, maintaining a positive body image, faith, parenting and marriage, then please join me on this journey! I pray you are encouraged and that God blesses you abundantly!!