Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Body Image

At the first ICAN meeting I attended, Amy (our leader) mentioned that many women feel betrayed by their bodies after a traumatic birth experience. This resonated with me so strongly!

I think I had pretty good body image before I got pregnant. Sure, I felt awkward about bathing suit season, but I felt really confident in my fitness and my muscles and I knew my body could do anything I asked it to. And I asked it to do a lot of things! I had all these exciting goals I was working toward, like pull-ups and rope climbs. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I played rugby for ten years.

And then my birth experience turned everything upside-down. I really felt, for a long time, that it was my body's deficiency that somehow caused my c-section. WHY hadn't my baby descended into my pelvis despite such strong contractions? WHY was my cervix stalling at 5 cm? The questions came from everywhere, relentlessly, and they were all focused on what I viewed as my body's betrayal of my mind.

My midwives were great at answering the technical questions about my birth. The therapist I started seeing was great about helping me to realize that sometimes, there is no answer, there is no specific person or thing to blame, and things just happen.

But the sense of betrayal and even anger at my body lingered for a really long time. It seeped into every other thing I did, including my breastfeeding experience. Through my research as a writer, I've spoken to a number of new mothers who felt this body anger. Women kept saying, "If only!"

If only I had pushed harder. If only I had bigger hips. If only I hadn't succombed to the pain and begged for the epidural...we women, it seems, turn to our bodies when we seek something to "blame" for our birth experiences.

I think it can take a really long time, and most certainly a strong support network, to overcome these feelings. One thing that I found really helpful in the beginning was affirmations. My therapist suggested I find something, each day, that my body had done and to verbally affirm this amazing achievement.

My body grew a healthy baby! My body is amazing.

My body carried laundry up and down stairs on 3 hours of sleep. My body is amazing.

What has your body done today?

1 comment:

  1. I had a few body issues too after my c-section. I guess I tried to blame my body for not having a regular delivery, I felt that gee if only I was thinner, weighed less or maybe I should have exercised more. I only gained 20lbs during my pregnancy but I was overweight at the start of my pregnancy so I had put part of the blame on my weight. My midwife did say though that my weight had nothing to do with my c-section, what happened to me was really like what your therapist said, there really wasn't any answer as to why it happened and how things turned out. It wasn't anything I did or did not do. Weight has always been a sensitive issue for me and for some women it's hard putting on those extra pounds during a pregnancy. But I've learned to quit thinking about weight in a negative sense especially when it comes to pregnancy and childbirth because women of all shapes and sizes have birthed babies vaginally. I'm grateful for the body that I have and thankful I had a beautiful child and I am still a strong and powerful women even though I did not have the birth that I thought I would have.