Body Positivity In the Age of Instagram

I have moles, freckles, stretch marks and scars, they may not be pretty but THEY ARE ME.

When I was growing up my Mom was ALWAYS on some kind of diet. For as long as I can remember she never seemed to be happy with the way she looked. While my sister and I were pretty healthy children, constantly outside playing in the summer and riding bikes through the hills in our community, both of us developed a complex where we thought we were fat. Just the idea of those words coming out of my daughter’s mouth makes my heart break, but my Mom didn’t seem too fazed by this.

You might think that Mom could have done better at instilling us with self-esteem, and you are probably right. But I try not to blame her too much. If there is one thing that I know to be true, it is that all behavior is LEARNED. If my children see me constantly speaking negatively about myself, there is a much higher chance that they are going to pick up on it and start speaking negatively about themselves as well.

Have you ever been around a kid who watches a lot of one specific show? I would bet that more often than not, that child begins to adopt the way at least one of those characters talks. I have seen it first hand while babysitting my nieces and nephew. They pick up catch phrases, and most of the time, don’t even understand what it is they are saying.  The most important gift I feel like I can give to my children (besides being totally awesome like I am) is to end this cycle of negativity with me.

But Julia, how do you plan to do that? I am so happy that you asked, faithful reader. No matter how I feel about my body I will absolutely not discuss it in negative terms with my child around. My goal is to stop all negative self-talk completely, but baby steps. (I have 28 years of bad habits to break here) My mom was always discussing her diets, talking about how bad she looked in clothes, and most harmful, calling herself fat. She even kept her “fat picture” taped to the fridge as a deterrent for unhealthy snacking.

Now, I’m not saying that I’m just going to eat whatever I want 24/7, never do anything healthy and call that body positive. My goal is positive self-talk to achieve a positive body image. We only have one life and I don’t want to waste it hating the way I look. Of course I want my kid to be healthy, which means promoting healthy choices and making it fun, but if she wants to eat a spoonful of peanut butter or a handful of salami, hey, at least she’s eating.

Are there things about my body I don’t like? Absolutely? I was a healthy child, but as soon as I hit puberty, out came the stretch marks. It wasn’t because I was fat, it was genetics. I have moles, freckles, stretch marks and scars, they may not be pretty but THEY ARE ME. If my child is anything like me at all, these things will likely characterize her as well. The last thing I would want to do is make her feel ashamed of them.

In the age of Instagram, Youtube, Netflix and the general connected world I know it is going to be so much more difficult for me to protect my children from the world’s idea of what they are supposed to look like, or what is normal. Therefore, if I can take one tiny step by being a positive example in self-love that is what is important to me. If I want to wear a bikini in the summer, I’m not going to shy away because I have surgical scars from getting my gallbladder removed, or stretch marks from carrying my daughter for 9.5 months. I am proud of these marks, they are proof and reminders of my life experiences.

There was something about being pregnant that completely changed the way I thought about my body. I was no longer ashamed when I looked in the mirror and saw thighs that were bigger than I would have liked, and an overall “squishy” look that I seem to have. I was excited to slowly watch my body change. My hips became even wider than they were, and my stomach slowly grew big and round. It made me so proud that I was finally getting the chance to grow this tiny human. It was proof that I COULD do it, disproving the fear that I may never get to experience pregnancy for myself. It was a long, and not always easy 9.5 months. But when I look back on it now, I feel like it went by so quickly and I miss those days so much. 

There are still days when I catch a glimpse of my body and cringe, the bad thoughts come into my head. “How can my husband even stand to look at, or even touch me? I look horrible!” Then I take a breath and remind myself, “Hey, you made a freaking baby! You had surgery 3 months ago! Scars and stretch marks fade!”

As stupid as it sounds, I have some advice for every person reading this. Look at yourself in a mirror, find every single thing that you don’t like about yourself. Then, look yourself straight in the eyes and tell yourself, “I am beautiful the way that I am. My flaws make me who I am. I am perfectly unique, and there is nobody in the world like me.” It’s a baby step; but there is always the chance that one day, you may start to believe it.

 

Gallstones

“Oh yeah, that’s really common after pregnancy.” WHAT?!

It was about a month after giving birth when I started to feel a little pain on my right side. “It must have been the icecream, it is probably just gas or something.” I said to myself. Thinking it would pass, I strapped myself up to my breast pump and with every little suck of the pump I could feel the little pain getting worse and worse. I took a deep breath and went to go lay down thinking maybe the right position would make the pain go away. Within the next few minutes I knew I was wrong. I calmly walked into the living room where my husband was playing his video game and told him something was really wrong. My first thought was it’s a complication from giving birth, but I had no idea what kind of complication it could be. Pretty soon I was lying on the bathroom floor and the only thought running through my head was “Oh my God, I am dying!” I don’t mean that in the way most people say it, I LITERALLY though that I was dying.

After vomiting multiple times from the pain, my husband was so scared; he was on the phone with 911 to get me an ambulance to the hospital. Funnily enough, after I emptied my stomach, the pain started to fade. By the time the ambulance got there, I felt completely fine. The checked me out and since I wasn’t in any pain, and they didn’t seem to find anything wrong, we decided not to go to the hospital. It was only a few hours later when the whole thing happened again. This time we decided we had better go to the hospital. By the time we got to the hospital I was starting to feel less pain which was a relief. Unfortunately, the emergency room was extremely busy that night and we were not seen until the next morning (Nearly 8 hours). Since I had no symptoms anymore, and nothing showed up on the x-ray they did, the doctor suggested that it could have just been gas.

A few weeks later, it was the weekend of a friend’s wedding, and I started having all my symptoms again. I took my gas relief pills but nothing was helping. After having multiple episodes and having to leave the wedding early because I could feel another attack coming on, we decided we were going to go to a different hospital and hopefully get some answers. I was in so much pain going through triage that I could not even speak to the intake nurse. They gave me a bag to vomit into because I was in so much pain I could not move. Luckily, this time I was seen very quickly by the doctor. After a quick exam he suspected gallstones. A few hours later I was taken to get an ultrasound to confirm. The doctor finally game me the official diagnosis of gallstones. I was referred to some surgeons and was sent on my way.

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When we went to meet with the surgeon he asked me about my medical history, and when we said that I had a baby two months ago he said “Gallstones. Oh yeah, that’s really common after pregnancy.” WHAT?! No one ever told me that your gallbladder goes to shit after the miracle of life. Talking with different family members I found out that so many of them had also had their gallbladders removed, usually after giving birth. Thanks for the heads up guys, good looking out. I was able to schedule my surgery for the next week, and thankfully have had no further issues since having my gallbladder removed.

So some advice from me to you if you are expecting your precious little miracle sometime soon, look out for gallstones. They might just be coming for you too.

Did you experience anything crazy after giving birth? Let me know in the comments!

-Cartoon Credit: TheAwkwardYeti.com Instagram:TheAwkwardYeti (Give them a follow, they ALWAYS make me laugh)