I’ve been thinking a lot about body confidence over the last few months. Mainly that I really had zero. That’s beginning to change, slowly, through changing the way I think about it but it’s still a work in progress. Anyway it’s taken a while to find the words to explain it (part of the reason I’ve been quiet on this blog) but it’s now making sense to me in my head, which means it hopefully will do on paper…
I’m not sure I ever really accepted my body after my POF diagnosis. At 15 you just want to be the same as your peers, and with it feeling like your body changes every week at that age, it’s a pretty big focus anyway. Suddenly it felt like there was a magnifying glass on mine and that “different” was written on my forehead with , “malfunction” repeating like an alarm from within me.
It became the focus for my grief over the child I thought I’d never have…then in my late twenties the grief I had over embryos that past away inside me. My tummy a centre for the anger I felt at the unfairness of it all and like I had no control over me.
Emotions equalled eating and I struggled with any exercise relating to my tummy area, subconsciously feeling it didn’t deserve any time or love.
With the burst of the fitness and fashion posts on Instagram, mainly from women with the “ideal” figure (which I’m not knocking if you have at all), I feel without realising I gained an unbalanced view of what the female body should look like. And I wasn’t it. Pushing me more to consider my body the outsider.
As my body perception started to affect my every day life, my negative thoughts about it becoming an almost constant preoccupation,it was damaging my self esteem in other areas to. If my body was faulty, was my brain too? Could I really be as clever as my colleagues? Speak up with ideas in meetings?
Has anyone else found infertility has affected their trust? It might sound odd that something firstly happening inside our bodies, a medical issue, can affect t trust on a mental health level but for me that’s huge.
I couldn’t reply on my body to behave as it was meant to, how sex education lessons tell you it will that first time you have sex with out contraception! To not throw me a hot flush during a class presentation. To start producing milk when I adopted my baby, my body confused by these hormones and my body aching to be relieved with no hope.
My trust further twisted by being promised all manner of statistics by IVF consultants, being encouraged to think positive, this could be the time, only for yet another failure and more anger at my hated tummy. The huge disregard for my body being my own during our IVF in Prague.
The hatred for my body started creeping into my relationship, which to me was the last straw. POF has taken a lot of things from me but I’ll be damned if it’s taking my relationship too, so I started looking into what I could do about it ymself. I’m not sure which combination of the following has started to make the difference but something has so it’s worth sharing. I still have a way to go, but I finally feel more on the list at to accepting my body after Infertility than I ever have.
1. This free Body love for Women mindfulness course on the app Insight timer. Basically just have a listen for ten minutes a day quietly to yourself. It focuses on a different part of your body in each session. I was worried coming up to the tummy area it was going to go on about fertility but actually it’s very accepting of all circumstances so don’t worry. I found it uncomfortable to listen to that area, only because I am not used to thinking in a positive way about it, but pushing myself to had actually helped break down those barriers a little. It’s ethos also just feels a fab way to reframe how you think about your body for anyone.
2. The book Body Positive Power by Megan Jayne Crabbe (I actually listened to it on audible because who has time to read!?). I didn’t expect to get as much from this as I have. It makes some amazing points about why we think the way we do about our bodies, societies expectations, the history of the diet industry and has had me able to look past much more of what those industries ase trying to push. I’ll be making Josh read it one day and most certainly if I ever have a girl!
3. Slimming world. Now this may seem like it goes totally against the above but I’m probably the rebel in my slimming world class. Firstly I’ve only had one period in my life where I actually respected my body enough to look after it with my eating habits which was just before our IVF abroad a few years ago. I haven’t been able to care about my body enough since to do that again consistently. I don’t mean in good food versus bad food kind of way. More in the negativity of feeling my body doesnt deserve good nutrition. That’s left me with about 2.5 stone to lose to be back to my starting weight before my son. A weight know felt healthy at. What the above points have done for me is make me more comfortable with who I am now, but I don’t feel healthy and so I’m ready to lose the weight that I see as all those years of emotional eating and not liking my body enough to care. However on holiday I’ve eaten whatever I want because whilst I will diet to some degree, it’s not ruling my life. I’ve lost a few pounds slowly and I’m happy with that. I don’t stay for the group chat after weigh in because I don’t agree with all of the slimming world bumf but I do like the recipes and am finding it works for me so I’ll stick with it.
I’m not requiring myself to lose weight to feel worthy. It feels like losing years of self punishment. Im starting to seeing food as sustainance and pleasure, not shame or torture.
4. For each time a mean thought enters my head about my body, I imagine saying it to someone else. It shocks me into realising how harsh I am to myself. Try it now with the last negative thought you had when you looked in the mirror. Bet you’d never dream of saying it to someone!? and I then try to follow it with a compliment to myself. Sounds weird and it’s really hard when you’ve spent years hating your body, but continue trying and it starts to work . I’ve also tried to focus on the parts of my body that I like and that work rather than solely focusing on what doesn’t. My feet that keep me balanced all-day. My lap that holds things precious to me, whether that used to be my cat and now my son. My arms that hug loved ones and my mouth that occasionally has something to say that might make a difference.
5. Looking at reality. There are so so many media images pushing the “ideal” body type, everywhere from in social media to magazines, to advertisements on the train and TV stars, the reality that bodies are so varied gets swallowed up. On holiday I was so nervous about wearing a bikini but it was so refreshing to see how many different body types there are in reality. Around the pool was everysize, stretch marks and none, cellulite and smooth skin, tan lines, scars, wobbles, muscles and everything in between. It was beautiful! A reminder that what we normally see day to day isn’t real. What’s being fed to us by the media isn’t reality. We know it in our heads but if our brains don’t see it, and the natural human instinct to compare kicks in, we don’t give ourselves a chance.. Our bodies are the reality. There is no good or bad. You aren’t different, odd, weird, bad, you are wonderfully unique as we all are and their is beauty in all of it. I’m taking more time, wherever I am, to look at real bodies rather than those that are carefully chosen or faked. If I can tell someone has tweeked themselves on Instagram (or even worse their kids!) I’m outta there.
I’m not sure if any of this babble will help, but body image, trust and self love are things I don’t feel are covered enough where fertility is concerned. So much of society puts pressure on the ideal femininity being a fertile woman, that it can leave us questioning our bodies and womanhood, when the reality 1 in 8 women are going through fertility issues. Having fertility issues is part of womanhood. It is normal. It’s shit but it’s normal and it doesn’t take away from how amazing our bodies still are or how much we are allowed to love or trust them. You are allowed to love your bodym you are allowed to look at your tummy in the mirror and marvel at how much it battles through with each Fertility treatment. How hard it is trying. How hard you are. You are the epitome of the warrior in womanhood. Start trying to see it too