Written by Jess Raubenheimer-Free
For as long as I can remember I have struggled with body confidence. I'm just not built to be skinny, although I've always worked very hard to try and get there. When I got pregnant I'd been steadily losing weight and getting fit from spending hours in the gym and following a strict ketogenic diet.
I was learning to like what I saw in the mirror as my muscles got more defined, my waist got smaller and my legs got slimmer. After finding out I was pregnant, I took a few days off the gym, always planning to go back. The day I did go back I was a nervous wreck. I knew it was perfectly safe to run and exercise while you're pregnant, but I was so incredibly terrified of losing this much longed-for pregnancy.
So I stopped going. No more weights. No more running. Cold turkey. I'd get back on track once my baby was born I told myself.
And so my body grew, as pregnant bodies do. My belly swelled, my muscles softened, my face got fuller. I would always get comments about how HUGE I was, and always I would shake with rage inside. Didn't these people know what their callous comments did to me? As if I didn't KNOW I was getting bigger?
It was at around 6 months pregnant that I really started to change my attitude towards my body. I was sitting on a beach on Fitzroy Island in Queensland, in a bikini, soaking up the gorgeous winter sunshine. People were smiling at me, nodding congratulations. My baby was enjoying the sunshine too it seemed, as she was squirming around in my belly. In that moment I felt something I had never truly felt before.
Growing a life inside and bringing that little human into the world has changed my whole perspective on my body. My body sustained a tiny human from the size of a poppy seed to the size of a watermelon. It kept her safe until she was ready to join us. My body survived the pains of labour. It pushed my child out into the world. My body recovered, torn and bruised from the trauma. My body produces milk that sustains my child.
I've been able to reframe my 'flaws', see the beauty in them. My belly is covered in pink stretch marks from expanding to house my beautiful baby. My breasts are bigger and a little bit saggier from the constant swell of milk and the subsequent removal of it by my child. My pelvic floor is weaker from the effort of pushing my baby out (yes I do my kegels!).
What an incredible miracle the female body is. My body is so incredibly different to what it was before, but I've truly never felt so amazed by it. And I will forever treat it with respect, so that my daughter can learn to do the same for hers.