Guest Post from Criselda
About 5 years ago, I gave birth to a precious little baby boy who changed my life forever. But along with the glory of having given life, I also came face to face with the reality of weight gain and all kinds of physical deterioration. For someone who was almost skinny all her life and in relatively good proportion, this was a shocking revelation. All throughout my pregnancy, I never bought any new clothes and preferred borrowing my husband’s t-shirts and polo shirts because I was under the delusion that after I shoved the baby off my uterus, my body will instantly spring back to its original pre-baby form. I never really thought that my post birth body would look almost exactly the same when I was still nine months pregnant except with a more wobbly tummy. Thus began my almost 3 year journey of experiencing the realities and hard knocks of a postpartum body.
The first time I realized that I was not elastic girl and therefore have no power to shrink back at will was on the day after I gave birth. My doctor came to inspect my general well-being and my uterus, or at least the outside part. Her first comment upon lifting my shirt up and seeing my exposed mid-section was, “what have you done with your tummy? “. At first, I did not exactly understood what she was saying. From the time I gave birth until her visit, all I did was try to sleep and try to breastfeed. I did not recall doing “anything” to my tummy at all. But comprehension dawned on me when I caught a glimpse of my midsection. Right smack on where a baby was 12 hours ago was a sunken cavity, much like a volcanic crater. Outside the crater were folds of wrinkled skin more appropriately belonging to an 80 year old grandma rather than a 26 year old woman who just gave birth. As if it was not gruesome enough, a web of thick scar lines radiated outwards from my belly button until probably my sides. The sight was ghastly to say the least. Why would the doctor think that I would authorize this kind of disfigurement upon my very own belly?
Since that first day, I have subconsciously waved a white flag. I have, without knowing it, decided to give up on myself and age beyond my years. The choice was a reflex because during those days, there was really no time to sit down, think and produce an actual decision. Being the primary and almost sole caregiver of my newborn son, my time was reserved for actual necessities like going to the bathroom, eating, and not mere trifles like self-reflection. If then I had an actual moment, which I never had, I would have spent it sleeping or on something more essential like taking a bath. Yet despite the fact that my self-esteem took a backseat to the more important day to day affairs of survival, I was unknowingly affected by my lack of self-care and these thoughts leaked to the better part of my brain and eventually my life. Day by day I slowly withered until finally I thought I was worth nothing. Much to the chagrin of my husband, I kept telling him that the train has passed and I was left behind.
So I started not buying clothes. I did not think that my overly grotesque body deserved the hard earned cash of my husband. I wore what little stash of pregnancy clothes I owned and supplemented my wardrobe with my husband’s old t-shirt and polo shirts. My husband begged me to buy clothes. He even fought with me to buy clothes. But somehow he couldn’t drag me to the stores in any of the malls. I think he would have given anything, probably even a loan in the bank, just to get me out of my current mental rut. Eventually he convinced me to buy clothes at the grocery store. Yes, you read right. I gave in and bought clothes at the grocery store. They were selling 10 dirhams or less t-shirts and blouses and I didn’t give a rat’s ass on how they were made and what they looked like for as long as they were dirt cheap.
I even gave up on haircuts. A month after giving birth I decided to have a haircut because for some reason, my son thought that grabbing my hair was fun. I, of course, thought otherwise. Unsticking tiny fists out of your hair is as painful as unsticking dried bubblegum. My son’s newborn hands were that grabby. So I headed for the nearest salon and paid 40 dirhams to get the shortest possible haircut for my face shape. The hairstylist thought that bob length was a good idea for chubby old me despite the fact that I have the widest and largest face in the world even before my weight gain. When I looked at the mirror after she was done to gaze at my new haircut, my heart sunk to the floor. I came across like a pig with hair. The haircut highlighted all the wrong things in my face and probably my life. So I decided right there and then, that instead of paying someone 40 dirhams to make me look horrible, I will do it myself for free. Thus whenever my hair grew long enough for my son to grab, I just take a nearby scissor and chop it myself. Of course my hair was never even because most of the time, I never even bother with a mirror when I cut my hair. But at that point in time, I couldn’t care less what I looked like.
But despite all my bravado on not caring, I was hemorrhaging all over deep down inside my heart. When sales women who were 4 to 5 years older than I was called me “ate” or “madam”, I wanted to scream and bitch slap them in the face. It was even worse when sales men say it. The injury was deeper. I felt like I crossed a line and became unattractive. When I accompany my son to the park and foreign women ask me the length of my employment as a nanny, I wanted the earth to open up and swallow me whole. But who can blame them for their opinions? I myself thought I was ghastly. But still, hearing it from the perspective of another human being hurts like crap. So I avoided almost all forms of social interaction. I allowed my husband to be my unofficial spokesperson with merchants and the likes. I cringed at chance meetings on the streets with people I knew pre-pregnancy. I dreaded social gatherings and I shunned them as much as I possibly can because I detested the thought of having to spend actual hours in conversation with strangers and friends alike. For those get-togethers which were unavoidable for civil reasons, I endured in silence.
So my life went on like this for almost 3 years. There was improvement every now and then but the general life motif was still hopelessness. Then out of the blue, one of my friends tried the clean 9 diet of forever living. This diet combined with ballroom dancing literally shrunk her right before my very eyes. She reduced back to her previous body weight prior to giving birth to her second baby. In fact she was even thinner and leaner. Something clicked inside my head and I woke up. I have a choice. Just because I gave birth and my body turned into a gooey mess did not mean that I should concede defeat and live like an old lady. I can turn my life around for the better. Right there and then I decided that I was going to lose weight and be a hot momma. My husband was more than happy to support my get-thin endeavor; he even went on a diet himself.
The diet of choice was of course the clean 9 diet of forever living. The first two days of the diet involved almost eating nothing. To those who have tried it, you know what I mean. The most hunger abating nourishment I consumed for the whole day was a glass of 10 oz. skim milk with a scoop of forever lite. The rest of the day, you get by with aloe vera and vitamins. At that point in time I realized, when you are very hungry, everything looks delicious. I drooled even over my son’s leftover which was generally almost always gross in appearance and spit covered. I almost gave up on the very first day but I remembered how hot my friend looked so I kept going. I have to at least survive the first 2 days if I want the same result as hers. Thankfully the remaining 7 days of the diet were a walk in the park because you at least get to eat one 600 calorie meal a day.
At the end of the 9 day torture, I lost only a kilo. I cannot deny that I was severely disappointed to say the least. I cannot comprehend the reality that 9 days of almost extreme deprivation can only reduce your weight by 1 kilo. In comparison, my friends lost 2 kilos and beyond on their first 9 days and so I was disheartened even more. But on the brighter side, I did lose inches off my waist and tummy area. If not for those measurable benchmarks, I would have discontinued my quest for a hotter body. So the clean 9 diet progressed to the lifestyle 30 diet, also by forever living. But this time, I modified the diet to fit our budget. I took in only the necessary elements because following the diet to the letter will definitely send us to the poor house. I wanted to lose weight but I was still not that desperate or that selfish.
Over time my willpower over food strengthened so I continued my diet without any products from forever living. My 9 days of diet turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months and the months turned into a year. When I stepped into the weighing scale after that year, the weighing scale read 50 kilos. All in all, I lost 10 kilos. With body girdle, even the loose skin over my midsection became almost invisible. I looked as good or maybe even better before I gave birth. I was happy, my husband was happy and my son was happy. As the old saying goes, “happy wife, happy life”. As I superficial as my progress may seem to most people, my transformation was really more than the physical. When I improved my physical attributes, I have learned one of the most important lessons in motherhood: you cannot give what you do not have so you have to love yourself first before you can truly love beyond yourself.
Now after almost 2 years of reduced calorie intake, I got bored and slightly suffered from a diet burn out. Gradually, my weight returned to my original postpartum load of 60 kilos. But this time, I just gained back the weight but not the despair nor the hopelessness. I learned to love myself in whatever shape and size. Whether it be 50 kilos or 60 kilos, now is always the time to dress up, apply make-up and go for haircuts. Viva hot momma.