I Don't Want to Talk About It
Updated: Sep 25, 2019
I’ve been teaching childbirth classes for a while, but a few months ago I decided to change the name of my business and start talking about body image and food struggles and their effect on experiences of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum healing and recovery. I wanted my classes to be safe spaces to explore the struggle, and cultivate body positivity, self-love, and healing. The problem is, I don’t want to talk about it. I have spent almost my whole life not talking about it, ignoring it, pretending like it didn’t exist, and living my life from the neck up. It is soo uncomfortable for me to talk about even having a body, let alone my experience and struggle with that body and how it has effected and impacted every area of my life for as long as I can remember. So my dilemma now is, how can I incorporate this into my classes in a real and helpful way, without actually talking about it?
Before I found body positivity I believed that if I just ignored my body and pretended like it didn’t exist, somehow no one else would realize I was fat, and no one would notice my misery. I struggled in silence, alone, in a deeply private, isolated, and painful place inside myself that I thought no one else knew about. One of my most painful memories from that time was when I was in my early 20s, and a friend of mine, perhaps thinking she was being helpful and supportive, told me, “Everyone says you would be so beautiful, if you lost weight.” Um, excuse me?! What was that? So, not only did everyone realize that I was fat, but they were all talking about it behind my back!? I couldn’t believe it. I really thought that somehow no one knew!
Shortly after that I entered a 12-step program for food addiction, lost a bunch of weight, and developed all kinds of problems from it. I then discovered body positivity, gained all my weight back, and decided to love and accept myself as I was (read more of the story here). After going through all of that, I wanted to fully inhabit and love my body. I acknowledged that I was fat and that everyone knew it. I began connecting to my body and learning how to feed myself in a sane, balanced, and pleasurable way that supported my health. I loved myself and my body, and I embraced and accepted myself fully and completely as I was. But now, looking back, I realize that that is as far as I got. I still mostly lived my life from the neck up. I still ignored my body a lot of the time, still didn’t really want to talk about it, and still for the most part pretended that it didn’t exist as I interacted with the world. I was very protective of my story, only talking about it in any meaningful way in very small and exclusively body positive spaces. Many of my friends and family that saw me going through all of those dramatic weight fluctuations still don’t really know what happened.
When I started having babies, I tried to not worry about how my body and relationship with food was changing, how much weight I did or did not gain, what I was or was not eating, or if my husband would still like me. After giving birth, I tried not to care about how my postpartum body was changed, what it looked like, how it felt, if it would ever be the same as before, and what other people thought of me. I was body positive, I loved and accepted myself as I was, and that meant I wasn’t supposed to care. Right?
One of the hardest periods of time with each of my children was adjusting to life postpartum. During pregnancy my changing body and appetite were not always easy or comfortable, but they were expected. But after giving birth, the combination of my rapidly changing body, changing hormones, figuring out breastfeeding, figuring out how to care for a brand new human while also meeting all of the other preexisting demands of my life, figuring out who I was now, what my new priorities were, what I wanted, what I still cared about, and which parts of me had shifted or changed completely, and on top of all of that trying to figure out how to feed myself again, was a huge adjustment to say the least. After struggling for months after the birth of my first child I remember trying to talk to my sister about it. She has 6 children, so I thought she might be able to help, but it was so hard for me to talk about, instead of being open about my struggles, I asked her if she had had a hard time with “self-care” postpartum. Of course she had no idea what I was actually talking about, and told me something about not expecting to be able to take baths with scented candles for a while.
As time went on and life got fuller, it was easier and easier to ignore my body, ignore how I was feeling and what I was needing, and it became harder to listen to my body and tune in to what it was calling for. Food became a way for me to manage the stress of life, and quiet any unmet needs that I didn’t have time or energy for. When deciding what to feed my family, more and more I resorted to the quickest, easiest, and most affordable thing I could think of that was relatively healthy, and able to fill all the bellies that I was responsible for filling.
Then, with my third child, my pregnancy was so difficult that I could no longer continue ignoring and burying my struggles. Physically I was in so much pain and discomfort that my body was a miserable place to live, I had health complications, so I had to pay attention to how I was caring for and feeding myself. I also had two toddlers, 3 step kids, a household, a husband, a family, and a brand new baby business teaching birth classes. I had no clue how I was ever going to be able to add another baby to the mix. My stress, worry, anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation were through the roof, so in order for me to have the birth I wanted, I needed to find a way to slow down, de-stress, and prioritize taking care of myself in the midst of my real life. In short, I could no longer ignore my body (read more of the story here).
After giving birth I was hopeful that my life and body would just go back to the way they had been so I could just move on, but that didn’t happen. Instead, my body had changed more than it had with any other pregnancy. I was still in a lot of physical pain, especially in my pelvis, and everything just felt softer and looser. I also felt physically weaker and slower, my body just didn’t work the way that I was used to it working. All the self and body hatred I thought I had dealt with 10 years earlier came back with a vengeance. I wanted to hide. I started wearing longer sleeves and baggier clothes in my house, and when I could, I avoided going anywhere in public because I didn’t want people to see me.
I felt like I was a body positive failure, but I also felt like body positivity was failing me. I knew from bitter experience that dieting and trying to lose weight and control my body was not the way to go, and that in the end it would only lead to more pain and struggle. But, I hated my body, I felt betrayed by it, I didn’t love myself, I did not feel healthy, and I didn’t know how it was possible to be ok with where I was. At the same time, I had a 4 year old, a 2 year old, and a newborn, which was just really hard all the time. I felt like a horrible mother, unable to meet anyone’s needs. I constantly felt guilty, I hated my husband, and I was mad at God for doing all of this to me. I felt so deeply ashamed and broken on every level, mind, body, and spirit. I felt like I was standing in the broken shards of my life and I had no idea how to go about picking up the pieces, or putting it back together.
Healing from all of that has been a slow and often painful process. It's involved a lot of tears and tantrums, many mistakes and hard moments, a lot of feeling my big, hard, and ugly feelings, some good days, and many more lost and hopeless days. After about 6 or 7 months, I was able to see a light at the end of the tunnel, and even though it was still hard, living life started to feel possible again. I realized that this, all of this that I had been going through, was me living body positively. Being “body positive” meant me being in all the hard and ugly parts of my messy, imperfect, real life, with all of my messy, imperfect, real feelings. It meant me wanting desperately for an easy way out of it all, but knowing that self-love, reconnecting to myself and my body, and trusting that my body was wise and would support me if I could find a way to connect and listen, no matter how illusive or impossible that all seemed, was the only true way out, the only true path to healing. It was me committing to loving myself fully and completely, and accepting and caring for the body I had with love and gratitude, even while I hated myself and couldn’t stand being seen or looking in the mirror.
After getting through that initial intense postpartum period, I felt like I was resurfacing after months of drowning. I was not out of pain, but I knew that I was now on my path to healing, and I was committed to stay the course. As I eagerly gulped in the fresh clean air, a deep and burning desire to make meaning out of my pain was ignited in my belly. I did not want to have gone through all of that for nothing, and I knew that I couldn’t be alone in all of my pain. I knew there must be people out there who were also struggling in silence. That is when I decided to change my business name,, start talking about it, and start
sharing my story.
But, I still don’t want to talk about it. It’s hard and uncomfortable, and I am still far from being healed. I often have hard days and impossible seeming moments. Life is still messy and imperfect, and I am so used to being alone and isolated in my feelings, that opening up is terrifying. I worry that there really is no one else going through any of this, and that there really isn’t anyone who can relate to me. So maybe if I open up and share I’ll just be being all vulnerable, making me and others uncomfortable, and possibly alienating potential clients, for nothing. At the same time, I know in my bones that I am not alone, that I wouldn’t feel so called to share and talk about my story if there was no one out there to benefit from hearing it. And that is why I am and will continue to force myself to push through my own discomfort and shame. That is why I am talking about it.