Throwback and Rewind
Growing up, I had lots of friends from all different types of cliques. I was smart and high-achieving, which landed me with a group of friends at school that were perfectionistic intellectuals. I was also creative, loud, and dramatic, which landed me in classes like chorus, show choir, and drama. In these classes, I had like-minded friends, where the drama and theatrics were real intense, but the laughs were just as resounding. I was athletic, growing up playing soccer, basketball, and softball throughout the year, changing sports with the changing season. My teammates were my friends as we created a kinship through knowing that we had to work together and have each other’s backs. I also had what I called my neighborhood friends, where we didn’t necessarily have much in common beyond being bored and wanting to ride bikes, watch MTV, and play sidewalk chalk together (clearly during different stages of adolescence), but we somehow bonded and found common ground exploring our neighborhood and creating chaos in the lakes that centered our quiet Miami-suburbia.
In these groups, I also always felt like the fat friend. Yes, I was athletic and I was active. I worked out every day for whatever sport was in season. I spent little time sitting in front of the tv and lots of time on the go, but I was certainly still built differently than my peers were.
No one specifically told me I was fat, but subtle situations or comments made me feel it. I knew that my clothes were probably 2 sizes larger than my friends and let it impact how I viewed myself. I took it to heart when a family member would tell me things about dieting, even before I was a teenager. I felt sad when I was told to suck it in for a picture. And I felt ostracized when someone would comment on how great that skinny girl looked and would later comment on how a larger girl needed to choose a more flattering outfit that hid her curves.
I put on fat kid goggles and saw myself through that lens. Looking back, I was in actuality not as large as I perceived myself to be, but the mind was a powerful influencer, especially during adolescence.
This didn’t make me feel terrible about myself overall, but it certainly had its influence on my own self-perception. My self-efficacy was high. I knew I could accomplish anything I put my mind to and felt successful as I tended to do well at whatever I tried to do. My self-confidence was a bit more malleable. I thought I was my own kind of beautiful, but certainly never felt like I was at a weight I was happy with. I always found something on my body to be unhappy with.
At the end of middle school, I got really into soccer. I practiced on my own, went on runs around my neighborhood, and was in fantastic shape. I was still thicker than my friends and teammates, but I was solid. I felt like I was rocking my look and my confidence started soaring, as I was soaking up the compliments from friends and family alike.
Then, suddenly, while working out harder than I had in my life, my weight started to explode. I gained 40 pounds in a short period of time, without explanation. I had heavy, long period flows. I had black spots show up on my neck and in between my breasts. My diet was good, I was running daily, how could I gain weight?! What were these other symptoms? What was happening to me? As an adolescent, I was devastated and wanted to hide.
Doctors didn’t have answers to these questions. My mom spent over a year taking me to different specialists, running all kinds of labs, and all without explanation. At that time, no one really knew what PCOS was. It wasn’t like it is now, where many people at least know someone who is diagnosed, but we finally got to the moment where a pediatric endocrinologist was able to offer a name to the symptoms. The treatments were really hard on my 14 year old body, but I at least understood that my body was going to work differently than my peers. It was going to be easier to gain weight and harder to lose weight, due to the way my body would process insulin in accordance with my PCOS diagnosis.
My weight got out of control during my mid-twenties, as I dealt with coming out, family health issues, death of my grandfather (which felt like the death of my father), graduate school, and teaching. This placed me in a state of heightened emotional stress, not to mention that I also just loved food, and resulted in me making terrible food choices based on what made me feel better emotionally, not physically. If you followed my journey previously, you know that the road to pregnancy was spent first with two years of weight loss, due to these decisions.
The work to get healthy was hard. I missed eating what I wanted and there were many times where I didn’t want to go to the gym. But every time I went farther on the elliptical or lost another pound, the sense of accomplishment was profound. 50 pounds down by the end made me feel like I was doing amazing. Sure, I was still obese, but I felt confident and healthier than I ever had as an adult. I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw. I felt sexy, even with any stomach rolls I still had.
If you followed my journey, you also know how badly I wanted to be pregnant. I wanted to be a mom desperately, yes, but I yearned for that pregnant belly. I wanted to look at my bump and rub it. I wanted to feel my child kicking inside of me.
What I didn’t expect was the paradox that would soon follow upon my big fat positive pregnancy result. I look at my twin pregnancy body and feel astounded. I feel strong. Look at what my amazing, female body can do. Look at how my skin stretches, my womb grows, my breasts change. Look at how I lay here and make 2 sets of eyeballs. How does it know how to do that? Yes, I’m a powerful woman and I feel that pride when I see the changes taking place over the past 7 months.
The paradox- I also feel very upset when I look into the mirror right now. The fat kid goggles come back. I look at this huge belly and my see that my legs look bigger and I instantly feel like I need to cover up again, like I once used to feel. I instantly feel the urge to suck in my stomach, but that trick clearly doesn’t work right now. It doesn’t matter that logically I know that I’m growing two humans. The illogical side of my brain takes over.
I see other women taking pictures of their bump without shirts on over it. I see people take bump casts to remember what their amazing body did. I envy them. I can’t do it. Despite the fact that I’m fairly confident that my wife has never found me to be more appealing than I am right now, these thoughts remain true. The thing with body issues is it’s really about how you see yourself, not how others see you.
I hope I can get there. I hope I can take off my fat kid goggles. I hope I can lose those goggles for good for my own mental health and to be a better role model with body positivity for my children. I am working on how to embrace my body soon before it’s all over and these babies are born, especially since I’m pretty sure that this will be my only pregnancy, since kids and the process for lesbians to get pregnant, are so expensive. I hope that I can at least take a picture without a shirt, even if just for myself, and feel proud that this rounding body is making life and is something to be proud of.