Body image is not really a subject I ever expected to be blogging about, until I had my third miscarriage a few weeks ago.
Sure, there are parts of my body that aren’t perfect, but overall I’ve always felt pretty happy with my body and pretty comfortable in my own skin. But body image has just never really been all that big of an issue for me before – even after giving birth to my son.
After losing our third baby last month, there’s been so many different feelings to contend with; like sadness, anger, disappointment, hopelessness, doubt, mental distraction, physical discomfort, and anxiety about the future.
And all of these are pretty familiar miscarriage territory for me… but body shame and low self-image? This one is totally new and unexpected, and has caught me almost entirely off guard.
This is how miscarriage looks
But the truth is that this is the reality of miscarriage for many, many women. Especially amongst those who have suffered miscarriages that happen a bit later into pregnancy, as I also have this time.
This is how miscarriage looks:
It looks like still having a bloated, pregnancy-shaped belly, even several weeks after surgery to remove it.
It looks like feeling uncomfortable in all of your clothes because they’re still too tight, but not being able to wear maternity clothes either.
It looks like choosing loose fitting tshirts and boyfriend jeans every day because everything else clings to the stomach curves of a pregnancy that’s no longer there.
It looks like spending at least twenty minutes in front of the mirror every morning before work, trying on different outfits and obsessing about which outfit makes you look least pregnant.
It looks like lingering pregnancy hormones just not letting your body physically recover and heal as quickly as you would like.
And it looks like tears every time you get in the shower or catch a side glimpse of your naked body in a mirror.
In short, it’s pretty grim and only makes processing your loss that bit harder.
Caption: this picture is me three weeks after surgery to remove my pregnancy.
But these aren’t issues that anyone ever warns you will become a ‘thing’ after baby loss.
And sometimes they’re not.
But when they are, it’s a hard extra burden to carry on top of the grief and sadness and the loss.
And for many women, those constant physical reminders of pregnancy also come coupled with a sense of personal failure, inner shame, blaming themselves (even though rationally they know that there was nothing they could have done to cause or to stop it) or self-loathing too because your body let you down.
But the truth is that pregnancy loss is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed of, even though so many women report that they do.
A few thoughts, ideas and tips…
So how do you deal with constant reminder of loss that you’re often still carrying around for weeks after it’s happened?
And how do help you body to recover well?
Honestly, I don’t have any quick fix solution to offer here which will make all of these issues instantly disappear. Like most things about miscarriage recovery, it will take some time.
But here are a few suggestions to help you along the way, particularly if living with your pregnancy body post-pregnancy loss is starting to get you down.
And if you have any others, I would love to hear them too.
1. Try to stick to comfortable, loose fitting clothing if you can.
Body shape will effect some people more than others, but this is especially difficult if you are normally quite small-framed like me, and your bump showed very early on or is hard to hide.
And I say this not because I believe pregnancy loss is anything to hide or to be ashamed of, but purely because it helps to avoid those unnecessary and uncomfortable conversations with well-meaning strangers in the supermarket, asking how many weeks along you are. Nobody needs that post miscarriage.
2. Drink lots of water to help reduce the bloating.
I don’t honestly know if there is really any science behind this or not, but a lot of women claim that drinking lots of water helps to settle the worst of their bloating and discomfort more quickly, particularly after undergoing a D&C.
3. Try to limit the junk food and snacking
I know, I know… when you first face a miscarriage it’s hard not to just want to binge and numb out with copious amounts of chocolate, alcohol, and all the other unhealthy foods that you were avoiding so carefully during pregnancy.
And I’m not saying don’t do it, because I did. And let’s face it, what other silver lining is there to be found in any of this?!
But once you’ve done that for a week or two, it’s probably time to quit and focus on getting a healthy diet instead. Not only will it help fuel your physical energy and recovery process better, it will almost certainly let you regain your previous body shape and weight faster too.
4. Get yourself moving again…
If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found that pregnancy and loss has really screwed up any fitness regime you previously had. First you’re too sick to go to the gym, then you’re too weak and too uncomfortable, and then finally you’re just too depressed.
Again, okay for a few weeks but the truth is that if you want to drop all those extra pregnancy pounds, waiting for all the pregnancy hormone levels to drop off won’t do it alone. At some point you’re just going to have to suck it up and get moving again…
But make sure you get the all clear from a medical professional first, and take it slowly to start with.
5. Be kind to yourself & practice self acceptance
Miscarriage is not an easy thing to deal with; and the recovery can be frustratingly slow at times. But don’t blame yourself for what has happened because it’s simply not your fault, and don’t berate yourself for not being more together than you are either.
Like any type of grief, miscarriage loss is not linear. So take it a day at a time. Be realistic, and be kind to yourself. Don’t rush back into everything too fast. Give yourself the time and space you need to come to terms with what has happened and to to heal.
You could practice better self acceptance and self care through journaling, meditation, relaxation, yoga or just doing more of the things that you love. Have a soak in the bath, take that early night. Listen closely to your body and what it needs.
More than anything else I could possibly write in this space, my advice is this:
You may not be exactly where you aspire to be just yet, either physically or emotionally.
And that’s okay. Neither am I. But don’t worry about it. Know that you’re doing just fine, exactly where you are…
I know that sometimes all of the anger and sadness and heartbreak you feel scares you, and that you worry that it might never go away, and that you might never feel normal again. Me too…
But it does.
And you will.
The truth is that you are so much stronger than you think, and so much braver than you know.
You are coping with an incredibly difficult situation, and you are going to be okay.
And so am I.