It was somewhen in the nineties.
I was on holiday with my friend and some adults who I didn’t know had also been invited. Whilst we waited for our table a staff member came over and politely asked if my friend and I would like to see a child or adult menu.
“She doesn’t look like she eats children’s portions at home” one of the men hissed back at the staff member (with such force it felt that the whole restaurant turned around to see my mortified little face).
I felt so full of shame. I wanted to dig a hole and die. I was twelve years old.
I’ve never told anybody that story before and I’m not really sure when my rocky relationship with food and my body started but I certainly have a collection of memories, of negative tapes that play, rewind and fast forward now and again, all from my childhood. They invoke both a stinging sadness and a huge amount of empathy for the hurt little girl I was during those moments.
I didn’t seem to possess the self love to know his opinion was both wrong and irrelevant. That my appearance was none of his business. That I was more than just my body and its perceived imperfections. I loved art and I was clever and funny and a good friend. I was beautiful in my own right. I still am. That my appearance was NONE of his business. That his statement said far more about him, than it did about me.
I found recovery from an eating disorder when I was twenty. I’ve had my ups and downs over ten years, but a day at a time, I have never returned to the rock bottom I found myself in all those years ago. I never once during my years of self abuse thought deeply about what I was putting my body through. I didn’t dwell on the consequences of the harm I was inflicting. I drowned it out in the pursuit of perfection. It wasn’t until I met my soulmate and wanted children years later that it dawned on me that I may have caused irreparable damage.
Very fortunately for us, I hadn’t. I have given birth to two beautifully unique, feisty and loved little girls in the past three years. I can’t tell you how proud I am of them. And one of the most healing things I have done for myself? Yup. I conquered breastfeeding. One thing I have learnt about myself over the years is that I am tough.
My stubbornness in my illness was very self destructive but when redirected at doing the right thing, the things I wanted for my children, I found I was unstoppable. I fought through my first pregnancy which saw hyperemisis have me clinging to a toilet bowl for nine months, often bringing back painful past memories. I survived a thirty-six hour labour without pain relief.
I survived being a first time mother and not knowing what the hell I was doing.
I survived becoming unexpectedly pregnant again when my first was just nine months old and still nursing day and night.
I survived *another* hyperemisis pregnancy, this time whilst nursing a toddler.
I gave birth again, this time in a merciful three hours and twenty five minutes. I bought a house and left my job.
I survived post natal depression.
I now tandem feed two rambunctious toddlers. This year I turn thirty. See, what that guy didn’t see that night when he made an assumption about my body, was just how powerful it actually was. In a way, that pain drove me to discovering it for myself but I want my girls and any person reading this to celebrate just how powerful your body is too.
Your body is powerful.
You are unique and beautiful and perfectly imperfect.
You may fall down, but with the right support and knowledge and tenacity you will pick yourself back up again. You may receive negative remarks, but you know what? Fuck them! You will be marketed to and told your body isn’t good enough. But give yourself the chance, and you will show yourself just how strong you are and always were.
One of my greatest and most powerful amends to my body, is to grow, nurture and love my children with my body.
Guest blog post
by Liv Betts