Grace In The Postpartum Season

It’s almost been a year and a half since I had my first child and I have yet to achieve and maintain my pre-pregnancy weight. I hit that pre-pregnancy weight once and then, life got in the way and I gained a few pounds back.

I didn’t really think about it while I was pregnant because I loved being pregnant. For one, I no longer had to suck in my stomach for pictures. Instead, I highlighted the big belly. My boobs were bigger and I just felt amazing, beautiful and powerful. Yes, I was at my biggest, but there is something special, something different about carrying life inside of you.

I also didn’t focus too much on the scale. The only time I really thought about it was right before a doctor’s appointment.

Then, after Natalie was born, everything was different.

My postpartum body was different.

My feelings towards that same body that carried life were now different.

First, I could no longer hold my pee for very long. Once I had to go, I HAD TO GO. And try doing jumping jacks…. yea, not happening.

I could no longer suck in my stomach either... You know, when you stand in front of the mirror sucking it in to see how skinny you can get?

And that dag on lower belly pouch!

What once brought awe and admiration now brought disgust and shame.

I started to believe that in order to have a joyful and happy life, I needed to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight… my pre-pregnancy body.

But that was all a lie.

We Need Grace

In truth, I don’t need to get back to my pre-pregnancy weight to find joy. Instead, I need to give myself grace.

God designed every aspect of our body. He designed the hair on our head, the color of our eyes, even the size of our boobs! Trust me – as a child, I prayed for bigger boobs and that obviously was not in Gods plan.

Just as He designed our individual gifts, He knew what our specific trials would be. Instead of allowing the suffering to be in vain, He used it for His glory and His purpose. There is hope in those trials. There is hope in our suffering. There is hope when we look at our bodies and see how imperfect they are.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
— Romans 5:3-5

He knows our struggles, even the struggles we have yet to encounter. He knows how we will react and despite everything, He promises to be there with us.

He is not the one who put the stipulation to only gain 15 lbs in pregnancy. He is not the one who said anything greater than a size 12 is too big. He is not the one who said my body is not enough.

I am.

God has just asked us to glorify him through the caring of our body.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
— 1 Corinthians 10:31

Our Humanity

Have you ever thought about some of the reasons why we hate ourselves?

Is it the evidence of humanity? The evidence that we are not God? That’s exactly why we hate our bodies because we see how imperfect they are. And it kills us.

But He gives us grace. He loves us no matter what. He’s called us to love him, and in doing so, to love his creation - which includes us.

So when you look down and see that lower belly that won’t go away. Know that God still loves you. He’s still there in the midst of your self-loath. He wants you to run to him so he can comfort you. He knows that it’s hard here on earth and he has a present for us when we join him.

When we step on the scale and see that atrocious number. Know that it’s just a number. It does not define who we are.

God defines us.

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God Strong

He knew you would struggle to lose weight. He knew that you were going to hate that scale. But he hasn’t left. He calls us to him every time. We alone are not enough, but He is. He is in the midst of this trial. He is using this time to mold you like a lump of clay that has yet to be formed. Every opportunity is another opportunity for him to create the beautiful masterpiece he has envisioned.

Even Paul struggled with some of his physical imperfections.

…Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
— 2 Corinthians: 7-10

He was given a thorn in his flesh, a tool Satan used to torment him. God could have healed that ailment, but instead, he offered grace. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness.

Momma, don’t lose heart. Don’t focus on how imperfect or ungodly you are. Don’t allow Satan to use your postpartum body as a tool to pull you away from your heavenly father. Instead, run to Him.

Yes, God could have prevented you from gaining 50+ lbs. Yes, He could have ensured your skin was elastic enough to not be permanently scarred. Yes, he could have created your baby to have a smaller head to prevent 2nd or 3rd degree tears. But He didn’t. Instead, He is calling you to return back to Him during this season, to comfort you and show you that you are made perfect through Him.

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Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
— James 1:2-4

God is here to love us despite our humanity.

3 Things I Learned From My Childhood Weight Issues

I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY WEIGHT - Part II Childhood 

This piece is Part 2 of a 9 Part Series called I Am Not Defined By My Weight, inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face". 

If you have read my intro to the series, then you already know I have struggled with weight my entire life.  I can trace it back to my childhood when I remember not wanting to get undressed for the doctors. I didn’t want them to see me unclothed. I also hated wearing bathing suits that showed off my stomach or thighs and absolutely HATED taking any kind of pictures.

I don't remember expressing these feelings vocally, but I do remember the dreaded belief that I was the fattest kid in the birthday photo.

Now, I look back at most of my childhood photos and I realize how delusional I was.

 
Yes... I was a chubby baby! But look how cute I was!

Yes... I was a chubby baby! But look how cute I was!

 

Cultural Significance

I don't remember the exact origins of these feelings, but growing up in a Puerto Rican family surely didn't help. Puerto Ricans, actually most Hispanics, focus a lot on physical descriptions.  That's why you will hear nicknames like "La Gorda”, “La Flaquita”, “Blanquita”, “Negra", "Gringa” etc… Can you imagine your family calling you “the fat one”, “the skinny one”, “the white girl”, “the dark girl”, etc...?

That sticks with you.

To top it off, it wasn’t unusual to go to a family function and have relatives comment on your weight/appearance.

This story isn't uniquely mine. If you talk to enough people, you will probably learn that it's pretty normal. By no means am I blaming my culture nor am I saying I had a horrible family. I love my family and know that no family is perfect. It's just that this constant discussion of weight and appearance created this obsession with being a perfect size, the perfect color, and just perfect in general.

So as I grew up, I always focused on it. If I had gained weight, I had to prepare myself in advance for any family functions knowing that someone would make a comment about me gaining weight. Or if I lost weight, someone would make a comment that I wasn’t eating enough and getting too skinny (blasphemy for a Puerto Rican).

You could not escape someone pinpointing that you gained a few pounds since the last time they saw you. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't that they meant any harm by it, it was just how my family operated.

Culture vs. Media

It’s important to note that at no point in my life have I ever been too skinny, at least according to US standards for BMI, in which I have always been considered “overweight” or “obese”. Yet, there were minor occasions when some family members thought I was getting too skinny. I was living in a world where the media glorified a size 0 with an hour-glass figure, but my community glorified a well endowed and curvy woman.

Talk about confusion!

I look back at my pictures and wish I saw then what I see now. Sure, I had some extra fluff, but not to the point that doctors needed to be concerned. I look back at those pictures and I pray that my baby girl wont go through the same issues I went through. I know that she will go through her stages, but I hope that I can help her see the beauty in her that I couldn't see in myself.

What the devil used for destruction, God used for a purpose.

Every stage of my life has had a unique impact on my self-worth. There isn't an exact moment that helped me love or hate my body, instead it was a journey through years of believing lies rather than truth. I hope that through my story, you can identify your own lies and start believing the truth that you are not defined by your weight.


3 Things I Learned

  1. Character qualities far exceed physical qualities, yet the compliments that come out of my mouth almost always center around physicality. Instead,  intentionally praise your children for their confidence, intelligence, curiousty, courage, and kindness.

  2. Strong is beautiful. Instead of focusing on the number on the scale, encourage children to be active (and lead by example). Strength is more important than what number is shown on the scale. Weight loss is the unintended outcome when a healthy lifestyle is the goal.

  3. Despite the pain caused from my sufferings, God used all those opportunities to mold me.  Teach your children to embrace the trials and know that God has a purpose for their life. Easier said than done, I know. But the effort will not be in vain. As we pour into our children, God will cultivate it in their heart.

"...but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4

 

I AM NOT DEFINED BY MY WEIGHT - Intro

This is Part 1 of a 9 Part Series "I Am Not Defined By My Weight" inspired by Rachel Hollis' book "Girl, wash your face".

Part I - Intro

Just recently, I finished reading Rachel Hollis’s new book “Girl, Wash Your Face” and I loved every freaking word in it. I loved it so much, it prompted me to write about my experiences with some of the chapters.

Girl, Wash Your Face book

The premise of the book is for women to stop believing the lies about who they are, so they can become who they were meant to be. Rachel goes through 20 lies that women believe and one big important truth—"You, and only you, are ultimately responsible for who you become and how happy you are"(pg. xi).

I loved the book so much, I dedicated an entire post for why you MUST read it, but for now, I want to tell you how deeply moved I was with lie #17 - "I am Defined by My Weight".

In this fitness series titled "I am Not Defined by My Weight",  I will tell you my journey with weight-loss, weight-gain, and self-worth.

The first post will focus on my childhood years. These were the years where growing up in a hispanic household truly molded the way I saw physical appearance, breeding an obsession with the perfect weight and body.

Then, I'll take you through the dreaded high school years and eventually, college years where I promise it gets a little more juicy.  I actually cringe writing about most of these stories, feeling the embarrassment come right back. In spite of that, I have to tell you my story. Because all of those individual moments slowly molded and shaped the woman I am today.

I will continue on and take you through the struggles in ROTC where I had to constantly tell people I was too fat to wear my uniform (and yes, it was tramatic).

Thankfully, I persevered through those challenging years, but the struggle did not end there. I eventually got married and had to learn how to grocery shop for two people with competing food/fitness goals (and an ice cream addict...ahem David).

Do you make your spouse suffer so you aren't tempted to eat an entire bag of Salt N Vinegar chips?

Do you buy them donuts for breakfast even though you know you will OBSESS over them until the entire box is gone?

I had to learn and am still learning what that looks like.

As if my self-worth wasn't already in shambles, I became pregnant at the heaviest weight I had ever been. Any momma reading this will understand the struggle of postpartum body image and self-worth. I will open my heart to you so you can hopefully understand the woman behind these words.

Spoiler alert—I will not end it by telling you I have figured out the success to loving your body. I will not end it by telling you I have it all figured out. I don’t even know how I will end the series to be completely honest. But I will be open, honest and vulnerable with anyone who wants to listen/read. These stories might not seem like a big deal when you read them, but to me, they had a huge impact on the mother, wife and woman I have become.

My only hope is that I can encourage women to know they are not alone in the struggle and maybe in writing, I can find healing.