Before getting pregnant, I maintained a healthy weight of 50 kilos, went to the gym and did yoga three times a week, and ate as well as I could. I loved my body, and I loved showing it off (which is probably the reason why I got pregnant ;) ). After announcing my pregnancy, though, everyone warned me that not only was I going to lose sleep, I was also going to lose the body I worked hard for and then, well...gain weight.
To borrow the words of Lise Friedman from the book Letters to Juliet, “Weight and gain are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together side-by-side, and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life.” And haunt me it did.
I gained 25 pounds during pregnancy—and then stopped counting after. I shunned the weighing scale for months because, really, what more proof do I need?
The evidence hung on my belly, loose and wrinkly, clinging like a wine stain on my favorite cashmere sweater. It showed on my breasts, bigger and heavier, nurturing my little human with seemingly no end in sight. It made its mark on my thighs, thick as thunder and no longer fitting my jeans like a glove.
Each day felt like a battle to love my new body. Each day felt like I was losing all the other parts of me that made me, me. But each day also felt like I was gaining too much—and not just those extra pregnancy pounds.
If you don’t know, mothers gain and carry a lot of weight, and they’re the kind that no bathroom scale can measure.
The weight of exhaustion creeping into every inch of my body as I try to survive the early season of motherhood. The long days and even longer nights shoved the weight of exhaustion on my eyes, replacing its sparkle with gloom. It’s not that there was no joy in motherhood. It’s that it was difficult to find joy when you’re in the trenches of motherhood—waking up in ungodly hours, nursing the baby with bleary eyes, changing one diaper after another.
The weight of expectations of how a mother should be, how she should look, act, and feel. How moms should know their babies like the back of their hands because motherhood is supposed to be natural and intuitive. How moms shouldn’t work but should want to work. How they should breastfeed—not bottle feed—but definitely not breastfeed in public. How moms should strive to be good moms and not just settle for good enough. The laundry list of things society expects from moms is immensely long, and ticking each one off is an impossible feat it’s like we’re being set up for failure.
The weight of responsibility invisible to everyone but stamped on a mother’s mind a million times over. Some have called this the mental load of motherhood. It’s that small voice that prompts reminders, whispers questions, and holds tidbits of information about appointments with the pediatrician, shopping lists, and who hasn’t pooped for how long. Sometimes it weighs us down as we struggle to put the needs of others above our own, leaving little time for ourselves. But more often, it gives us purpose because the weight of responsibility is always entwined with that one other weight we carry…
Is probably the heaviest load mothers carry. It’s fantastic and frightening, and blessed and holy. It’s this weight that gives us aches and pains, making us care for our little humans like our precious gems. It’s unbelievable how it pulls and pushes us into places we never thought we’d reach. Despite what others say, motherhood never gets easier. The weight of exhaustion, expectations, and responsibility can easily drag us down and steal the joy of motherhood. But believe me. Carrying the weight of love even when you feel like it’s sliding down a slope makes anything-anything at all—bearable. So hold onto it, mama. Hold onto love. Always.