Courtesy of Rae Steward

An Open Letter To The 60 Pounds I Gained When I Was Pregnant

Dear 60 Pounds I Gained When I Was Pregnant,

I didn't really think it was possible to have you. I mean, I had always walked through the world as a stick-skinny, bobblehead of a girl. I was gangly, lanky, and very, very thin. By the time I got pregnant, I weighed 120 lbs, so I assumed that over the next nine months, I would naturally experience the recommended weight gain for pregnancy, which is between 25 and 35 pounds. But as anyone who has actually ever been pregnant knows, it's close to impossible to stay within those parameters, so by the time I delivered, I had gained half of my pre-pregnancy body weight.

"How did that even happen?" I kept asking myself as I stepped on the scale. "How?" Eventually, I had to concede that OK, fine, my daily cravings for milkshakes probably didn't help, as did my cravings for donuts. And cookies. And ice cream. But as someone who never really had to watch what I ate, I have to say, you surprised me.

You didn't appear all at once, but you sure did come on fast. Every day I woke up and was almost unrecognizable to myself. It was incredibly unsettling.

Courtesy of Rae Steward

Your entry into my life was incredibly rude, and I think you should apologize. When a woman is growing a human being inside her body for the first time and experiencing the anxiety of impending motherhood, not to mention the violent roller coaster of pregnancy hormones, it's probably not the best time for you to crash into her world.

To be fair, getting to know you wasn't all bad. Even though I had always been thin, I had also really suffered from body image issues. I remember looking at my 120-pound self and thinking I was fat. I remember being able to appreciate the beauty of other women, no matter their size or shape, but thinking that when it came to me, being thin was the same as being beautiful.

And then, 60 pounds of pregnancy weight, you changed everything. At first, I was embarrassed by you. But then, I realized that I had been comparing my body to that of a non-pregnant woman's, which didn't really make a lot of sense. When I stopped constantly comparing myself to other women, I learned that I actually really enjoyed being round and soft. I had always been all angles before. There was something so sweet about your coziness.

Courtesy of Rae Steward

Another added perk: My pre-pregnancy body featured a flat stomach, but also an extremely flat chest. Together, they were just, like, always a package deal. So when you demanded to make my body your home, I was initially upset, but then I realized that you were giving me those curves I'd always wanted. Thanks to you, I went up five bra sizes. (I also went up seven pant sizes, but who can be bothered to remember such details.)

So, fine, you had some redeeming qualities after all. But I still worked to get back to "normal" as soon as possible. I took my hormone-ridden, sleep-deprived, leaky body and I pushed that stroller everywhere. I got back on track with my diet. And slowly, slowly, slowly you melted away. I was happy to be rid of you, and yet as soon as you were gone I started criticizing my body again. Constantly.

I am heavier, squishier, and curvier since having known you, yet I feel more beautiful than I ever did before. I no longer think I have to be thin to be pretty. I am amazed at what my body is capable of, and you were a huge (no pun intended) part of that.

And then I got pregnant again. This time, I was overwhelmed with cravings for fresh grapefruit juice instead of milkshakes. I gained 20 pounds instead of, you, 60-pound weight gain. To an extent, I was proud of myself for maintaining some sense of control over my body, but you know what? You changed me forever.

I may be close to my pre-pregnancy weight again, but you left wider hips, a certain softness, and stretch marks across my thighs. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I am heavier, squishier, and curvier since having known you, yet I feel more beautiful than I ever did before. I no longer think I have to be thin to be pretty. I am amazed by what my body is capable of, and you were a huge (no pun intended) part of that.

Now, my kids snuggle up with me and grab my soft belly for comfort. You did that. My self-esteem is now rooted in my character and not my physicality. You did that too. My bra size has been 32AA, 36E and everywhere in between. My pant size has stretched from 2 to 16 and back again. The opportunity to experience life from such a wide variety of body types taught me a lot. I know that it's human to be self-critical, but it is so much easier to practice self-love than I thought.

I learned that even on the days when I really, truly looked puffy and haggard, it never mattered, because I was always doing more important things than "looking good." Things like creating life, caring for babies, connecting with my partner, and getting to know myself as a mother. I mean, really, who cares what I looked like while I was doing all of that?

Society has always told me that skinny is superior and I always believed it. Thanks to you, 60 pounds of pregnancy weight, I know that being plump, chubby, curvy, and squishy can actually be pretty damn delightful.