Being in my fourth decade, I had a huge wobbly stomach, more than a few extra pregnancy pounds and me-time was suddenly in very short supply, but I’d embraced my new shape and felt blessed as a new mum. Everything made me smile.
I’d read that being a mum would be tough because I was older, but I was just happy that I’d been able to give birth to a healthy baby at 40. I didn’t care that my tummy wasn’t as firm. I felt a huge sense of achievement, like I’d just climbed Mount Damāvand.
While my pre-pregnancy clothes didn’t fit six weeks after Cyrus was born, I didn’t care because I knew I was eating a healthy diet, with plenty of fresh fruit and veg. I was also getting plenty of exercise exploring our new neighbourhood.
I was feeling confident and comfortable in my own skin as I walked into the doctor’s surgery for my six-week postpartum check-up. Yes, I had flabbier arms, swollen legs, purple stretch-marks and I was enduring sleepless nights, but I felt beautiful.
Now as far as I understood it, my check-up was to make sure I felt well, to see how I was doing emotionally and address any concerns going forward, so I was surprised when I wasn’t offered a physical check and was only asked a few vague questions.
The first question my GP asked was: “Are you depressed?” I looked at her puzzled. Did I look depressed? I replied: “No, not at all. I’m happier than I’ve ever been.”
She added: “No doubt you’re finding the sleepless nights really hard now because of your age?” Again, I looked at her puzzled. “I feel stronger and have more energy now than I had in my 20s, so no I feel great and I’m not missing too much sleep.”
I stepped on the scales. She looked down and then said: “You’re obese.” I laughed nervously. I was 13st.
“I’ve just had a baby, of course I’m overweight,” I replied. I thought it was a ridiculous thing for her to say to me. It really wasn’t what I needed to hear just six weeks after giving birth.
“You must make sure you’re walking an hour a day to get rid of the extra weight.” She said.
“I AM.” I snapped back. I didn’t need body shaming. I knew I was nowhere near perfect, but I had been happy until this point.
I turned to her and said: “I didn’t get to choose how Cyrus came into the world, so after having a forceps delivery, I haven’t felt ready to return to my exercise class just yet.” I was losing patience with the GP by this point, so after a brief lecture on contraception, I left.
I walked home, sat on the sofa and cried. I suddenly felt like I’d failed. This was not how I’d pictured my six-week check-up. I remember thinking, ‘How am I ever going to lose the weight?’
I was really distressed. I’d had a traumatic birth and I had no family members to help out with childcare when I needed to get back to the gym. I’d done everything myself so far. I’d put him to sleep, changed him and fed him each day, every day, many times a day for six weeks – on my own. Far from being down about it, I found it to be enriching and fulfilling.
Despite the pain of recovery and the fluid retention, I was more battered and bruised by the GP’s words. I felt an urgent need to do something about it.
While part of me just wanted to curl up on the sofa with a large tub of ice-cream, I was going to take charge. I’d show her I could get my BMI below 28! I needed to feel the burn even though my body confidence was at rock-bottom following that appointment.
Of course, I still had the problem of not having any childcare, but I was going to find a way around that. I was determined!