I have been a fat activist for a long time. I could talk forever about how I love my fat body and how fat isn't necessary unhealthy (and also critique the premise of that statement). I'm one of those fat people that have been wearing fatkinis for years and I have been confident and happy with my body for as long as I can remember...until I had a baby.
There were a lot of things that I worried about when I got pregnant, but being okay with my body wasn't one of them. One of my biggest worries was dealing with the medical industry as a fat pregnant person, but besides having to drink the gross stuff that they give you to check for gestational diabetes an extra time, that part was pretty smooth (due largely I'm sure to the fact I am white, insured, educated, and not super fat). I figured that I was already fat and if I got more fat, so what?
I had a blessedly unremarkable pregnancy, followed by a hellish 36 hours of labor that ended in a C-section. After I healed from the C-section and my head was cleared from the hormones, I was grateful that I literally had my body back, meaning that I didn't have to share it anymore. By going to the obstetrician for follow ups I learned my weight was more or less the same as it was before I got pregnant, but my body was completely different.
People in the fat community don't talk enough about the privilege afforded to different shapes. Women with more hourglass shaped bodies tend to be more visible and desirable. Most plus-size models you see have this body type. Obviously, a lot of us have "apple" or "pear" shaped bodies, though you won't see that represented much (my point is that size isn't the only factor affecting fat oppression).
Before I was pregnant I was relatively hourglass shaped, though with a bigger waist. Like a lot of fat people, I also had some stretch marks but, by the time I got pregnant, they had faded. After I had the baby, I suddenly had a big belly covered in dark stretch marks that hung down over my pants in a way I wasn't used to. None of this is atypical in people who have just had babies. What really threw me for a loop was that I was bothered by it.
Look — even the most fat positive of us can have bad days and get insecure about our double chin selfies. I don't want to give the impression that there is any way to truly shake the fat negative brainwash of our culture. But my feelings about my "new" belly were more than just momentary lapses. I had a hard time being okay with it.
While no one is under any obligation to love their body (the answer to systemic oppression is not individual self-esteem), I was used to being happy with my body and I liked feeling that way. Not only that, I was so used to feeling content that I was truly surprised to feel differently. Luckily, I had a lot of tools and resources to use to get back to being happy with my body.
One of the most helpful tools is looking at pictures of people with my (new) body type and seeing how great they look. I got rid of clothes that no longer fit me and when I could afford it (which wasn't often) I bought myself a new dress that fit my new body. I also really tried to embrace my belly and become confident about it. I worked with a friend on a photo shoot where I wrote "MILF" on my belly and wore only granny panties and old sports bras. It really helped me feel beautiful and confident with this new shape. I also started taking more pictures of my belly and posting them on social media.
I noticed that part of my issues came from the fact that we tend to see a very narrow type of bodies represented. Adding my body to the mix put the final nail in the coffin of my discomfort with my belly. This doesn't mean that I will always perfectly embrace it. Because my belly flops down I have to give extra attention to it to make sure I clean and dry underneath it. This extra attention is usually fine but some days I still have to work through feelings about it (I'm also really lazy so anything that makes more work for me is hard).
This journey has been relatively easy for me because I am generally privileged compared to a lot of other fat people. The fact that I am white and not super-fat is extremely relevant here and I don't expect people to be at any particular place with their body. I do hope that talking about my experience helps people — especially fat people — to prepare for a potential unexpected changes if they plan to get pregnant. I also want to let folks know that even the fat lady that posts stretch mark belly pics on Facebook had to work through some shit first.