Who cares if I look pregnant?

Woman looking in mirror at distorted body image.

Body acceptance isn’t easy, even for a psychologist.

I’ve been struggling all my life with accepting my body.  At 50, you’d think I’d be able to look in the mirror and like what I see. Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients to do just that, yet I’m a failure at it myself.

I was almost there, though, when I got very sick 18 months ago. After two months in hospital on tube feeding, I was discharged weighing 20% less than when I’d arrived but with 10 lbs of fluid in my belly. (When your liver doesn’t work so well, fluid retention is an unfortunate result.) Imagine “gaunt” and “pregnant” at the same time. For several weeks, I had no mirror handy, so I couldn’t tell how my body had changed. Loose skin hung from me, making my swollen belly all the more pronounced. Needless to say, my first look in the mirror did not end well.

For that first year as I tried to regain strength, I ate with cautious abandon for the first time ever until I returned to my B.C. (before cancer) weight. In other words, my diet was healthy, but I ate more of those foods than I would have in the past.

When I arrived home, J. had bought me some clothes from racks I’d always ignored.  Extra small leggings? Kid-sized underwear? Shirts clung to the swollen top half of my body and pants fell off the bottom half. Once I got past the gaunt phase, I relished my longed-for thin body, although I still looked pregnant. Still, I knew it was kind of sick for me to revel in the svelte parts of me that were the result of a critical illness. Every shopping expedition was an ordeal because clothes didn’t fit. Maternity clothes would have, but I couldn’t get my head around shopping with mothers-to-be.

To this day, now that I’ve returned to my pre-hospital weight, my body proportions are vastly different than before. There may be no such thing as being kind of pregnant, but there certainly is looking kind of pregnant. Medication keeps the “baby” smaller, but sometimes that’s not enough. Since my blood transfusion three weeks ago, I’ve ballooned for the first time in a long time.

I’m booking a procedure to remove some of that fluid. (No details or pictures, don’t worry.)  I used to earn frequent flyer points for these bookings, but not over the past year as everything has been flowing smoothly, if you catch my drift. Really it’s quite shocking to lose 5 or more lbs after just a few minutes of intervention. Forget diet pills or calorie restriction! Try my method!

You might think my near-death experience would have rid me of such body preoccupations, but no. I remind myself that being alive is more important than my body shape. I tell myself there’s no point wasting precious time worrying about such trivialities.  I try to convince myself that I’m the only one who cares. Sometimes I even believe myself.  That is, until someone asks me if I’m pregnant. So what if I look a little pregnant? Someday I’ll say that and mean it.


4 thoughts on “Who cares if I look pregnant?

  1. Sigh
    The rest of us chubbies wish we could just get sick enough to get the weight off but not suffer. Just wake up from a serious illness in a revised and better shape. When this happens to me can you please arrange for a face lift and a hair transplant at the same time. How about a body stocking of some kind to rearrange underneath. Over the age of 50 you should never been seen naked by ANYONE!! Enjoy your new wardrobe😇

    Date: Tue, 4 Mar 2014 14:56:13 +0000
    To: peterpat@mymts.net


    • Dear Pat: I never thought of wishing for changes to other parts of my body! You’ve opened up a whole new realm of possibility! Whoops, I’d better reread my own post. I’m supposed to stop thinking this way, aren’t I? Love, Annie P.S. I’m not sure the emoticon accurately reflects you! Sweet maybe, but angelic?


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