At my final antenatal check-up (week 39) in 2017 I weighed a grand total of 143.5 pounds. That’s the heaviest I’ve ever been in my life, despite being six feet tall (before pregnancy my weight swung between 115 and 125 pounds). As I headed into the delivery room, I was worried that the baby would have been too small, since all my regular clothes, including jeans, had still fit me throughout pregnancy. Thankfully (and painfully) though, Kymani weighed a whopping 8.2 pounds at birth. What did that leave me with? Well… not much.
I was back down to my regular weight before I was even discharged from the hospital. Save for the two large tender jugs of milk that popped up on my chest overnight, you could not tell that I just had a baby. My little barracuda boy got the latch right on the very first try, and he feasted around the clock. I was very grateful to not have any milk supply or feeding issues. In fact, I was amazed, (and very often overwhelmed), by the amount of milk I was producing. Within two weeks my body looked pretty much like it did pre-pregnancy, save for some darkened loose skin on my tummy.
By the time I went for the six-week postpartum check-up, I could have told the nurse that I was just ‘holding it for a friend’ and she would have believed me. I weighed about 115 pounds at that visit, I think. I didn’t think much of it. I was exclusively breastfeeding and my milk supply was great. My son and I both enjoyed feeding time, and it showed in his chubby little limbs and a cheeks.
I didn’t really start considering that I was losing too much weight until three months postpartum when I started working. By this time I was supplementing with formula (which he had no issue taking in my absence), so I would pump and dump just enough to ease the discomfort at work. After a few weeks (and a lot of soaked breast pads) by boobs adjusted to the routine, so they would only become engorged at night and in the early mornings. The barracuda, who by now could find the breast by on his own while I was in a coma from exhaustion each night, feasted mercilessly.
After a while I couldn’t help but begin to notice that my clothes were a bit loose. My collarbones were more noticeable than ever, my skin was pale, and my eyes were sunken. People noticed too. I could see it in their eyes (and of course this is Jamaica, people weren’t afraid to just come right out and tell me how me mawga). I knew I looked like a train wreck, but I was so tired from working odd hours in a call centre, commuting for hours on public transportation every day, and caring for an active infant by myself when I got home that my appearance was the last thing on my mind. I kept my hair in braids or twists so that I wouldn’t have to spend time in the mirror. I’d just wash my face with the same soap I use to bathe, brush my teeth, and keep going. I was acutely aware that I was suffering from postpartum depression, too, but was too tired to even dwell on it.
Then I went to the beach.
The next February (seven months postpartum), a good friend of mine and I went to the beach. I was excited because I always thought I looked very skinny in clothes, but ahhhmazing in little-to-no clothes. I loved the beach almost as much as I loved to see myself in bikinis. But this time was different. While I was shopping for a swimsuit I found myself, for the first time in my life, trying to cover up an area… my collar bones. At the beach, for the first time in my life, I felt self-conscious, like I wanted to cover up. My friend took a ton of pics, and she was such a good hype-woman that I actually though they were good (lol thanks Rashida). When I got home and she sent me the reel, though, I bawled my eyes out. I looked like I was starving and I absolutely hated my body.
109 and losing…
My weight dipped as low as 109 pounds. You didn’t need to be a fitness expert to see that I was severely underweight. I thought about trying the fat-fast methods like Apetamin or Peritol, but ya girl could not afford to feel drowsy with a job eight-to-five and a kid the rest of the time. I had no appetite. I had no energy. I didn’t care enough. I just kept going.
In September 2018 I left telecoms and started working a day job, thank God – but I wasn’t out of the woods yet. Commuting between Spanish Town and Crossroads everyday during peak hours before social distancing with a toddler on public transportation was exhausting. I hardly every cooked. I wasn’t earning enough to afford a fast-food habit (I’m still not, lol). Most days I’d buy a peanut cake and a ripe banana for breakfast, a small box lunch at work, then have one of Ky’s snacks or some cereal for dinner. Ky would usually be asleep when we got home so he’d just breastfeed if he woke up.
The turning point
By early 2019 I moved closer to work, and soon afterwards got Kymani enrolled in a daycare close to home, so I was no longer spending three hours each way in a hot JUTC bus with a restless toddler (good times). I was still very much depressed, but at least I had a routine going. For a few months I was even living with a man (lol that’s a whole other story) so I was making grown-up breakfast and dinner most days and having some. I started caring a little about my appearance again.
Now I’ve always had very long, very painful menstrual periods. I’ve spent most of my life on one form of hormonal birth control or another (but clearly not enough of my life, because here’s Ky), just trying to avoid or lighten my period. I was on the injection since having Kymani, so I decided it was time for a break. Like clockwork, Aunt Flo returned – only this time she didn’t want to go away. I waited and waited, but my uterus kept playing Leona Lewis and doing her thing. I was now writing for a women’s magazine and learning about all types of female reproductive issues, which did nothing to put my mind at ease, so after a few weeks of intermittent bleeding, I visited a gynaecologist.
Now I don’t know what kind of writing he saw on the walls of my vagina, but after extensively examining me, the main point of his diagnosis was ‘You need to eat.’ He put me on birth control to stop the bleeding, some iron and vitamin supplements, and told me to come back in three months weighing more than the 115 pounds that I did. He also referred me to have some blood tests done. I knew, based on the fact that I was malnourished, always tired and had regular fainting spells, that the blood work would not be peachy. I also knew that I had no health insurance and could not afford a health scare. I had to fix myself.
Shedding to gain
So I went home and did what any woman determined to make a change in her life would do –I cut my hair off.
But it was more than just a haircut, honestly. I realized how much my appetite was connected to my emotional wellbeing. I decided that I needed to sort out what was happening in my head so that my stomach, and eventually the rest of my body, could follow. Emotionally, I had come a far way since late 2017 when I wrote How to Lose (and Find) Yourself in a Year, but I still had a far way to go. The return to my pre-pregnancy short hair was, for me, a way of picking back up my identity as an individual where I dropped it to become a mother.
I stopped breastfeeding the (then two-year-old) barracuda once and for all, which meant I had to keep cooking to feed him, which ultimately meant I would end up eating more. I started wearing heels and make-up again. I started texting f**kboys back. I made a conscious effort to stop starving Candiece of attention, and, in doing so, I slowly started gaining weight.
20 pounds later…
I now weigh 129.5 pounds –20 pounds more than I did when I visited Dr Hardie in mid-2019. That’s not a lot for almost two years (quarantine weight considered), but it’s a start. I’m not a big fan of junk food (or any kind of food, to be honest), so it’s pretty easy for me to eat somewhat healthily as I try to gain steadily. I’ve now sprinkled a little exercise into the mix, too, since I stopped lifting Kymani and don’t want to lose my abs.
My weight goal was originally 130 pounds, but seeing that I’m still underweight and still not insulated enough to survive 10 minutes in air conditioning, I’m thinking now that maybe 145 pounds or so won’t be too bad. What’s more important to me, though, is that it’s ‘happy weight’ – weight that I am happy with having, and slowly gaining because I am, generally, happy.
I went to the beach again a few weeks ago and… Yes, a so gal fi stay good!