The moment I saw those two pink lines on my pregnancy test, a very deep part of me panicked. My husband and I were elated. We had been trying to have a baby and we were over the moon to find out that we were expecting. But I panicked. I shared this feeling with no one because the truth could not escape my lips without me feeling shame. I was terrified of gaining weight. I knew my body was going to change; I accepted that and embraced it, but I was truly afraid. I have struggled with my weight my entire life. I have been heavy for most of it and I have been the pun of many jokes. I have tried crash diets and have literally crashed.

In the fall of 2014, I made a lifestyle changed and lost 80lbs within a year. I didn’t follow a plan. I didn’t count points or calories. I hired a trainer, ate healthy and literally melted my ass off. It was the hardest thing I had ever done until I became a mother. When I became pregnant the first time, I had already regained 25lbs. Losing weight is hard but keeping it off is another battle.

The moment I saw those two pink lines, I knew I was in for another struggle. It has nothing to do with letting myself go. Pregnant women do not let themselves go. They succumb to their new physical reality and embark on a rollercoaster of change, fear, delight and sometimes, some seriously difficult side-effects. I ate healthy during my pregnancy and yes, I invented a special food group for my inhumane cravings.

And I ate. I started binge eating avocadoes and found comfort in cupcakes. I tried working out and nearly had to peel myself off the treadmill where I used to run effortlessly. I gave into cravings and cozied up to carbs because they helped with the nausea. It didn’t help that I had the appetite of an ogre and trust me when I say, you can overeat healthy foods. I gained 50lbs by the end of my pregnancy and yes, it has been a tough pill to swallow.

I was also exhausted. Fatigue is a very common pregnancy symptom that is hard at work during the first trimester. My fatigue only lifted during my second trimester and then it knocked me over towards the end. I have fallen asleep mid sentence and have gone down for naps that last until the next day. I thought I was going to be that cute, pregnant, expecting mom you sometimes see at the gym. You know the one. You can’t tell she’s pregnant from behind and she can touch her toes better than you can when you’re not pregnant. I wanted to be her. I thought I was her but I was t-i-r-e-d. I made a point to eat mindfully and went for walks as often as possible. I accepted that my body was pooped from creating a human. My iron levels were borderline but never a real concern. Maybe I was the Garfield of pregnancy but I did what any responsible cat would do and napped.

My body has drastically changed from having babies. My abdominal wall has been on holiday since giving birth to my first daughter. I used to be able to suck in my stomach and now if I try, I’m likely to pee myself. I was kind to myself during the postpartum period following the birth of my first daughter and when I decided it was time to get back into some sort of shape, I got pregnant with baby #2. I was much more careful during my second pregnancy because I didn’t want to add to the weight I had already gained. Once our second daughter was born, I lost 15lbs and the struggle has been real ever since.

I am sharing this very deep part of myself with you because I think we can all agree; the struggle is real. You don’t have to have experienced a pregnancy to know that. The truth is, women come in all shapes and sizes. And I am here to tell you that size doesn’t matter. Whether you’re petite or fuller figured, your size does not define you. It’s also important to remember that bodies change. Weight fluctuates and water retention is a bitch. Weight gain during pregnancy happens and no, your body might never really be the same again. There is also senseless amount of pressure to get back into shape after having a baby. You literally cooked a human for an eternity and either expelled it through what felt like your emergency exit or you had it yanked from your womb while your organs were laid out on a table next to you. I’m pretty sure you earned the right to choose how to put yourself back together again and more importantly when. I’m not overjoyed about my pregnancy weight gain but I know that I’m beautiful. There are days when I feel like an exhausted tree-monster but I know my worth and you should too. I invite you to dig deep and come out the other end loving yourself because you are worth it. Every single beautiful inch.