The Day My Life Turned A Corner.
At the age of thirty years old I became a first-time mum. Through most of my twenties I thought that I wasn’t going to have children, I just didn’t seem to have the same maternal urges as my friends. Sure, I liked babies and I loved having cuddles with them and playing with them but I just couldn’t see myself actually being a mum. Maybe that’s a feeling that lots of us go through but just don’t talk about, I’m not sure. Anyway, I guess it was a combination of being in the right relationship and maturing as I got older that made things change, and whilst I wasn’t desperate to be a mum it definitely became an idea that I wasn’t averse to.
In June 2012 my gorgeous daughter was born, I had been through a smooth pregnancy – not even a hint of morning sickness – and I was blessed with a quick and straight forward labour. I already knew that I loved my little monkey but I didn’t know quite how much you could love another being and how you would be willing to sacrifice literally everything for them until she actually arrived into the world. It wasn’t like a lightning bolt of love hit me, I don’t remember holding her and crying the way they portray it on TV and in films, I just knew right to the very core of me that she was mine and I would do anything and everything to love and protect her.
THE IDEA OF SELF-LOVE
If you have read any of the many books that I have published then you will know that my little family has had a somewhat turbulent time. I’ll keep it brief as I give you the history but it helps to know a little of what went on. To go back to where it all started, I have to roll the clock back to winter 2008, at that point my partner was still serving in the RAF, in fact we had only been dating a few months then, and he got injured during a training drill. Everyone said it was just a sprained ankle but months of pain and swelling later told us that it was much worse.
An eventual scan on the ankle showed significant damage to the joint, the cartilage, the ligaments and the tendons. It was no wonder that my partner was in constant pain and getting a little grumpy with it all.
I’ll skip forward now to 2013 where everything began to change. Callie was 15 months old and my partner was scheduled for amputation surgery to remove his right leg from just below his knee. So much for ‘just’ a sprained ankle. By this point my partner was reliant on crutches to get around, he had put on significant amounts of weight through the pain, inactivity and depression and the amputation seemed to be our last resort. Our quality of life as a family had suffered alongside all of this and I was hoping for some sort of miracle.
I guess in a way we got our miracle, there have been lots of issues and many surgeries since but the amputation really did change things for the better. This whole process though had taken its toll on me but I didn’t see that until years later. My partner was able to start taking control over his life again and over what he wanted to achieve but I was feeling lost.
If you had asked me back then about self-love and what it was and if that was something that existed in my own life then I probably would have laughed at you. My concept then of self-love was that you viewed yourself as being perfect and I most certainly was not that.
HOW IT BEGAN TO CHANGE
Through my partners injury and then my pregnancy I gained weight, I was so focused on taking care of my partner and then our baby that any of my own needs came last. I was at the bottom of the pile.
I don’t know exactly what the spark was but I knew that I needed to make a change, I needed to treat myself better. Part of that was weight loss so I could get back to a healthier range and feel more confident again and part of it was being kind to myself with the narrative in my own head. I was so self-critical and yet there was no reason for that to be the case.
There were two things that helped me to take action, the first was seeing my partner take back control and go after the things that he wanted in life, he was a more positive person again and was fighting back against his depression which was a great to see. The second was my daughter, I wanted to be the best role model possible to her and I knew that an element of that meant living a life that I loved and for that I needed to make changes.
Some of those changes were around my physical self, I wanted to lose weight and get back into shape, not because I felt I needed to be a certain size, but because I wanted to have more energy, I wanted to feel confident again and I wanted to create healthy habits that would become a part of everyday life and hopefully rub off on my daughter.
I started to change way I ate and I began to exercise on a regular basis again. I had always loved the gym and group classes but our lifestyle with my partners amputation and having a toddler around didn’t really fit the gym life anymore. I connected with a great online coach and began to work with her. Each workout that I made it through helped me to find myself again, I became more confident and my self-belief grew. Regular workouts also helped my mental health and are one of the reasons that I still exercise on a regular basis now.
I’ve never felt the need to seek help with my mental health but I do know that if I go too many days in a row without some form of exercise, I get a bit grouchy, my tolerance level and my patience drop off and I can see that I’m not being the best mum or partner that I could be.
MY DEFINITION OF SELF LOVE
I am a firm believer that you can love yourself but still want to create change. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a better version of yourself IF your reason for change comes from the right place. Size, shape, and weight have no bearing at all on your worth as a person, they do not dictate how much you can love, or how much you can be loved. Self-love for me is about self-acceptance, self-respect and self-forgiveness and working on any one of these elements will help you to improve the others as well. Self-acceptance means understanding who you are, playing to your strengths and not being so critical or negative about the things you cannot change. Self-respect means treating your physical, mental, and spiritual self with respect, it means actually taking care of yourself and setting aside time where you can be focussed on yourself and no one else. Self-forgiveness means letting go of the things you can no longer have control over but doing that in a way that brings you peace and not additional stress.
I am lucky to have been able to take my own journey and experiences and combine that with two other amazing ladies to create Love Thy Body Project where we work with other women to help them find their version of self-love. We teach all of our tools in the hope that each one of use can then pay it forward and teach the next generation about how to love and care for themselves.
It has been a long journey to get to where I am today, I’m thankful though of all the crazy that has happened over the last decade as it has given me strength and resilience that I never knew was inside of me. My job now is to teach my daughter those skills, to let her know that it is okay to fail and to fall down and that the strength is in getting back up again. She is already an incredible young lady, she sees her dad in pain and has spent far too much time in hospitals visiting him after surgeries but she is a kind and generous soul, she is considerate, loving and empathetic and I know she is going to grow up to be strong and determined.
My biggest wish as a mum is that my daughter honours herself through life, that she doesn’t make herself smaller in order to conform to anyone else’s views, that she always chases down her dreams and that she remembers her self-worth has nothing to do with size or shape or the achievements she has but rather that it comes from within, that it relates to the size of her heart and the way she treats others and how she leaves them feeling.
Laura Bland is a mum of one based in the East Midlands UK. She is passionate about supporting other businesswomen and helping them to connect with their audience using the power of words. A lifelong love of reading and writing has eventually led Laura to set up Laura B Empowered Words where she offers multiple different writing and book publishing services. She is passionate about supporting other women on their journey to self-love. Her approach is to help women create a lifestyle where they truly love themselves. Laura is a co-founder of Love Thy Body Project, the sole focus of which is supporting women in their quest to find self-love and self-confidence.
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