How to lose your baby weight.

how to lose your baby weight‘Baby weight’: should it be an actual thing? Should it be something we talk about and focus on? Is ‘baby weight’ a helpful idea/turn of phrase in any way?

When you become a mother it is very likely that you’ll feel your body is not your own for while. I mean the whole being-in-labour thing is enough to make most of us feel a bit odd, what with the world and his wife regarding your nether-regions with clinical disinterest for 24 hours. Then there’s the fact that you have a tiny human attached to you boob/general person all the time. (Like, all the f*cking time). Anyhoo, the whole newborn scenario is not exactly going to make you feel like you’re bringing sexy back or anything, and that’s totes normal, so, like, don’t worry about it.

Added to all this body-consciousness is the concept that you have some ‘baby weight’ that you must lose sometime soon. Because that is what people do, right? By people, I mean Victoria Beckham and Jessica Alba and Kate ‘The Duchess of Cambridge’ Middleton. You know, the kind of people who can afford a nanny for each child, personal trainer and chef. And the kind of people who get followed around by cameras ever darn day of their lives… I mean, I can’t think how/why they do it…

At first this whole issue may not bother you, but give it time. I have written previously about the few months of grace after giving birth where I could look in the mirror and think “yeah, my body looks different and that’s okay”, but then the inevitable happened and I looked in s three way mirror and tried to buy jeans. Foolish woman. Suddenly it dawned on me that I really did need to shape up! And by ‘shape up’ I mean lose weight and look thinner, obvs. I need to shed my baby weight.

But did I? Do you? 

Now, I’m not saying that women don’t put on weight when they’re pregnant. I’m obviously not saying that, because that would be straight-up wrong and silly. I’m not saying that women don’t put on more weight than the 6-10lbs their baby weighs either (again, wrong and silly). What I’m saying is that the whole idea of ‘baby weight’ has a certain, well, weight to it. It has an expectancy that at some point you really need to get your act together and return to your ‘normal’ body type. Like your body has just gone wrong for a while and it needs a gym membership and 10-day juice cleanse to get it back on track.

But what if – and bear with me because this is a pretty out-there suggestion – what if growing a person in your womb, going through major hormonal changes and having the skin around your torso stretch, like, a lot, means that your ‘normal’ body type has changed? If that’s the case then isn’t the idea it’s all just ‘baby weight’ that needs to get gone a bit, well, unrealistic. What with having to look after an actual tiny helpless human and everything, I just don’t think this expectation is one we should be putting on ourselves.

And while we’re on the subject, what body shape are we trying to get ‘back’ to anyway? The way we looked before we had kids? You know, that pre-baby physique that you’d always been so happy with and never wanted to changed in any way? Hmm… Ain’t hindsight a bitch.

Actually, I think most of us want to have the body we wanted to have before we were pregnant, not the one we had. There’s still part of me that wants to get ‘back’ to my ‘ideal’ weight. This weight was not the weight I was just before Bubs was conceived, on no, it’s the weight I was when I was 24 and vegan and went running regularly and was yet to become quite so fond of Sauvignon Blanc. Incidentally this was also the weight I was when lots of people volunteered their unbidden opinion that I was too skinny. Sigh.

The fact that half of the women we see modelling clothes we’re supposed to wear are teenagers doesn’t help here. I mean, what if we’re not all supposed to have the figure of an adolescent girl whose boobs have just ‘come in’ for the rest of our lives?’

I’m just asking.

Having a baby, whether you give birth to it or not, is going to change your lifestyle. You will be exhausted a lot of the time and less able to just ‘pop to the gym’ (apparently that is a thing that people do) whenever. You will most likely eat more quick and easy food, which usually means more frozen pizza.

And so what? I mean, maybe that’s just okay. It’s obviously not okay to eat chocolate for breakfast every day and live a sedentary lifestyle, but any parent of a toddler will know that the option of a sedentary lifestyle is but an illusive dream.

(Just as an aside, I think all parents of toddlers should, by rights, have really toned arms. Who’s with me?)

Bodies change. That is an actual scientific fact. So what if we just let them? I don’t mean what if we all become morbidly obese, obvs, (wrong and silly), but what if we don’t try to ‘get our figures back’? What if we try to love the skin we’re in, generally eat some vegetables, make sure we move about a bit, and also drink some gin and eat some chocolate?

Sure Victoria Beckham is the skinniest four-child-bearing mini you’ll ever see, but as the paparazzi aren’t particularly bothered with my everyday movements, maybe it just doesn’t matter that much if my arms wobble a bit. Maybe that’s even.. Nice.

Dear Reader, I am so sick of this crap. I am so tired of being surrounded by women on expensive, extreme diets, or talking about how ‘bad’ we were on holiday (i.e. we ate lots and enjoyed it). I am SO sick of all this body image stuff getting into my head and making me crazy and unhappy and stopping me just enjoying my ridiculously blessed existence!

So, I am turning over a new leaf, I am going to try to live a healthy lifestyle because I don’t want to die of a con colony heart failure when I’m 55, and if doing that means I lose a stone then I will be ecstatic (not gonna lie) but if I don’t, I am really going to try to feel good about myself anyway. Because why shouldn’t I? And why shouldn’t you? 

If you need further inspiration, check Amy Schumer’s acceptance speech at the Glamour women of the Year Awards. Nothing to do with baby weight, but the line 47 seconds in is priceless!

  

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Protein Pills, Beach Bodies and Mixed Messages #eachbodysready

The sun is out (sometimes) and the summer holidays are booked (or being booked/dreamed about). Consequently, it’s that time of the year again; time to really drill the “your body is not good enough for a bikini” message home to the 99.999%  of women who don’t look like a post-airbrushed Victoria’s Secret model. Magazines will be laying on 8-page spreads about the latest in juicing cleanses, or how to get killer abs whilst sitting at your desk. Woo frickin hoo.

At times like these there are a number of options open to the 99.999%:

a) proceed to engage in the latest 5-2/Atkins/’you are what you eat’ dieting craze (preferably this will involve a few purchases of books/supplements/juicing machines).

b) take up the latest in Insanity/bums tums and thighs/Boxercise exercise regimes (preferably this will also involve buying DVDs, subscribing to YouTube channels, or at least forking out for some over-sized inflatable balls).

c) Starve yourself (it’s not funny cos it’s true).

d) All of the the above.

e) Rise up and smash the bloody patriarchy.

f) Vigorously complain about the pressure women face to maintain largely unachievable body shapes/sizes whilst eating chocolate and secretly wishing you had arms like Jennifer Anniston.

I’ll let you guess which option I’ve plumped for this year. Sigh.

Whilst wading through the whole I-know-that-society-has-given-me-a-completely-unattainable-ideal-body-image-but-I-still-want-a-flat-stomach-and-a-gravity-defying-bosom quagmire It was nice to see a stick-it-to-the-man story doing the rounds last week. I discovered it on the Huff Post with this super-strong headline:

Irate commuters have been defacing this lovely little ‘beach body’ advert:


*screams into pillow with incandescent rage*

I mean where do you begin? With the fact that this brand is tying to sell us MEAL REPLACEMENTS of pills and powder that cost £62 (SIXTY TWO POUNDS?? From what I can surmise that’s only a two week supply) and contain caffeine? That the implication of the advert is that you have to lose weight to have access to the beach? Or that the company who sells the protein pills posts tweets like these: Um, yeah, because you either look like the (gorgeous, healthy and probably very nice) model in those ads or you are “fat and out of shape”: you’re sort of proving the point here guys! The truth is that there are a lot of fit and healthy women who would never look like that in a bikini. Some of us have little boobs, some of us have big bums, some of us have stretch marks. You get the picture.

(For more on beach body bullshit hop along to The Artist Formerly Known As Sisterhood and All That for a peek at this splendid post)

A weird but largely unchallenged perfectionism seems to hang around body image. Either we are the paradigm of vigorous exercise and strict diet or we aren’t good enough. Either we’re at the lowest end of a healthy BMI or we’re ‘fat’ and need to lose weight/tone up/drop a dress size.  It’s more than slightly infuriating.

But hurrah for the angry commuting public of London! They have taken it upon themselves to demonstrate just how they feel about these adverts. There are various approaches from giving the finger in a twitter pic:

lols

to a simple yet effective post-it note,

to grander (and slightly less legal) gestures


If you didn’t know, Dear Reader, this particular form of graffiti is know as ‘subvertising’. Like, subverting advertising, clever huh? Indeed the #eachbodysready campaign has grown apace! Hence the coverage from the Huff Post, BBC, and all them lot. There’s a petition and everything, though I’m not sure I want the adverts to be taken down, I’d rather every single one of them were subvertised. How cool would that be?

Huzzah! Up the sisterhood.

Yes, it was all going so well, my feminist hopes were lifted and my body image demons quieted for a moment as I revelled in the civil disobedience that was taking place on the London underground. If only I hadn’t scrolled down.

Never. Scroll. Down.

Because when I did I found that despite running an article on such an empowering topic, the Huffington Post had also run a body-shaming link at the bottom of this very same page.


That’s right. “Twelve celebs whose weight gain you won’t believe!”* Seriously? Is the actually happening? We are just staring at strangers who have gained weight and judging them. Epic fail, Huffington, epic fail.

Just FYI, this was the picture they used for fat Britney. WTF.

Just FYI, this was the picture they used for fat (ie gorgeous and healthy) Britney. WTF.

It’s no wonder that even the bolshiest of us have underlying body issues. Most of the celeb ‘before’ pictures were taken in their teens. But then we are all supposed to look like adolescent girls accord to most high fashion magazines. Either that or Marylin Monroe (in her ’60s corset and pointy boob bra).

Sigh again.

A few years back on Radio Four there was a show called the People’s Manifesto, hosted by Mark Thomas. Totes hilares and now a book (google it). The basic idea was that the audience proposed new laws, some bizarre, some bloody genius. One of my all time favourites is that all models have be chosen at random from the electoral register. Isn’t that the most brilliant thing you’ve ever heard? How much would everyone love that advert if it was Mavis Brown, 62, from Scunthorpe in the bright yellow bikini? Suddenly we would get a much more representative idea of what bodies actually look like and stop being told over and over again how they should look. Oh how I would love my son to grow up surrounded by normal images of normal bodies, rather than spirit-crushing ideals that make us mere mortals feel like utter crap.

Okay, the whole models-by-ballot thing is almost certainly an unachievable dream, but maybe next time you see an image that makes you want to shrivel into a ball and repeat the mantra ‘I will not eat a Mars bar” over and over, you could just picture our Mavis in the same pose. Failing that, have a look at the pic of me and my thigh in an old post on body image. Laughter is the best medicine, after all, and it seems mockery is a pretty excellent protest.

What do you think of it all? Would you deface one of the ads if you had the chance? Or do you think it’s no big deal? Comment below or tweet me @aafew. Oh and if you like this please do:

facebook-like-me-button1

Tots100 MAD Blog Awards

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*this link isn’t on the page anymore, but it was all day yesterday.

Mummy’s First Review: Revel Body SOL (I’m bringing sexy back)

*Fair warning: though there are no details at all divulged in this review, it is for a product of an adult nature, so if you know me and wish to regard me as an asexual being, look away now*

Dear Reader, I have ummed and erred over whether or not to include reviews in this blog. Since 90% of my posts are rants about the avalanche of advice that descends upon parents ‘these days’, it feels a bit hypocritical to then start telling you what and what not to buy for your kids. But, on the other hand, I quite like free stuff, and I also like being critical. Hmm. Dilemma.
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Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda: Why I don’t want none, hun.

It may surprise some of you to learn that I am massive hip hop fan; so much so that I’ve been known forgive all manner of misogyny and general foolishness for banging beat and a lyrical flow. But I’ve heard that when you become a parent you suddenly become more sensitised to the world. You are more likely to cry at tragic news stories, rage against injustices and generally be affronted by the naughty shinnanegans that little our global media. 

Is this why, then, when I sat down to watch the new Nicki Minaj video, Anaconda,  (at the behest of a feminist friend) my jaw dropped further and further to the floor whilst the rest of my face gradually screwed up into the very picture of disgust? Is it something about my new maternal identity that made me cover my face with my hands and utter “what?” and “why?” in a sort of frenzy of shock and helplessness as a parade of expletives and buttocks were jiggled before me? Maybe. I’m pretty sure I would have found this video offensive 10 months ago but my indignation is reaching new levels of potency. Hence the following rant.

I feel that the parental advisory label is somewhat redundant.

I feel that, given the cover photo, this parental advisory label is somewhat redundant.

 

There is a lot of jiggling flesh on offer in this video. Like, A LOT. Various beautiful women lazily shake their ample behinds for the camera. In fact, if you’re not Nicki Minaj then your face is of little import, it seems, cos it’s all about that ass. Other cliched ‘sexiness’ includes an unoriginally provocative banana eating shot and the obligatory fake work out scene featuring a gravity defying pink thong. I’m too weary to get offended by the predictable steamy-girls-winding-together stuff. It’s all so outrageous tha I’m pretty sure Nicki is consciously parodying male rappers who surround themselves with equally faceless smooth-bodied women whilst listing their various sexual exploits. 

Just any idea, though, why couldn’t she have done that with a load of oiled-up men for a change? And what os the need for the – frankly creepy – lap dance scene at the end with her mate Drake? We shall never know friends, we shall never know.

Still, this is nothing more than the logical extension of every other pop video for the last 20 years. Katy Perry with her whipped-cream canister bra in California Girls; Britney in Toxic apparently wearing nothing but rhinestones; Rhianna engaged in some act of bandage or other in practically every video she ever makes nowadays (remember Pon de Replay? Ah, those were simpler times). And these are the videos by women, where they get to use actual words and appear to have some agency and everything! Don’t get me started on the offerings of Usher et al, or that video Satisfaction with the women using power tools from about 5 years ago *shudder*. (Though, incidentally, that does have a YouTube content warning if you try to watch it, which Minaj’s latest offering doesn’t.) 

But the wider point is that Minaj isn’t doing anything new here. She’s just doing it with bigger bums. Which, apparently should empower me. 

So maybe it was the lyrics that offended me. They are filthy, I mean filthy. And I’m no prude. I love a bit of hip-hop, and boasting about prowess in the bedroom is up there with drugs and guns when it comes to subject matter for this genre. But there are A LOT of swears. Dear Reader, I just wasn’t prepared. Too much In the Night Garden has desensitised me to the harsher ways of the world.

Then again, the filth is nothing new either, if anything it’s a reminder of how much misogynistic bullshit  we’ll happily imbibe.  The whole song is a sample of ‘Baby Got Back’, the 1992 Sir Mix-A-Lot hit that has oddly become a sort of family favourite. You know, despite that fact that  it containing lyrics such ‘my Anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns hun.’*; the charming rhyme that Minaj has adopted as her chorus. 

Maybe it was the heart-warming scenes of Ross and Rachel rapping the ditty to baby Emma to make her laugh, or the YouTube sensation caused by an all-American couple who did their hilarious surprise wedding dance to the classic tuuuuune. Had you, like me, forgotten how creepy this song actually was? Have a listen, and be appalled. In fact, Nicki, for giving us the wake-up call we all needed. Now go and wash your mouth out, young lady.

 

Incidentally, Sir Mix-A-Lot, this is an actual Anaconda and, you know, in your dreams mate. #justsaying

*Incidentally, Sir Mix-A-Lot, this is an actual Anaconda and, you know, in your dreams mate. #justsaying

There’s no doubt Ms Minaj enough knows exactly what she’s doing. You don’t get to be a female icon of the rap game without some serious smarts. Anaconda has gained the accolade of most YouTube watches in 24 hours, snatching the crown from the equally mind-boggling Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus, and little bloggers like me around the globe are giving her free publicity. She ain’t no fool! 

But even though I feel better for her that she has some sort of say in all of this and isn’t just desperately flaunting herself in an attempt to gain affection and/or attention (unlike Miley perhaps), that doesn’t make me like it any more. It doesn’t in any way make me feel empowered. Not even a little bit.

Minaj ‘hit back’ at criticism of her single’s ‘artwork’ (see above) by tweeting a Sports Illustrated cover. Yes indeed, Nicki, you are not the only woman whose bum has been flaunted in order to sell something. Good point, well made. And I’m sure that some people don’t like it because you’ve made this choice as a woman; an empowered black woman at that. Theyare, of course,silly little fools. But, mate, it’s still objectification. I don’t care who’s doing the objectification. I don’t care if you’re objectifying yourself in some postmodern beat-them-at-their-own-game endeavour. I certainly don’t think women doing it is better than men doing it for us. We are the worst at this crap. It scares me that in 10 years time my son will be able to peruse scantily clad women on magazine covers at this eye level. But I am not talking about Nuts and FHM (though boo to you); any women’s ‘fashion’ mag will show you far more perfected female body images. Bleurgh!

‘Perfected female images?’ I hear you cry! ‘Why that’s what she is subversively challenging with her in-your-face championing of the curvier figure!’ Really? Really??? If Nicki Minaj weighs more than me I will eat all of my hats. And my socks as well. She is as slim and artificially perfected as any pop star. Some of her pre-photoshop single cover images have been leaked on the internet. Google them if you like, I won’t put them on here because it’s should be a woman’s choice how and if she shows off her body. I recently bore my cellulite to the world in a postbut I wouldn’t impose that on another woman. Any way, however many ‘touch ups’ have been done post-shoot it is clear that this lady does not jiggle in any place that wasn’t designed to be appealing to the male gaze.

 

Minaj showing off her 'fuller figure'. No wonder she hates all those skinny ass b*tches.

Minaj showing off her ‘fuller figure’. No wonder she hates all those skinny ass b*tches.

All of this, however, I can forgive. I don’t like it, and I hate that this is the sort of imagery that will saturate my son’s mind in the far to near future. I wish I didn’t feel I had to conceal the existence of music channels from him. (Seriously, I want him to think that CBeebies shows and Pointless are all that TV has to offer for an long as possible).

All of the swears and unoriginal music and objectification add fuel to the fiery maternal rage I am experiencing, but it is none of those things that are keeping me up when I should be having my beauty sleep. It is this section of lyrics that I can’t seem to get out of my pretty little head:

Yeah, this one is for my b*tches with a fat ass in the f*cking club
I said, where my fat ass big b*tches in the club?
F*ck those skinny b*tches, f*ck those skinny b*tches in the club
I wanna see all the big fat ass b*tches in the motherf*cking club
F*ck you if you skinny b*tches WHAT?

WHAT? Are exactly my thoughts too, Nicki.

What the asterisk are you going on about? If this is a middle finger up at the white male establishment that has idealised the tall, slim, adolescent girly figure over all others in the past 40 years then it is a bloody well misplaced one. If you really want to challenge the homogenised images of women out there then perhaps you’d be better not to scream obscenities at your less posteriorly endowed counterparts.

I’ll put it this way: Replacing one fetishised, unattainable body image with another is not really progress. Neither is categorising women according to the size of their bottoms, in case you were wondering. *screams into a pillow*

I think my rage has less to do with me being a mother and more to do with  being a woman. A woman who struggles with her own body image and gets angry when new female cabinet ministers are analysed by their outfits more often than their politics. But there is a certain urgency to this anger now. A certain direction. It says, no, this is not bloody acceptable thank you very much. Because I have a precious person to bring up who is going to start learning lots of things beyond my control and I don’t want him to learn this crap. I really, really really don’t.

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What do you think? Am I missing the point? Do you feel differently since you had kids? Comment below or visit my Facebook page .

Of swimming and Kegels: The postnatal exercise chat.

If you have had a baby in the UK then, at some point very soon after you gave birth a midwife, nurse, physio, health visitor or all of the above should have talked to you about exercise and recovery. It is very very very cool that this happens (I actually mean this, though I know sarcasm is what you’ve come to expect from me) but in my experience I have found that the subject of this chat tends to fall into two different categories: the essential bit and the optimistic bit.

The Essential Bit.

Now, Dear Reader if you take nothing else from this post, nay this entire blog, take this. Do. Your. Pelvic. Floor. Exercises.

And. Keep. Doing. Them.

Got that?

The midwives etc will probably have harangued you about this a few times. And if you went to a pregnancy/postnatal yoga classes you have probably experienced the ever so slightly awkward silence that happens when the instructor says something like

“And now we’ll do our pelvic floor exercises. And lift…”

No eye contact happens in that part of the class. Absolutely none. 

But as much as you may not want to hear another mention ‘making a motion as if to stop you passing water’ ever again in all of your days, there people are right!  Especially when they tell you to do them for the rest of your life and not just until you’re ‘back to normal’. As if that ever happens any way.

At first it’s not difficult to remember your Kegels (as American baby books seem to insists pelvic floor exercises are called) when you’ve just gone through labour. Because, let’s be honest, we have a few embarrassing reminders. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then I’m afraid you’ll be lost for the next little while. In fact, if you haven’t wet yourself at least once on the way to the loo shortly after giving birth (and beyond) I’m afraid we just can’t be friends. We just can’t.

(Pregnant ladies, sorry if that last paragraph has horrified you, but, sister, it’s happening.)

When things start to get a bit less Tena Lady, though, and you’re mind is on other things – or one very loud and pooey other thing – it’s easy to start slacking. DON’T. Don’t ask me how I know, just take it from me. Keep up the Kegels!

Therein lies the most useful part of the postnatal exercise chat. Shall we practise now ladies? And lift…

 

The More Than Slightly Optimistic Bit.

I think I got ‘the exercise talk ‘ in one form or another a total of three times. When being discharged from hospital, when being discharged from the community midwives and then again when I went into hospital for the crazies (around the 10 week mark). The first two times I was warned “No exercise other than walking for the first 6 weeks.” Um, yeah, that’s totally fine.

The first 6 weeks? Try 6 months! I hardly bloody exercised before I had kids, why am I going to start now that I’m being woken-up three times a night? If I have baby-free time it will be spent drinking wine and watching offensive television, or sleeping. Thank you very much.*

 

Incessant evening rocking was all the exercise I needed when my son was 6 weeks old.

Incessant evening rocking was all the exercise I needed when my son was 6 weeks old.

 

So, yes, the 6 weeks came and went, and the next six weeks came and went, without so much as a lunge in sight. After a while I did start to go to a delightfully laid back class called ‘Rock Your Baby’ where I could sit Bubs in his sling whilst feeling the burn to a soundtrack of ‘Radio Gaga’ and ‘Moves like Jagger’. Ideal.

Because, the thing is, when you have a baby pretty much the only way you can exercise is with your baby. Yes, okay, you could go out to an evening class that starts at 7.30pm and finishes at 9pm but until you’ve got the sleep thing down that is basically self-torture. And even after, when the magical, mythical ‘evening’ returns to your lives going spinning may not be the first thing you want to do with it. (See my previous wine and television comment).

This is why the next bit of repeated advice from health-professional seems a bit incongruous.

“Swimming is a great way to exercise for new mums.”

Is it? Is it? I mean, yes, I get logically why it is. Non weight-bearing, uses the whole body, calming to the mind etc. But there’s this other issue that sort of gets in the way here. It’s that I have a baby. And babies aren’t that good at swimming. Okay, yes they are, they’ve got the ‘dolphin reflex’ or something and if you pay £12 a week from the age of 3-days-old they’ll be  swimming like a fish before they’re weaned, blah blah blah. But I can’t very well strap Bubs to my back and start doing lengths now, can I?

And even if you can find childcare there are other issues. Like, do breastpads even work in the pool? I have this unshakable image of a new mum happily booming up and down unaware of the two white vapour trails following behind her like she’s a jumbo jet.

There’s also the swimming costume issue. I believe we should all be proud of our postnatal bodies (see previous post) but we’re not, are we? And catching yourself in one of those awful leisure centre mirrors the first time you that bravely don your tankini once more just isn’t great. But that’s nothing compared to suddenly being half naked infront of 50 strangers when you’re at your most physically vulnerable. In my local pool they have a cafe on the same level as the pool and people basically sit out on a terrace and watch the swimmers. Fully clothed. With a cup of tea. Whilst I’m aware that I will be very glad of this facility in later years when I can lazily play on my phone whilst the kids splash about, it currently makes me feel like a postnatal whale in an aquarium.

 

So, that’s it really. I don’t entirely hve a point with this post except to say, you know, go for a walk every now and again but I wouldn’t stress about exercise. Do it when you want to do it. Maybe trick you’re baby into thinking you’re playing a delightful game with them when really you’re using the little one in as human dumbbells. But don’t sweat. We’ve got enough to worry about.

 

 

 

 

*exercise is, like, really good for your mental health (and physical health, obvs). you should in no way take my nonsensical ranting as discouragement.

 

Bump to frump: the highs and lows of motherly body image.

There’s a lot of talk of women ‘feeling fat’ during pregnancy. All those movies where the size 6 Hollywood actress moans to her doting husband in a saccharine LA accent, “I just feel so bloated!” Yes love, that’s because there is an actual human in your womb, you know? It’s, like, growing and stuff. Still I can imagine there are lots women who genuinely do feel like that, especially in that early is-she-pregnant-or-getting-fat stage. But for many of us it’s liberating.

When you’re pregnant your stomach is supposed to protrude, Allelujah! Women who have spent years self-consciously sucking their belly buttons into their spines can let go. Finally our bodies have permission to look how they are actually supposed to look! I wore tight fitting dresses like nobody’s business when I was ‘with child’. I know a few women who did. Because suddenly all those lumps and bumps you are conscious of are just part of your fertile, womanly physique. Aw yeah.

I have never see a non-pregnant woman strike this pose in a photo. Ever.

I have never see a non-pregnant woman strike this pose in a photo. Ever.

Of course, I shouldn’t need to be pregnant to turn unselfconsciously to the side in a photo. OF COURSE I shouldn’t. But there you are, I did. And is it any wonder? I mean, have you ever read a women’s magazine that doesn’t have some sort of weight loss advice in it? No, you haven’t. (Oh, you have? No, feminist magazines don’t count my dear).

But even after my Bubs was born I had a good six months where I wasn’t body conscious. This period of grace was pretty empowering. I’d look in the mirror and think, I’ve had a baby, of course I look different. A little extra junk in the trunk is natural when you’ve had an extra human under the bonnet for a while! I could wear my slightly looser skin like a badge of pride! Eating a massive slice of cake every other day was fine; I bloody well deserved it, even if I wasn’t breast-feeding! Ah, those were the days.

Then, suddenly, something changed. Maybe it was that my friends started doing exercise again, or that less and less people seemed to be ordering ‘fries with that’. Or maybe it was just that I was slightly less sleep deprived and so had the energy to give a crap about my appearance again. You know, I would have been fine with just having the energy to do a bit of housework, write and/or socialise but, there you go, the brain prioritises in mysterious ways.

The baby-blue tinted glasses were off, and suddenly the mirror was not as kind. My midriff has always been the part of my body I am most self-conscious about. I do not purchase tops that won’t cover my hip bones and I am constantly ‘sucking it all in’, especially in photos. Now, Dear Reader, I am very much aware that there’s not a lot to suck in. I’m not fat, but I’m also not magically magazine-like and so these things get to me (ooh, ‘the air-brushing mirror’; now there’s an invention that would sell…)

Really, I blame three-way mirrors. I mean, why do they exist?? I’m sure shops sell less clothes because women suddenly see themselves from every angle and run, screaming from the store. It was in one of these monstrosities that I first notices my back rolls *shudder*. I’ve got very little flesh around my waist – it likes to congregate about 4 inches south – but what is there seems to have formed some untidy pleating either side of my spine. Nice one. Even though I am vividly aware that all that skin did stretch rather a lot, you know, around an actual human (think that’s becoming my catchphrase), I still don’t want it to be there. Instead of bearing the marks of child-bearing with pride I, like many women, would rather they disappeared!

Anyhoo, here I am, on my hols now in the South of France (daaaaaaarling). I’m wearing a bikini, because I bloody well want to. I’m swimming a lot. It’s all good. The other day my husband took some lovely photos of me and my son. I’d like to share one of them with you:

Aw, what a lovely photo!

Aw, what a lovely photo!

Dear Reader, when you look at this photo what’s the first thing you see? A very cute baby? A happy holiday snap? A contented mother? The most kickass paddling pool of all time? Well, I’ll tell you what the first thing I saw was.

Thigh!  Thigh! Thigh!

Thigh! Thigh! Thigh!

Yep, that’s the awful truth of the matter. My husband showed me the photos, saying how lovely there were, but as I scrolled through I found it hard concentrate on anything other than my cellulite. I told my husband this and he just said ‘aw, love, that’s so sad’. I agreed, tried to snap out of it and looked at the photo clearly detailing my amazing life.

The crazy thing is, I know my thighs are just pretty darn normal. They’re slightly wobbly and bobbly. They rub together a bit when I walk. They don’t have a weird triangular gap at the top, because that’s just not a real thing. They are significantly larger than my calves, because THEY’RE SUPPOSED TO BE. I also know the camera angle is not the best, and part of the reason my thigh protrudes so much in this pic is that I was bending over so that stomach wouldn’t be in view. Sigh.

So why share this all with you? I would like to state that I am emphatically not fishing for compliments! I am lucky enough that I have moments in my life where I feel good about how I look. Yes, those moments often involve make up etc, but they happen. I know some women don’t have them at all. I also want to share more than just a sense of common experience with you other body-conscious mums and dad out there. I want to share some indignation too.

So, on top of attending three ‘stimulating’ classes a week; giving my child fresh, health food at every meal; rejuvenating my social life so I don’t get isolated, keeping the house vaguely hygienic (clean is a bridge too far) AND going back to bloody work, we’re also supposed to to fit in exercise and say no to chips? Piss off!

Now, I do actually quite like doing exercise, and I know I feel better about myself when I do it, but I want to do it for those reasons. Not because I hate my body. In fact, I want it to be for quite the opposite reason; because I love my body.

Do you love your baby? Are you glad they’re in the world despite the ravaging, exhausting, devastating, heart-opening rollercoaster you’ve been thrust onto? Well, guess what? That baby is here because you grew them in your body! And even if your child is adopted, or you’re a dad (or both) your body may have changed because all of your time and energy is going into caring for someone else and you just eat a lot more frozen pizza than you used to. More power to ya I say!

When we have children we don’t expect anything to go back to the way it was, not really. So why should we expect our bodies to? Of course, we know the reason, it’s because every popstar worth her salt has done a post-pregnancy, how-I-got-back-to-six-stone-in-ten-minutes photo shoot. But I wonder how said pop star really feels about that. Perhaps she was so scared of being thrown out of The Saturdays/Atomic Kitten/Other Generic Girl Group that she lost weight in a crazy, unhealthy way. Or maybe she just hired a nanny and a personal trainer.

Either way, it shouldn’t be our job to imitate the fiction of postnatal banging-bods that the media wants us to. It’s bullshit. So let them eat cake!