How Becoming a Mum Gave Me My Body Back
It’s about 2am one cold night in April 2013, I’m 8 months pregnant with my first child and I’m lying awake, listening to my husband snore, and digging myself a nice deep anxiety hole filled with all the things I fear could go wrong on my journey to parenthood.
What if my carefully thought out birth-plan doesn’t go to plan? (it didn’t, but that’s ok) How will I deal with the sleep deprivation? (reheating coffee several times a morning and then crying into it) Will I be a good mum? (I try).
But there was one question which really worried me, like really worried me, like had me eye-balling my old jeans and wondering “will I ever get my pre-baby body back?”
I like gossip mags and fashion glossies and I’m not ashamed to admit it, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve studied those pics of post-partum celebs and thought “why don’t I look like that?”
There are tons of reasons why a woman who has given birth might not look like a Victoria’s Secret Angel, but the reasons don’t really matter because we should not need to apologise for our bodies by explaining why we don’t all look like Jen Hawkins. What does matter is that mums are big business for advertisers, but even bigger is the business of shaming them into erasing any physical trace that they ever carried a baby?
A lot goes down on the wild ride that is pregnancy and childbirth. Your breasts might get bigger, your belly swells, the skin stretches until finally, muscles you didn’t know you had forces an actual human head out of an opening which, to be honest, seems poorly designed as an exit…hashtag ouch. But it’s not just the body that changes, the mind does too. And of course, most wonderfully, so does the heart, the only part of your body capable of out-swelling your belly. It’s a fact proven by science, and slobbery toddler kisses.
And well, your body most likely won’t go back to the way it was before. Mine hasn’t, it looks different and I feel differently about it. But when I think about my previous relationship with my body, feeling differently about it is actually kind of a good thing.
As a teenager, I dreaded going to pool parties because it would mean either appearing in a swimsuit in public (oh hell no) or faking some debilitating yet short-lived illness, a malady so severe I could avoid the “pool” part of the party, but with symptoms so mild I could still enjoy the “party pies and fairy bread” part.
I was the girl at the school dance in the oversized T-shirt, self-conscious on the sidelines. The girl who assumed that any boy who asked her out was doing so because he’d either lost a bet or was some weirdo who asked out “fat” girls for a laugh (Sorry Jason). I was the girl who carried on in this way well into her twenties. The girl who spent so many years believing her body was something she needed to make up for having a pretty face and by being kind, smart, funny and, above all, apologetic.
I know I’m not alone in the struggle towards body positivity, and I know this because I’m a bra fitter. In the fitting room, I hear the same things all the time and it’s all so relatable. “I hate that my boobs have gotten so big”, “I’ve put on so much weight”, “There’s no way I could get away with wearing a bikini”. But as sad as it makes me to hear so many absolutely gorgeous women say such negative things about their beautiful bodies, I feel immensely privileged I get to do the job I do because it lets me see into the inner lives of women like me.
Being a bra fitter, I hope I can empower other women and make a difference, because I know I’m not alone in feeling that having babies gave me my body back. It didn’t take my body away to someplace where societal expectations would hold it hostage until, through sheer hard work and the shunning of all things delicious, I could shrink it until it’s softness fit the ideal, and my old jeans.
The process of pregnancy and childbirth allowed me to see what my body is capable of doing, rather than how it looks. My body is perfect the way she is, even if some days I still avoid swimwear and mirrors like decaf coffee. My body might be perfect but my mind still has some work to do.
I was certain that my “post-baby body” would be shameful and grotesque, but something unexpected happened. I’m now in the second half of my thirties and have two beautiful (and exhausting) kids and I’m far more at home in my own skin than I ever was “pre-baby”. I do work hard working out because I like the feeling of being healthy and strong and able to run as fast as my 2year old. Well, nearly as fast. And I never shun anything delicious.
So no, pregnant me of 2013, you will not get your pre-baby body back. That body won’t ever leave you, you get to keep that body, but it’ll get some sweet upgrades which you’re going to absolutely adore