Even before pregnancy, I was self-conscious of my body. As I’ve mentioned on the blog before, I have a scar stretching all the way across my stomach, from surgery when I was a baby. The surgery saved my life, so obviously I’m glad I have the scar – but it’s always dented my body confidence. It also makes it hard to tone up my stomach, so – combined with a penchant for cake (I’m not totally blameless in this, let’s face it) – my weight has always been an issue for me too.
I’ve made steps towards changing it. I’ve lost weight over the years, but tend to re-gain it in times of stress or pregnancy (although thanks to being ill, I’ve lost over a stone in weight recently). I got that tattoo of the ‘cut along the dotted line’ scissors next to my scar, so that looking at my scar will make me smile rather than get me down.
Even still, during pregnancy I had major bump envy. I saw other people with their perfect football-shaped bumps – and then there was mine, sliced through in the middle with my scar, looking oddly-shaped. I was covered in stretch marks – although, oddly, these didn’t bother me as much as the scar – and as a result of this, I think I took maybe four bump pictures all in all? It’s a shame, because I would have loved to see a progression of my bump from beginning to end, but pictures like this, taken a few days before SB was born, are all I have.
On the bright side, thanks to my non-football shaped bump, I could get by in normal t-shirts as well as maternity t-shirts. On the downside, I don’t think I ever properly left that pregnant-or-fat stage.
Since having SB, I’ve been very self-conscious of my body. It’s not because of the stretchmarks, or even because I’ve got a bit of a mummy pouch, from the excess skin off my bump. I think women should be proud of their post-baby bodies – I just can’t bring myself to be proud of mine, because it’s not normal. Exactly the same way as I disliked my bump, because it didn’t look like ‘normal’ bumps, I don’t have a normal post-baby belly.
There was a post on one of the parenting Facebook groups I’m on the other day, from a woman who was worried about the state of her tummy two weeks after giving birth. People were incredulous. “It’s been two weeks!” they posted. “Enjoy your babies! There’s time to lose weight afterwards!”. But, inevitably, there were some people who posted their own pictures, of washboard stomachs just six weeks post-partum.
To combat it, the Facebook page started a new post, inviting members to post pictures of their post-baby bodies. Inevitably, that too was filled up with pictures of people’s progress; of how they’d lost all the baby weight and more within weeks, and had been back at the gym six days after giving birth. I’m not saying these people shouldn’t be proud, and I’m not saying they shouldn’t post pictures. I’m certainly not saying that they should be ashamed of having lost weight or gone back to the gym; it’s a great achievement. The problem is that a small minority (bolded so that no-one accuses me of saying everybody does this) of these people assume that everyone can do the same; that everyone can spare two hours a day to go to the gym, that everyone has the childcare available and that everyone’s body type lends itself to snapping back into place. They also have a tendency to shame those parents who don’t make the same effort, saying that there is ‘no excuse’ for not losing the weight.
Do you know what? I don’t have an excuse. But I don’t need an excuse. I didn’t want to get straight to the gym. Losing the weight wasn’t as huge a priority for me as it is for others. I had essays to submit, and once those were submitted, I had no time to go to the gym anyway. With D working long hours, when he came home from work I’d catch up on sleep. I was terrified to be away from SB anyway – going to the gym just wasn’t a priority of mine. That’s not to say that the parents who did prioritise the gym did so over their babies, or that they are bad parents – not at all. Just that it was important to them; it wasn’t as important to me.
But still, I couldn’t deny that seeing those posts made me feel a little bit rubbish, especially the ones saying there was no excuse for not losing the weight. I’m seventeen months post-partum, and have come out the other side of post-natal depression and anxiety. What sort of effect would it have on a new mum, still in the grip of the baby blues or full-blown PND, struggling to find the time to even eat let alone get to the gym?
So I decided it was time to overcome my fear of people seeing and judging my post-baby belly, to overcome the fear of people seeing my scar. If people recoil in horror, that’s their lookout. My scar saved my life and my body carried the most beautiful, perfect baby I have ever seen, and I refuse to be ashamed of either of those things for one moment longer. It isn’t flat, it isn’t pretty and it doesn’t compare to all those taut tummies posted on the page, but it was time to represent those who haven’t melted off the baby weight; those without perfect post-baby bodies – people with scars and imperfections that make them self-conscious.
Being proud of our body’s achievements shouldn’t just be the reserve of those who have lost their baby weight. We’ve all done amazing thing with our bodies, we’ve all grown little human beings, and brought them into the world – whether through the door or through the sunroof. That’s pretty freaking amazing. I posted this picture on the page, and also on my blog’s Facebook page, but I think it’s important to do this longer post, explaining why I think we should all be proud of our bodies. It shouldn’t be taboo to share our imperfect post-baby bodies. Just like stretch marks are tiger stripes; ‘mummy tummies’ are the remnants of what kept our babies safe for nine months.
So here’s my post-baby body; shared in the hope that other people will feel able to share theirs too. Whether it’s flat at six weeks post-partum or still like mine two or three years down the line, we should be proud of what we have done, and not scared to show it.