Just before getting into the shower I catch a little glimpse of my reflection in the mirror. I grimace. I look away quickly, and cringe a little never being entirely happy with what I see.
Body image is a beast for new mamas. How we look goes hand in hand with how we feel.
And with that grimace, and later reflecting on my visceral response to my own flesh, I have realized: I have been too critical of my body, especially after having had babies.
Often as women, our post-baby body is at the centre of our worries, fears, misgivings and aversions. It's too soft, too flabby, too saggy, too stretched, and too uneven. Are our expectations of what we should look like after having a baby realistic? Too idealistic? We are conditioned by a culture that is infatuated with body image and obsessed with perfection. It doesn't teach us to embrace and love our post-baby body with all its changes and imperfections. Instead the post-baby body becomes a scapegoat. Getting our body back post-baby gets tremendous focus. Bizarrely, even though we know that our lives will never be the same again once we have had a baby, we expect our bodies go back to the way they were. The truth is, I try to remind myself, that our lives and bodies change. Forever.
We may go back to the same weight and perhaps some lucky ones even manage to look as they looked pre-baby, but our bodies will have stretched, sagged and drooped in places and some changes never fully reverse because we are also getting older. Chances are there are a couple of stretch marks. The hips and pelvic most certainly act as a constant reminder that we have carried babies. Our bellies will look different. We give them cute names like Mummy Tummy and Baby Pouch even though we dislike them and would trade the Jelly Belly for a Sixpack any day. Our core will have weakened and our tummy muscles will have stretched. After the birth of our baby and as the hormones readjust, we may loose hair and for a couple of months sport spikey baby hair where we once had long locks. And that's not even going into all the finer details of the female anatomy and the strain a pregnancy and a birth can place on us.
However, and despite all that, post-baby bodies are B_E_A_U_T_I_F_U_L, if only those, who own them, could see that.
We fail to see the amazing things our bodies are capable of. They may not look perfect but they have wicked skills and features.
The upper arms are buff and ready like mum guns. They look deadly and are super toned because we spend our day carrying and lifting a baby, shopping bags, schoolbags, baskets of washing, the MaxiCosi, you name it.
We are able to carry our baby AND our toddler while pushing a shopping trolley. (contact me for more details on how to do that😉)
Our bodies will be able to deploy energy resources we never knew we had to get up and feed baby multiple times at night, attend to the toddler who is afraid of the dark and still get up at the crack of dawn to make school lunches.
We are able to take multitasking to a whole new level. We can bounce the baby on one hip, while cooking dinner, help with homework, have a phone conversation and do some colouring. (Read more here)
We acquire Ninja reflexes in order to keep your babies safe from harm and never have we been able to jump up this fast when danger looms. Our minds are going 24/7 never stopping or slowing down.
Our ability to hear is off the charts. We are like frickin' bats.
All of those things are miraculous and incredible. They are beautiful and they make us beautiful. The mom bod is gorgeous. Go on, I dare you to say it. So yes, our lives, and our bodies do change because of motherhood. I am a stronger person because of this transformation. This body has grown and stretched, but so have our hearts. Instead of mourning our pre-baby bodies, we should think about the little mummy tummy as a gift. It is a reminder to us of the little miracles that grew inside it. The lines and wrinkles around our eyes are from a lack of sleep no doubt but also from smiling and laughing as we watch our babies grow. With the change in body, our entire life changes, our self-image changes and the way we view the world. Having legs that are only half shaved isn't a show stopper.
The next time before I jump into the shower I am going to stop and look at myself and show a little respect to the body that has been home to my 4 babies, has nursed them, carried and rocked them despite of exhaustion, despite a sore hip and an aching back and say "Thank you!"