For anyone who is unfamiliar with my blog, I ran a regular Bump Watch series during my pregnancies with each of my three sons.
Once the baby arrives, I switch it to Baby Watch and the bump is never again mentioned.
But the thing is...while Bump Watch may disappear from my blog with the arrival of the baby, the bump itself certainly doesn't disappear overnight.
Does anybody else remember those Pregnant Barbie dolls from their childhoods? Barbie would have a big pregnant belly which you'd lift off to reveal a baby...and once you took the little Barbie Baby out, Barbie's flat toned tummy would pop back up immediately?
Yeah...unfortunately most womens bodies don't quite live up to the Barbie dream in that sense. My baby bump certainly didn't disappear the second my baby was lifted out...
And the truth is, it hasn't disappeared even now, eight weeks later.
Pregnancy is a strange time for me when it comes to body confidence.
The thing is, I have made no secret of the fact that I've struggled with my weight ever since starting steroid medication for an autoimmune disease 15 years ago and it's something that makes me very uncomfortable.
My body, to me, is a thing of constant shame and embarrassment - and my tummy area in particular is something to be hidden away at all times under the baggiest jumpers and most shapeless dresses I can find. It must always be skimmed over, never on show in clinging materials. My arms must cover it as much as possible, and whenever I'm photographed I must always try to find something to place over it - a handbag, a baby...anything that covers it from view.
Except for when I'm pregnant...then, and only then, I experience the kind of body confidence and self-love that I can usually only dream of.
That rounded tummy suddenly becomes a thing of beauty - it holds a precious new life within, and I show it off with pride in dresses and tops to accentuate it as much as possible - and when I feel the eyes of strangers pass over it I feel warm with admiration for my amazing body and the wonderful things it's doing, creating and nurturing this tiny precious human growing inside it.
But once the baby arrives, I'm propelled back almost immediately to self-loathing and shame at the state of that very same body.
That still-rounded tummy which has housed and nurtured not one but THREE little lives over the past 4 years is suddenly a source of shame and embarrassment to me once more.
I look at my reflection in the mirror and feel disgust at that overhang left from three c-sections, at the scar they've left behind.
And once again, out come the baggy jumpers... the pictures are cropped from the waist up... that feeling of not wanting to leave the house for fear of being asked if I'm pregnant is back again.
But something struck me today, when I saw photos of some pregnant friends of mine - showing off their beautiful baby bumps in beautiful figure hugging outfits - seeing that look of pride and love on their faces.
Knowing that just a few weeks ago, that was me.
And comparing that feeling to the one I felt this morning, when I found myself in tears once again as I struggled to find an outfit that successfully concealed every lump and bump...that skimmed my tummy enough so as to not to draw any questioning looks from strangers.
How can I go from loving and appreciating something so much just a few short weeks ago, to hating it and being so utterly embarrassed by it now.
I realised how unfair I was being to this body of mine.
No, it's not perfect. No it hasn't bounced right back to shape. Yes there are people who's bodies have done a far better job than mine of retaining that illusive "desirable" figure after children.
But my body has been through a rough time of things - it's battled a tough condition and been put through the mill with the medications it needed to fix it.
And most importantly of all it's produced three perfect children in the space of four years.
Instead of hating my body for what it isn't, I need to try so much harder to appreciate it for what it is...for what it's given me, and for what it's been through.
Do I want to work on it and return it to a better place than it's in now? Yes, of course I do.
Will I still struggle some days in the meantime to accept it as it currently is? No doubt I will.
But I want to try.
And this is my first step toward doing that.
I'm not sharing these photos lightly...I'd much rather be editing them, cropping them off at the waist and not letting you see these parts of me that don't call out for congratulations on how wonderful I look.
I'm not that mum who's bounced back to perfection already - Hell I was nowhere close to perfection to begin with.
But this is me. And this is my bump, eight weeks after my third baby boy in three years arrived, eight weeks after my third c-section.
The same bump I celebrated through 38 weeks of pregnancy.
And for giving me the babies I love so much, It deserves to be celebrated still.
The Post "My Bump Is Still Here!" first appeared on www.sparklesandstretchmarks.com - a UK parenting and lifestyle blog
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