As a mum, whether your baby is weeks old or years old, we are constantly bombarded with the message that we must "bounce back" to our pre-baby size and shape. Let me tell you, I struggle to "bounce back" from a cheesecake so pregnancy was a whole different game entirely.
If you're a follower of Clemmie on Instagram (@mother_of_daughters) you might have seen her recent Insta stories all about post baby body image and it really struck with me. Clemmie is one of my favourite accounts because I love her style, her character and that she's not afraid to say what everyone should be saying - why are new mums made to feel ashamed or unhappy with their post baby bodies? And I have to agree with her, it got me thinking about the recently coined term of endearment 'dad-bod', a term to describe a man who gets a little rounder at the edges when he becomes a dad. It's a symbol that he's comfortable in his life, his relationship is secure and he's enjoying all the finery of raising children and making memories rather than spending all his hours at the gym.
Why then are dads allowed to have a 'dad-bod' and it's cute but a mum must return to her pre-baby body as soon as possible? Why are we not saying "aww look at her mum-bod, she must be loving her new life and enjoying her babies"? Who decided that a mum should be judged on how quickly she's back in her skinny jeans or how many weeks it takes her to be bikini ready?
I've spent so many days feeling rubbish about my post-baby figure. I've stood in front of the mirror in the morning and just felt "urg", nothing in my pre-baby wardrobe fits me anymore and if we're being honest (which we are) I'm writing this wearing a maternity top because it fits me and my other clothes don't.
Well, after watching Clemmie's videos over the last couple of days, I've decided that the only person upset by my 'mum-bod' is me - honestly I don't think anyone else cares. In fact I know they don't because when we go out, the only comments I hear are about how gorgeous my baby is, how amazing her thick curly hair looks, how good a job I must be doing as a mummy because she is so happy and smiley and how people can't believe she is my first because I seem to be so natural at being a mum. No one has ever pointed out my weight, my body shape, how hard it is losing weight after a baby - I'm pretty sure no one else cares.
I could spend another day, week, month thinking about how I don't like my stretch marks, or my saggy mummy pouch, or that I've gone up a dress size and can't wear any of my previous clothes, or I could adjust my mindset and focus on the positives.
Here's what I do have:
- stretch marks - a reminder that my body grew a baby, it stretched and changed to make room for her to grow, for her to develop and be healthy. There are literally thousands of women in this world who would give anything to have stretch marks, to be able to carry their own child in their tummies.
- a mummy pouch - a work in progress that is the result of an emergency C-section, one of the most complicated my midwife said she had ever assisted. You know how I feel about this operation (I've talked openly previously about the on-going effect it's had on my body) but ultimately it was the procedure that allowed my baby to enter the world safely. I can't bear to think what might have happened had my midwife not made the decision to call for the surgery. I don't want to think about it, my heart can't cope.
- a wardrobe of new clothes - whilst I would love to wear my old clothes again, I can't right now. So I've had to do a bit of shopping and who doesn't want to go shopping? I'm working on figuring out my new size and shape in stores, what suits me and where to shop to get the best for my money. Can I shop in Zara post baby? Nope! Could I shop in Zara pre baby? Nope!
- post-partum hair loss and re-growth - this one's a pain the arse because it means I'm constantly hovering and picking strands of hair off my baby and every other square inch of the house. It means that I have weird little tufty re-growth at my temple and makes my mum-bun look like it's supported by a pathetic lion mane. It's just hair though, it will grow back, it will hopefully return to normal in a few more months and with all the problems we face in this world my fluffy re-growth really isn't that important.
- back fat - I had this before being pregnant and I definitely took advantage of the "eating for two" mantra that I swore I wouldn't do because I knew I didn't need to eat extra. I enjoyed every second of being pregnant and eating whatever the hell I wanted and you know what, some days I still do that. There's a cupboard in our kitchen with a shelf dedicated to biscuits. Because sometimes the days are long and hard and you just want a plate of biscuits.
- less than perky boobies - I was lucky enough to be able to breastfeed my baby for the first four months of her life, I would have liked to have done it longer but for various reasons at the time our breast feeding journey came to an end. It has taken weeks and weeks for the milk supply to completely finish and my boobs no longer have the perky 20-something stature they used to have. As I just said, I was lucky enough to breastfeed - so many women don't get this chance even if they wanted to and I am proud that my body naturally created the milk she needed and I was able to provide for her for as long as possible.
- a healthy, thriving baby girl - my absolute world that makes every single lump, bump, stretch and scar worth it and it always will be worth it because at the end of the day we do anything we can for our babies and this starts before they're even born.
It's going to take work to change my thought process, I'm going to need to remind myself daily that I created life, I grew a baby and my body has supported me through this journey. I can love every single thing about myself because I am doing everything in the interest of my child. She is my world and I am hers. She doesn't care if I'm wearing a different size jeans, or if there is a suitcase crammed full of clothes in the garage that one day I would like to wear again. All my baby cares about is that I love her unconditionally, and milk, she cares a lot about milk.
All is not lost for my pre baby body and wardrobe though - my shoes still fit!
Thank you to Clemmie for highlighting this issue and for speaking so openly about how we need to embrace our figures and support all mums in their post baby journeys. The more we talk about how normal our bodies are, the more normal our bodies will become. Here's to channelling our inner Clemmie, to embracing ourselves, dressing to suit our bodies, rocking at being mums and not being afraid to feel fabulous just as we are.
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This blog first appeared on Rachel's blog, here.
HuffPost UK Parents has launched 'Mumbod', a new section to empower mums and mums-to-be to feel confident about their bodies pre- and post-baby. We'd also love to hear your stories. To blog for Mumbod, email email@example.com. To keep up to date with features, blogs and videos on the topic, follow the hashtag #MyMumbod.