There is no doubt that my body is different since having Miss Rose. I have stretch marks all over the place, a jiggly belly which six months on shows no signs of firming up, and my boobs are significantly lower and significantly squishier.
For the most part I feel no shame in how my body looks, sure I sometimes miss the slim, firm body of my teenage years but I’d rather have my new baby than my old boobs. I am confident that whatever changes happened to my body are for the best and I certainly do not regret the decision to get pregnant. How I look now is how my baby will know me; when we bath together she lies on my squishy tummy and feels comfortable. When I breastfeed her she nuzzles into me and enjoys cuddling the fleshy softness. I have now got the body of a mother.
All that said, I suffer from significant bouts of insecurity especially when some of my friends have got incredible stretch free figures that look fabulous in a swimsuit. Indeed, during my pregnancy some of our friends started to distinctly unnerve me and those feelings have continued. Not because I don’t trust him, not because he has ever made me feel undesirable, but because when you get pregnant you’re vulnerable. Your body changes, you get fat and spotty, and around you are beautiful unmarked slim women.
Since having Miss Rose I have far less time to spend on vanity than I did before she arrived. During my pregnancy I still tried, probably even more so, to look good. I would take time to do my make up after swimming and ensure my hair was done every day. Now after swimming I have a starving hungry baby to get fed and the fact I’m showered and dressed is enough of an accomplishment without needing to add extra challenges. Getting dressed in the morning is my piece of vanity. I have mostly come to terms with my looks, but my body? Not yet.
I am certain that most of these insecurities come from my own head, not my husband, who tells me regularly he thinks I’m beautiful and is always offering me cuddles and kisses. Of course, having a baby in our bed for much of the night, him working night shifts and me mostly exhausted most of the time has had an impact on our sex life and I think that’s quite normal. Sometimes I blame this slow down on my new squishy body, but he doesn’t. He blames it on life and assures me it won’t be forever, and sometimes I believe him but not always.
The images in the media of women who have had children do not help. I know some women snap back down straight away after pushing one out, but they’re in the minority. Yet almost every celebrity who has a child is instantly the figure of perfection again after and just days after the latest designer baby has been launched into the world “How I Lost The Baby Weight” features appear splashed across magazines with perfectly airbrushed and surgically enhanced images of stretch mark free, none droopy women in bikinis. Well bloody good for you. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to do your thousand squats a day whilst feasting on celery dipped in calorie free, taste free dip. I have a child to raise, a life to live and breast milk to produce. I can’t airbrush myself in the pool and I don’t have a plastic surgeon on stand by.
My call to women who are pregnant or, like me, still showing the effects of pregnancy, is take heart. When my head is taking charge I know that having a body like this is normal and that I can still be attractive. My husband tells me that my body isn’t the same as when he met me, my body has now done something incredible. My body has grown, produced and fed his baby and that is the most beautiful thing a woman’s body could ever do. I do believe self confidence is something we can learn, and it will come in time. Some days I feel good about myself, other days I feel rubbish, but the good days are coming more and more often.
And to other women? Friends of mothers, friends of fathers. Remember us. When you’re hugging our men and they can fit their arms right around you, remember they can’t fit around us anymore. When you’re dancing on a night out, remember that we jiggle now. When you’re wearing a bikini with pride, remember that we are sneaking into the water as fast as possible to hide ourselves. If you care about us you’ll respect those feelings. If you flirt with our husbands we will no longer be able to laugh it off and forget it, we will now feel sad and insecure. Some women enjoy the power that comes with being able to turn a man’s head away from his wife and to them I say go away. If you don’t respect us then we certainly don’t respect you. Other women are unaware, don’t realise that we might feel like this and so don’t take it into consideration, and that’s fine you aren’t to know but if you’ve read this then now you do.
I am very fortunate. As I said, my husband is very caring and in a lot of ways very understanding. Sometimes he just looks at me like I’m crazy, but usually he gets it. But also my best friend, although still having the perfect body and being extremely lovely looking, is incredibly considerate. She tells me all the time that I look great and when we’re at the pool comments that my stretch marks are fading away and how good I look. Do I care if she’s lying? No. She’s giving me a little boost which on some days is really gratefully received!
Ultimately I want to put most of my energy into my child and how I look is pretty secondary but it does still matter. Insecurities are normal but with time we can get our confidence back. Most of us will never get our pre baby bodies back and we will always have the memories of pregnancy marked on our skin, but what incredible marks they are. Look at your child, you did that! I am going to work on focussing on the positives and listening to the compliments rather than worrying, so you should do the same. No we aren’t the same as we were; we are better.
We are mothers. We are beautiful.