This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a while – mostly while I was pregnant, which has ended now but I think it’s still relevant, maybe even more so now.
During pregnancy, I was probably more confident with my body than I’ve ever felt. For once, I didn’t have to try and look thin, didn’t feel the need to suck my stomach in and make it look as flat as possible. And that felt really good.
I’ve battled with body image issues since I was 9 years old and decided I was fat (looking back I know I wasn’t, I was pretty stick thin, but I couldn’t see that at the time). At this age I was allowed to pack my own lunch for school, and I developed some bad eating habits and a terrible relationship with food – breakfast and dinner were avoided as much as possible without arousing parental suspicion, and my packed lunch was five oranges. I probably thought it was super healthy at the time.
These problems carried on, on and off until around my second/third year of university, when I became a lot more comfortable, with myself as well as my body. I’d still have little wobbles and off days, but my feelings about myself and food were a lot more healthy.
Pregnancy also went a long way to fixing these issues. Because suddenly food wasn’t the enemy and it wasn’t just about me: I was eating healthily for my baby, and any weight gain or stomach showing was also for my baby. And I loved it.
As someone who’s been sensitive about weight and image, some of the jokes that come with being pregnant could touch nerves at times. There’s constant “Oo you’re getting a bit chubby” comments and “Who ate all the pies?” jokes. But I learned to join in and took it all in my stride. Because I was healthy and happy and was growing a little baby inside me.
But now it’s post-pregnancy and I can feel some of the old concerns coming back.
There seems to be so much pressure on women to suddenly spring back into their pre-pregnancy body as if nothing ever happened. A big culprit of this is probably the celebrity cases we’ve seen where they’re back to being super skinny a week after giving birth. That must take a lot of hard work, and I admire them for it. But it’s not my priority right now to work out for hours every day. I don’t have the time, I have a newborn to look after.
I think seeing celebrities achieve this gives people an unrealistic expectation of the post birth body. A recent example of this came from Giovanna Fletcher, whose ‘mummy tummy’ was mocked by a stranger less than two weeks after she gave birth. Her response was perfect. It’s no one’s business how she, or any new mum looks, right after birth or any time after really. And that tummy has done amazing things over the last nine months, and should be admired, not shamed.
Still, I know that kind of thing is easy to say and not as easy to practice sometimes. I haven’t been working out or dieting since giving birth. I try to go for walks and eat healthily, because I’m breastfeeding and I still need to look after my body for my baby’s sake. But I know there’s part of me that’s worried about seeing friends and going back to work and having a ‘mummy tummy’. None of my friend’s have had children yet, and they’re all pretty slim, and I hate the idea of being the ‘bigger’ one. Most of the women at work have amazing figures, though I probably couldn’t compete with them pre-pregnancy anyway!
The thing is, these are pressures I’m putting on myself based on what other people think. Or even what I assume they think, because no one has said anything bad about how look right now – I’m just preempting it. But I’m quite happy with how my body looks right now. I don’t mind the little tummy or the stretch marks on it. And I know my partner loves how I look, and he’s the only person who ever sees me naked, so surely only his opinion matters for anything, after my own?
I think that’s what I want to concentrate on for now. I’m happy with myself, and that’s the main thing, and I want to hold on to that feeling. And if anything, whether it’s my own insecurities or other people’s comments make me feel bad about how I look, I know I can look at my son and know it’s all been worth it for him.