I kind of really hate that phrase ‘post-baby body’, because it’s just my body y’know. A body that’s done some crazy things, some strong things, some really totally bad-ass things and some totally stupid things (tattoos on my big toes, I’m looking at you). Having a baby is just one of those things, and I don’t want that to be my body’s defining aspect. But then again having a baby wreaks fucking havoc on your body, totally changes it, and has made me become more aware of and think about my body more than ever before.
When I was pregnant I grew this blooming massive bump. It was ginormous, starting right underneath my boobs and curving outwards before heading sharply in just above my pubis. And the rest of me stayed pretty much the same. The boobs got a little bigger, but the rest of me was same old, same old business as usual.
I loved it. I loved my bump. It was bloody massive. Massive and difficult to dress. I hated almost every piece of maternity wear that I tried on. I don’t know what designers think happens to pregnant women but the clothes I tried on were designed bigger ALL OVER. The arms were wider, there was more material at the top and I simply felt like me and the Russian Circus could have set up camp in them. However with a wardrobe full of high-waisted denim and cropped tops I struggled to make my usual garms last longer. Despite all this I loved my bump. I enjoyed being pregnant to be honest. My skin was brilliant, my hair was thick and I felt full of happiness and life. Despite putting on three stone, I didn’t even gain any stretchmarks, and smugly anointed my bump with lotion every morning and night.
Flash forward to about a week after giving birth and all smugness promptly dissolved. I hadn’t looked in the mirror, not out of any sense of horror but because I simply didn’t feel like I had a spare second to spend in the bathroom. Add that to the fact that I was wearing a nursing bra constantly due to the two fountains of Vesuvius strapped to my chest and well, I just hadn’t seen much of myself. I was shocked at what I saw. It wasn’t the deflated football of a stomach. Or the widening ass from sitting on the sofa breastfeeding. But it was the boobs. They looked like two purple suns. Stretch marks radiated out from nipples as big as door knobs. WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.
Seems that when the midwife told me I was producing ‘Jersey Cream’ she neglected to tell me I now had udders. Stretched with milk the skin had split and I had some bloody gnarly stretchmarks. I started up my moisturising routine again but with the most organic, paraben free, SLS free, unscented products I could find, worried about covering R’s sweet little face in anything that wasn’t dripped like nectar from angels.
And that was about as much care as I took for myself for a good seven months. I lost some of the weight, but breastfeeding isn’t the ticket to skinny heaven that its touted to be. Sure the hormones released do help your uterus to shrink back down, which I guess might speed up the initial deflation of your stomach? However the breastfeeding munchies were real, I mentioned it when talking about sleep deprivation, but basically I couldn’t get through the night without a substantial snack and a brew. A combination of the lack of sleep, and a clingy newborn meant that I just shovelled whatever was easy to eat one handed into my mouth and relied on sugary bursts of energy to get through. I’m not saying this is a bad thing by the way, for the first few months you do what you gotta do to get through – and brownies make that a little bit easier.
Pampering went out of the window. My showers for the first six months were mostly taken with R in a baby bouncer in the bathroom, whilst I frantically sung and played peekaboo with him whilst speed showering. My eyebrows and leg hair went untamed, and as for my bush… Well it wasn’t a bush it was the Brazilian rain-forest.
Everyone kept insisting how good I looked though, which – well to me it was just vaguely irritating. I know you were all well meaning, and if you had told me I looked like shit I probably would have cried, but I just didn’t feel like me. My leaky boobs didn’t fit in anything I had owned pre-pregnancy so I lived in the same couple of oversized button up shirts. I didn’t feel as though I could leave R to book in a haircut, and then my hair started falling out and I just felt awful. I was moulting like a dog, needing breastpads every day, and even my ‘baggy’ clothes were straining at the boobs and thighs.
Slowly, as R has got older things are shifting back to how I would like them to be. I haven’t undertaken any extreme diet or lifestyle change, however I do keep active – walking lots with the pram – and since Rufus has been weaning for almost six months now we have started eating better as a family. When I stopped breastfeeding the boobs shrunk down as well (I swear that was a good five pounds I dropped from those girls) and the purple stretchmarks are no longer as livid.
I’m still about 7lb over my pre-pregnancy weight. Not a great amount, and I know if I worked a little harder, ate a little healthier and cut out my ungodly addiction to lattes I would reach my pre-pregnancy weight. But this doesn’t change the fact that my body is different. No matter if I eat the same, exercised the same, my body has been through something incredible and I shouldn’t expect it to look the same. I keep telling myself this, as I look in the mirror and see the sagging of my skin and the widening of my hips. I’m a slightly different shape now and I will admit I am struggling with my own style, I don’t know what suits me and I rely far too often on comfort and oversized clothes.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom – and I realised whilst on holiday that having a baby has actually made me fee a lot better about my body. Because quite simply, I don’t give a shit what anyone else thinks any more. I have more important things to do than worry about whether people are noticing the annoying acne spot that popped up right in the middle of my back just before I went on holiday. Or the extremely bruised right knee from walking into the bed frame after a 4am feed. Or the fact that I missed a whole swath of hair down the back of one leg because I’m just a bit crap at epilating.
I still do pamper and take care of myself, I’m not about to become some Miss Havisham figure don’t worry. But rather than beating myself up over my wild post-partum hair, I’ll slap a hairmask on in the evening and get it cut regularly because it makes me feel good. Same with my skin, I’ve always had problematic skin – despite me taking good care of it. But now, rather than feeling awkward when I have a breakout (I’ve been known to miss social occasions before due to feeling so embarrassed about my skin) even if it’s the siz of a small planet I will get up, go out and enjoy myself. Maybe slap some bright lipstick on, cos that shit makes you look like you have your shit together.
I’m proud of my body, and I will say yeah, I am happy with how it looks. I’m no Instagram-model in my high waisted bikini and some odd underboob showing crop top that needs duct tape to hold your tits in. But what I am is a person who thinks she is hot as hell; I love my dodgy tattooed toes because they are part of me and make me laugh, I love my stretch-marked butt, I love my boobs, I love all of me up to my blonde straighter-than-straight hair which currently sticks out like a lions mane with all the postpartum regrowth. I love me.