So here I am again. The battle with my body continues. This time mon corps has produced two little human beans (in short succession). It has nourished and harboured them safely until expulsion, and then produced sustenance for them until I handed the job over to my moo-ing friends and the wonder that is smashed banana. Those bébés are my absolute pride and joy. I’m floored constantly by how much I love and adore every tiny molecule of them. I want to stare at them, all day and all night. So how come I can’t look at my body, baby making véhicule extraordinaire, with that same pride and joy?
I’ve battled with my body confidence for a long time, maybe forever, and here’s the first thing I have realised of late: just because I had bebes I did not magically become something I wasn’t before I became a mum. Let me clarify. I was not an elite athlete or a gym bunny pre-kids. In fact, prior to having kids, I did not know what a gym was. I mean I had a rough idea of the sweaty horror-house, but I was scared of them. I counted walking to the pub as exercise and an olive in my martini as one of my five a day. At best I was “skinny fat” as my wise (and fit) littlest sister would say, which apparently is a technical term amongst actual fit and healthy people for those that can’t be referred to as “fat fat” but no matter the clothes size still wobble.
Looking back now, of course, I was just fine. But I didn’t like my reflection; I could point to 20 things I hated about myself before finding a single thing that was ok. I hated wearing swimwear and basically was a massive prude. But I was lucky in some ways- I didn’t like my body but it didn’t particularly knock my confidence. I was brought up to be grateful for what I have, and I was frequently reminded that we are all different and physical appearance is just one aspect of “you”. I don’t remember much other discussion or focus on the body (positive in itself) other than engaging in fun exercise opportunities, no doubt to wear us out as much as to get fit. I was – and remain – passionate about the fact (actual fact) that every body is different, each person is fortunate to have what they have, women lucky enough to carry a baby or to menstruate are blessed and strong, and I deplore the negative effects of advertising on women. The way a woman’s body “should” look and all the products and utensils we need to make ourselves more “perfect” or less “ugly”. How we are objectified. Check out some examples here and link through to Jean Kilbourne’s page and see her pioneering work on this topic.
When I was fresh out of hospital with my new bebes, Facebook ads told me I needed just 8 weeks to get my pre baby body back plus some abs and possibly also a job as a gym instructor. Are you freaking kidding me? I need 8 weeks to catch my breath. I need 8 months to physically recover from this – not to get my pre-baby body “back” – and I need 8 tonnes of patience not to punch you advertisers in the face. I am *never* getting my pre baby body back because I had a bebe. Unless you have a time machine my body will always and forever more be post baby. Let’s focus on that.
I was horrified to realise recently that the image of the internal human body, the muscles and the nervous system, the image we’ve all grown up seeing and studying, is a male body. Shocking news: men and women don’t look the same on the inside! There was a clue with the external aspects, but what do I know. So it turns out the female muscular anatomy is quite different to the male body. Ok you know that. Obvs. But seriously how did we get to 2019 without anybody really calling that out? Where are the mammory glands?!
I digress. Back to moi and my doubly/ triply wobbly wobbly fat fat. I have had kids so now I’m the old me, squared. Ironically I’m probably “fitter” than I have ever been (apart from one time I did a half marathon – unbelieavabubble to me now); I actually occasionally go to a gym, I try to do yoga, I spend my time lifting wriggly worms of 10kg and above, or carting around my office in my bag, or chasing littles, or bending and stretching to get all their clothes washed, folded and away in the cupboards before starting the cycle again, and I am more conscious of what I eat. And drink. Because as someone older and wiser kindly informed me, it is harder to lose the excess flab post kids. *sobs as she puts away the crisps* But I am strong. I should be happy. I am confident that I am more than my cankles and my generously proportioned derrière. I just need to take that thinking and really apply it to my moments of mirror glaring.
I want my children to grow up being comfortable in their own skin. We need to set that example and normalise real women’s bodies. I am thoughtful now about what I say about my own body: I don’t make a big deal about my squishy tummy. I try not to speak out about my mum boobs/ spaniels ears. I try not to hide behind too many layers of protection when we are going for a splash and I’m working on standing proud. “I made you in here!” I declare pointing at my tum “what a clever mummy I am!” And when Big Bro points to my chest and shouts out that “when I was a baby I drank milk from your boobies!” “Yes you did little man, and isn’t that magic!”. Rather than jump on the opportunity to insult myself I’m giving myself a high 5. I’m making a positive change.
Voilà the second realisation: linked to #1 above, stop being so hard on yourself. Bloody hell woman. You gave birth twice. You are not 15. You work, you play (in the children playing sense now, not playing hard with vodka martinis, just to be clear) ~ you juggle. Time is precious. Hanger is real. The odds are stacked against you having an easy ride to extreme fitness right now, but you can be healthy. And happy. And proud. Be proud of what your body has achieved. And speak up about it! I don’t think it’s unreasonable to point out to the humans that you produced, and perhaps to the one that you produced them with, quite how clever it was that you produced them in your tummy, and perhaps your thighs and your arms and chins too. Normalise your baby-making body.
Third: try to refrain from commenting. Maybe don’t comment on other women’s appearances, unless it’s to give them a boost. And know your audience. This part is hard. But as you go deeper into friendships, you will know different friend’s attitudes on this stuff. It’s kind of hard if you are super self-conscious to receive any commentary on appearance, because no matter what is being said you can somehow derive a direct or indirect insult. Par exemple “Have you lost weight, you look great!” = “Was I too weighty before? Did I have weight I needed to lose? Why didn’t you alert me to my excessive weight?”
Someone said to me recently, in response to my mumbling about not being happy in a swimming costume, “don’t be hard on yourself, you’re only 18 months post partum”. Now that was sweet and well-intentioned, but doubling + my own ‘9 months in 9 months out’ motto feels cheeky. I mean I could say I’m only 12 years post partum someday… I like it but it doesn’t fly. My body “issues” aren’t purely those that are directly linked to portage of bebe. I’m sure they haven’t been improved by that gargantuan experience but pretty sure I can’t blame the kids for my cankles. Conversely I may well have gifted them our family cankleloom. We are the Fawcett family of powerful legs. De rien!
Fourth: take your own advice. C’est tout.
Go forth and be bold and strong and proud of what you got. I also recommend some Chessie King @chessiekingg on Instagram if you want a regular boost of body confidence 💕