Mama Body

I’m often thinking about motherhood issues I’d like to share here and rarely get time to sit and tap something coherent out but I’d love to encourage some honest discussion, so here’s the first in a series… more to follow.

Let’s cut to the chase today, how do you *really* feel about your body now you have had a baby?

I’ve thought about writing this for months… putting it off mainly because I wanted to reach the fabled ‘other side’ that I’d read so many other super mums accounts of. The holy grail of your pre-pregnancy weight, feeling like you’ve ‘got your body back‘ and regaining your pre-motherhood confidence. Turns out at 19 months post partum, I don’t think for me at least, that perfect triad actually exists. My body has gone through many stages – post partum ‘bump’ (that lasted weeks longer than I expected,) then months where I was heavy but truly didn’t care as I was so wrapped up in my beautiful baby. The first realisations that I wanted to try and get my weight down only started to creep into my mind around 10-12 months after having Bea and co-incidentally, perhaps with a slightly conscious moderation of my cake heavy diet, I started to very slowly move towards my pre-pregnancy weight. For a while I was happy with the slimmer silhouette I saw in the mirror then I started to look at the finer detail. And it’s fair to say I don’t love what I see.


Image of Amanda, via the 4th Trimester Bodies Project on Instagram

I’ve gone to write this so many times and hesitated. In part I suppose I hoped I’d miraculously lose weight/clean up my eating habits/suddenly find the desire or time to start exercising regularly and the whole issue would go away. In part because it’s like there’s some kind of shame in admitting that under your clothes (because in reality most of what I dislike isn’t really visible,) isn’t as attractive as the media tells us it should be. And whilst I know there are truly genetically lucky women (some amongst my friends,) who have lost weight quickly, through feeding or otherwise, and still look great, the media and just your average blogger posting about how they got their weight down/body back by cutting out sugar/rediscovering their love of pilates/breast feeding, really doesn’t help.

So the truth about my body is that it still doesn’t feel like my own. I’m still feeding Bea morning and evening. This week she has been particularly clingy and my body rarely feels like my own unless she’s asleep in her cot and then, ironically I miss her. My boobs haven’t done too badly for feeding her and don’t look a whole lot different, although I’m currently missing the fullness pregnancy and feeding imparted. I’m sure everybody feels differently about the parts of their body that are different after a baby, but for me it’s my middle that bothers me the most. My waist seems to be just… absent. And my stomach muscles, whilst still present, (I know – I regularly try to tense them to check they are still there!) are hidden under a layer of blubber and seem intent on just sagging out of shape when I am relaxed… so all the time. But the thing I hate the most is the skin. I got stretch marks under my bump in about my 35th week of pregnancy. I expected it because I suffered with stretch marks in my teens but they are so faded now I hoped they would disappear to the barely visible silvery lines the earlier ones left. Whilst they are less visible now and pale, they’ve totally altered the texture of my skin. Stood upright you’d never notice but any bending forwards reveals the crepe-like texture and loose skin I loathe.

Loathe is a strong word and not how I feel about my ‘self’ I hasten to add. Fortunately I have never based my self worth on my external appearance but even though I consider myself to be unusually self confident, there have to be things and times when you don’t feel perfect. Even as I write this I feel almost defeated in admitting it. I’m mentally straining for a positive comment or course of action to round off this blog post with, to say what I’m going to do about it, or how I’m going to change myself. But I think what I really want to say is it’s ok to feel like this. That maybe acceptance is the way forwards and the way to ultimate happiness about your body after having babies. Perhaps the cliched end is that I’d go through it all again and worse for Bea. Being a mother is so much better than having a perfect (if it ever was) body and I’d much rather spend time with her than time pursuing it. In my case, most of the time motherhood is distracting enough to prevent me dwelling on the reality of my ‘new’ body. But it’s a part of motherhood nonetheless.

Now it’s time to hand over to you. How do you really feel about your body? Have your feelings changed? Perhaps you feel differently to me? I’d love to hear your thoughts readers :)

Rebecca x

The Baby Body

I don’t often talk about ‘social interest’ topics on Florence Finds as I’m never sure how you will all engage with a a given topic. Last week however it seemed everyone had something to say about the birth of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s baby, Prince George, but an even hotter topic was Kate’s post baby body. Her simple appearance with baby George infront of the Lindo wing sparked a flurry of comments, ranging from bravo to admiration to weight loss advice – particularly the now ubiquitous comments from OK magazine on her post-natal shape up routine.


Image via The Metro

If I’m honest, I’m not surprised at OK. They are a trashy magazine and their weekly choice of content and celebrity stories pretty clearly states their position on championing ethical female role models. That would be not at all then. Am I surprised at them trying to make a quick buck out of capturing the public interest in The DoC, her always immaculate presentation and enviable figure? No. It’s sad that they are also targeting every woman who has recently given birth and will sadly be comparing themselves to Kate and how she looked leaving hospital; women who are often questioning their every decision already and desperately trying to rescue a self of self and self-esteem after such a life changing event and physical transformation. But am I surprised at that even? Not at all.

My reaction was two-fold. My first thought, prior to seeing the media storm that followed was how daunting it must have been to go out there, only 26 hours after becoming a mother, and face that bank of photographers. What can have been going through Kate’s mind? I am not a mother but have seen and can only imagine the ferocious change that women undergo, the fierce protectors they become of this little life they are responsible for, the immediate worry that arrives with the baby. How terrifying to be tired and emotional and so very vulnerable in so public a situation. I wonder if she saw their lives flash before her with the ever present papperazzi encroaching on every moment of his life?

Which leads me to my second thought. How mortifying after showing everyone your first born son to have some people find the main event to be the size of your post-partum bump? Did Kate make a conscious decision to display it rather than try to hide? Who knows. I suspect whether she ‘displayed’ her bump was the last thing on her mind. No doubt she hadn’t given it a passing thought amongst her emotions of joy and fatigue.

Aside from my feelings for Kate however, it has been fascinating to see the public reaction. I’ll admit, before I had close friends and family who had babies, I didn’t really realise that bumps don’t just shrink away after the birth, and that’s after seeing many babies born – when mums are nursing their newborn or lying flat post delivery it’s not as obvious at all, but once stood up it’s clear that the uterus and abdominal muscles are going to take some time to shrink back to their pre-baby shape. So it’s not surprising I suppose that some women are taken aback by a new mum’s tummy. After all if you’re not party to those first few days and weeks when a woman is post delivery then all the experience you have is of celebrities ‘snapping back’ into shape, described by the media like a piece of elastic stationary with no thought to responsible journalism. It was amazing to see the outpouring (both publicly and amongst my friends) of pride amongst the virtual sisterhood that identified with her ‘mum tum’, women applauding her who spoke about it like a badge of honour and the palpable sense of affirmation that even someone as ‘perfect’ as Kate had looked like they did post-baby.

I don’t have a conclusion to my musings, other than that it seemed to me to represent the most intrusive and distasteful part of being in the public eye, and that Kate as always handled it all with aplomb. I would love however to hear what you guys thought about it all. Are you one of the mums who cheered her on? Had you never seen a woman so close to a delivery before and were you surprised? Were you delighted to see some normalcy when it comes to a post-baby body?

Do share your thoughts readers…

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS Apologies if this is very mother and baby centric when there is obviously a very present father involved!

Silencing the critical voice…

This afternoon, we have a post that is honest, meaty and powerfully thought provoking, from a legendary writer, Anna K. Many of you will already know her via Any Other Woman, but if you don’t and you enjoy what you read here, go on over and check it out. It’s like medicine for the mind with refreshing, sometimes challenging and always life affirming essays from a host of intelligent and brilliant women. Thanks for sharing your story here today Anna and I’ll be looking forward to landing and reading the comments later this afternoon.

For a long time, I was undecided about what to write for my guest post for Florence Finds.  I write a lot about feelings and being a woman and about people’s stories for Any Other Woman, and I wanted to take the chance to write something different, to try something new, to push myself.

So I wrote a post about makeup.  But Rebecca could do it better.  I wrote a post about dressing for anything above a D cup.  It sounded hollow and I got bored.  I’m not good at style, fashion, beauty.

Sod it, I thought.  The best blog posts are the ones you have to pull out from inside of you, kicking and screaming because they don’t want to come out.  I’m going to do what I do best, and tell you all a story.

A story about who we are and what we stand for irrespective of style, fashion and beauty.

It’s about me, because that’s what I know best.  It’s not particularly remarkable, but it’s mine.

When I was younger I was a competitive swimmer. I trained every day and competed most weekends. It was all I knew.  When I was 14 I was diagnosed with a severe form of scoliosis. I underwent major spinal surgery.  This pulled me out of training for many months and subsequently ended my intended career as a competitive swimmer.  I have no idea if I’d ever have made it professional; statistics say probably not, but I’ll never know.

I went from training an extortionate amount of hours every week to training not at all.  And here’s the mistake I made: upon stopping training, I ate the same amount as I always had done.  I ate the same because I had no concept of the amount of fuel needed to power that kind of strict training regime – I just thought everyone ate what I did.  I whacked on stones and stones of weight and the consequences of that weight gain defined me and who I was for the next seven years of my life.

 

How I looked overshadowed who I was and what I stood for.  It influenced the decisions I made, the places I went, the people I loved.  I looked at other women in the park ,on the tube, in work, and I compared myself to them.  I avoided places with mirrors.  I dressed in black, to blend in.  I carefully orchestrated a social life that avoided any attention on my body. 

I developed the strongest of the strong political stances because no-one would think about how I looked if I could capture their attention in another way; with my mind, with my beliefs, with my convictions.

I thought constantly about what it would be like to be thinner.  It’s so hard to describe what that crippling obsession is like if you’re one of the lucky ones, who doesn’t live with this particular demon.  You live for an impossible dream and it dissolves all that you are inside but you don’t know it.  Next week I’ll stop eating junk food.  Next week I’ll be a better person.  People will love me more if I’m thinner, once I’m more beautiful.
People will know I’m not lazy if I could just lose weight.

You get sucked into a cycle of feeling like crap about how you look so you eat to make yourself feel better and then you look even worse so you eat more and it’s a never-ending spin cycle which mangles up your self-esteem and hell, even your sense of self, and spits it out into the utility room floor, unrecognisable.

When I was 22 I lost (most of) the weight.  Over the subsequent years I reached the stage where I could get through the day without thinking about my body and what everyone else thought of it.  It was joyous.  Still is.  I still count myself lucky that I climbed out of that spin cycle relatively unscathed.

But the point of this post is not to talk about body hang-ups.  We’ve talked about this previously on Florence Finds, and we’ve said what we can.  It’s to point out my real regret of this whole situation.  This is what my subconscious whispers in my ear when I’m feeling down, when I’ve had a bad day, when things look bleak.  Just think, it says, just think what you could have achieved in those seven years, if you hadn’t been thinking about what you look like.

You could have written a novel.

You could have travelled the world.

You could have been someone, someone who changed the world, rather than someone who hid in the shadows because you believed beauty was a judgement upon women.

The sheer time, effort and blind commitment that went into caring what I looked like breaks my heart.

And this is the crux of the matter, isn’t it.  We are so, so lucky.  We are, and I mean this in all sincerity, phenomenally talented woman with opportunities of which those that came before us simply could never have dreamed.  We forget what mountains we could climb if we just tried, if we just ignored the everyday noise and our inner critical voice.

That voice is there, it whispers in your ear every day. You can be the most savvy, together, self-confident woman in the world and the whisper may be more hushed, but it’s still there. It’s fed every day by images of impossible beauty and stories of women who achieved so much more than you did, are doing, could ever do.

And it stops us. It stops us achieving greatness. It tells us we can’t, we won’t. It says “never”. And we listen.

This is a call to silence that critical voice. Why should we listen to it?

Isn’t life hard enough? Isn’t it hard enough to find beauty without that voice on our shoulder chipping away at our sense of self? That voice isn’t in our blood, under our skin, in our DNA. It is not part of us. We choose to listen to it. We make that choice.

You may not be able to drown out the voice completely, but you Can refuse to listen.

You can choose how you spend your time. You can waste the one life you have criticising yourself, and worrying about how you look or are or should be.

Or you could change the world. Your world, the world of those around you.

Take a deep breath.  You are the most phenomenal human being.  Rip it up. Let it go. Be proud. Strive further. Live harder.

Don’t let what you could be drown out who you are.

Going back to my original point. Clothes, makeup, beauty. It’s all meaningless if you don’t genuinely, truly believe you have the power to change yourself, each other, your world.

You do. You can. Make that choice. Who’s with me?

Read more from Anna at Any Other Woman and follow @AnyOtherWoman and @AnyOtherAnnaK
*image via here

Love thy best bits…

I’m quite a positive person in general and that includes my self image. Let’s not get this confused with arrogance, I’m under no illusions that I am any kind of amazing in the looks or body department, but you know what? I actually quite like myself, so I’m not going to start beating myself up about a few stray extra pounds, the odd episode of less than perfect skin or chipped nails.

I think part of that attitude stems from being busy, and sometimes quite literally not giving a passing thought to looking in the mirror from leaving the house (and sometimes not even then!) to going to bed at night. But part of it is also not dwelling on impossibilities. If you happen to be an English pear with a magnificent posterior, pour it into a pencil skirt and wiggle as you walk… then watch the heads turn! Have you been blessed with height or wish you’d been closer to the front of the queue when boobs were being allocated? Work to your strengths in outfits that would drown your smaller friends or plunging necklines that would make your bigger busted friends look like a bar maid ;) There’s always a silver lining!

I could go on forever about media influences, unhealthy role models, busy life styles, but at the end of the day, we’re all in control of our own thoughts and I wanted to get all of you thinking about yourselves in a fabulous Florence frame of mind.

However, frankly, I am only human, and like many of you I’m sure, negativity does sometimes get the best of me. For one reason or another I’ve been feeling less than enamoured with my appearance recently in various departments and it made me think that aside from writing this post, I should be focusing on the best bits, the bits of me that I love, instead of mentally listing my physical failings. That is most certainly not what Florence Finds is about. Here is where you find out how to be the absolute best you can be, whether that’s in the kitchen, home, garden, at work or out having fun looking fabulous.

So I thought it would be a good moral boosting exercise this morning to write a list… Not just me but all of you too. Here goes…

  • I like my eyes, almond shaped and greeny-blue, I like to think they’re my best feature.
  • My lips also do a good line in fuschia pink or racy red pouts.
  • Whether I’m thin or feeling a bit wobbly, from mid thigh down, my legs never give the game away.  - You’ve got to love a sequinned t-shirt dress!

Geez, that felt uncomfortable!

Don’t leave me hanging here ladies… Take a second to think about the bits of you that you love, and leave a comment in the box below sharing your three best bits. I think I should start calling you all Florence’s angels :)

Love,
Rebecca
Xo.

*Image Credits: Bird and body both from Pinterest.com