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 post baby body…

Now Bea is 12 months old I finally feel in a position to comment on my body. And honestly, it’s still changing, but I feel I can write this from a position of reasonable experience and with a realistic outlook. Before I start, please don’t anyone take any of this as a reflection or judgement on their body or decisions regarding it. This is purely my own personal experience and not meant to make anyone else scrutinise themselves, mother or not.

When I became pregnant, I was 10 and a half stone. To put that into context I’m about 5ft 7inches. It was the heaviest I have ever been and ironically I feel I got there because I was planning to get pregnant. My state of mind about starting a family was so messed up on reflection that I was constantly refusing to deny myself anything… if I had a pound for all the times I ordered something less than healthy or thought ‘to hell with it, I’ll have another drink…‘ because I thought I wouldn’t be able to eat/drink it during pregnancy, I’d be treating myself to something very fancy. I’d say my ‘happy weight’ i.e. the place where I feel good in my clothes but don’t have to really do much to maintain my weight is around 10 stone or just under, so I was at least half a stone heavier than I should be.

I weighed myself obsessively in pregnancy – not out of any concern for what I gained – I always assumed I’d get it off afterwards, but because I was fascinated by how much my body was changing. I won’t say I wasn’t keeping an eye on things, but I was eating everything in sight and so I made a mental note that if my weight ballooned I’d have to start being a bit more healthy. However, normal and healthy weight gain in pregnancy is 1 and a half to 2 and a half stone and watching my weight creep slowly up I never felt the need to cut back. In the end I gained exactly 2 stone, weighing in at 12 and a half stone the morning of my C-section. And I felt like a Goddess – I honestly can’t stress that enough. I LOVED my pregnant body.

You know how everyone tells stories about how they lost ‘a stone in the 24 hours after delivery,‘? Well, I had high hopes. I had a 6 and a half pound bundle, and had shed a placenta, a load of amniotic fluid and a bit of blood… I couldn’t wait to get on those scales with morbid fascination! Imagine my surprise when I had lost a measly 6 pounds! My flipping baby was heavier than that!


Of course, I didn’t care. My ‘baby bump’ took at least 3 weeks to subside and I accepted that it can take a bit longer post c-section. And in fact for many weeks or months afterwards my tummy was round and quite solid. It slowly started to settle but it was at a snails pace. I was (and still am,) breastfeeding but to say that breastfeeding makes you lose weight is the biggest myth in town… I’m sure it does, but if you’re eating for England, nothing can help you! – I took my milk production very seriously and after an astonishing conversation with a midwife early on who clearly thought I was trying to get my figure back at 10 days in when Bea was weighed and hadn’t gained anything, I was told to eat 3 square meals a day with pudding and snacks and to take food to bed too for the night feeds! And I did. Granted I didn’t gain any weight, but I think the breastfeeding mother typically loses weight because of being pinned under a constantly feeding baby and neglecting her own needs – I’m grateful to say that wasn’t me, I was well looked after by Pete – far too well! 😉

As the months went on my weight plateaued then would drop a fraction, then plateau again. Sometimes it bothered me, but on the whole I really didn’t care. I wasn’t desperately concerned with staring in the mirror before I had Bea, and afterward, well, I spent all my time just staring at her instead. When it did bother me I set myself targets, saying ‘I’ll start exercising at 6 months,‘ which became 9 months and ‘next month’. In truth, looking back, I just didn’t want to at all. My head wasn’t in a space that prioritised me or my needs and wants and rather than resenting or regretting that, I just didn’t even think about it. I’m not going to lie though, it was tough walking round in a bikini on holiday before she was even 4 months old.

Reading this back, I just realised I’ve talked almost exclusively about my weight, rather than my shape. That’s partly because its only recently as my weight has gone down a little bit more again that I’ve started to dislike what I see more. I’m still breastfeeding, so my boobs aren’t what they were, but they aren’t totally deflated yet either. 😉 Honestly, I don’t really care about them. It did take a whole new perspective when I finally went bra shopping as the shapes and styles I’d normally reach for weren’t working for me at all, but I can’t complain.

I think the part of me that has changed the most is my stomach. It’s the area I have always gained weight in but this is different, I really feel that no matter what I do now, the skin isn’t going to recover its elasticity and go smooth again. A lot of people complain about C-section scars causing a ‘pouch’ of skin, but I don’t think it’s anything to do with that, the skin just stretched so much it can’t recover. I hope I find I’m wrong but I guess it’s just reality that skin that was so stretched won’t be the same afterwards. That said, everybody is different! One positive is that I did get stretch marks when I was pregnant… quite a lot of them and early on – I remember being quite devastated when one appeared at 35 weeks and I still thought I had 7 weeks to go! They were all under my bump but I’m pleased to report that like the ones I got in my teens they are all invisible now unless you scrutinise my skin. So that’s a plus! What bugs me is when you can see that skin and roll of fat through my clothes. Not pretty and really motivating me now to work on getting my shape back.

As I write, with Bea approaching 13 months I’m 5lbs heavier than I was at conception, having done absolutely nothing to shift any weight. I’ve finally had a change of mindset and feel ready to make a concerted effort to get back into shape and work on my waistline, but I’ll save that for another post.

Right now I’d love to hear your thoughts on your body post baby – what has changed and how do you feel about it?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

PS
What I thought about post-baby bodies before I had a baby…

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!

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