I never had the figure of a model, even before having a baby (anyone who’s seen me in real life will assure you that this is an understatement), but – as often happens – my body has deteriorated even more since giving birth.
I don’t just mean downstairs – although I think it’s fair to assume that, after giving birth to a 7lb human and spending two hours being stitched up again, things will never quite be the same as they once were – but I digress, as I never spent too much time admiring the pre-baby state of my foof anyway.
I mean the rest of my body. My boobs were amazing during pregnancy; D will definitely attest to that. When I’d given birth and breastfeeding hadn’t worked out as planned, I went through a few days of absolute agony and rock hard tatas as the milk came in (cabbage leaves, cabbage leaves, cabbage leaves – I cannot press enough how important they are), and then… sag. I can never go bra-less (not that I ever did before), but now I can also never wear non-underwired bras. In fact, it’s so bad, I’ve had to resort to push-up bras to give myself any notion of cleavage – don’t believe when people tell you that breastfeeding will ruin your boobs; pregnancy will sort that out for you anyway.
As for stretch marks… some new mums will proudly declare that they have no stretch marks. They have every right to be proud, as how anyone can avoid those stripy little buggers is beyond me. It is quite difficult not to hear someone talking about their unmarked body without muttering “bitch” under your breath, but it’s only because stretch marks are seen as the unrivalled enemy of the new mother (in reality, I really don’t think they’re that bad). I am covered in stretch marks, and I’ve tried using a few different oils and body butters, but in the end, I’ve decided to just embrace them – they’ve been likened to tiger stripes on Facebook, which I really quite like – because none of the oils were doing much about it.
And with regards the rest of my body… I don’t have much time or energy to exercise these days (although illness seems to be taking care of my weight at the moment), and I also don’t spend as much time covering myself in lotions and doing all the posh cleansers on my face, as I seem to have my first ever spot breakout in twenty years going right now – but, despite it all, I don’t feel like I care. I can just brush my hair into a ponytail and leave the house, without make-up, without really looking at myself in the mirror, even. In terms of clothes I go for comfort – jeans, trainers and men’s sweatshirts seem to be my ‘style’ at the moment.
I see some mums who are out and about and they look immaculate, which is great for them – I admire that they have the time management and the energy to do that. But do I feel envious of them, or wish I could do that? Nope. I’ve realised in the last few months that the way I look really doesn’t matter. My body’s worth isn’t measured in the clothes I wear, or the people who look at me and think I look nice. My body carried a baby for almost nine months; my body gave birth to a beautiful little girl. It’s helped me in dealing with my scar; my body has survived serious illness – the stretch marks and the sagginess are battle scars that prove that whether it’s illness or pregnancy, my body has fought and won and come out on top.
I hope more than anything that I can raise my daughter to be proud of her body, to recognise that how she looks doesn’t define who she is, that no-one has the right to make her feel bad about the way she looks, and that the most beautiful trait in a girl or a woman is confidence in who she is. If I can achieve that, in a society that tries to convince even the youngest of girls that looks are everything, I’ll know I’m doing a pretty good job.