“Wow, you look ace – you cow!” said a work peer as I clung on to my newborn baby for dear life while my body was scanned for signs of my deflating bump. It was my first work event since becoming a mother – I felt vulnerable and exposed. I was trying to remember how to string a non-baby-related sentence together and I was sucking in my belly with all my might. She was giving me a boost and it felt good for a second but it had me thinking... Maybe I had “bounced” back to a point, but that had its price. I was round-the-clock breastfeeding; I couldn’t find enough hours in the day or enough food in the house to eat as many calories that were leaving my body at such rapid speed. But really, did it matter how I looked? I’d just given birth. In fact, it took me six months, a 48-hour vomiting bug and countless hours of pushing a pram to get the baby to sleep to get me back to my pre-baby weight. But even then, of course, I still had my pregnancy paunch intact.
Over a year later, I’m still coming to terms about how my body has changed – in some ways for the better, and in others for the worse.
My chest is still double the size it was before I became pregnant and my legs are thinner when they were once 'chunky.' I presume this is from frequently squatting while holding what is essentially a 10kg baby-shaped weight. My previously toned tummy has notably sagged and overall, my muscle tone is zilch.
Before you sign me off as a sad mum who needs to get back to the gym, hold fire. Believe it or not, I’m happy with my body. Yes, happy. Throughout my 20s I bounced from diet to diet – plant-based, Dukan, soup, counting out individual almonds like a crazy person – just to maintain the body that I thought would make me happier. Looking back at photos, it worked. I looked good. Unfortunately, I didn’t realise that at the time.
Remarkably, having a baby has altered my mindset. When I first slipped on my bikini post-baby, there was a soft mound of flesh that gently hung over the edge of my briefs. Rewind a few years ago and this would have been enough to make me retch and reach for a cover-up. But as I lay on the sun lounger with my baby sat on my squelchy stomach I felt on top of the world. My body had produced this wonderful human being and I didn't care if everyone saw my battle scars. Who was going to judge a woman’s body with a two-month-old baby in her arms?
I no longer have an obsession with what food passes my lips. I now eat for fuel. Long gone are the days when I would massage kale or whizz up a smoothie. Today, anything goes. Last night’s pizza, anyone? My diet has never been healthier and I don’t mean in the nutritional sense. I eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full – something I’ve never been able to do. I don’t have time to count calories and if eggs and spinach are all that’s in the fridge, then that’s what I’m eating. The same goes for a cream-cheese bagel.
I often see the new mum documenting her first venture out of the house on Instagram. Hair clean, make-up on, wearing a flattering dress to disguise any post-partum bumps – all of which is captured from an advantageous angle. She posts this on her feed and waits for the applause. We live in a society where it's normal to try and shed any physical evidence of having carried a child in your body for nine months but the truth is, it takes time for that kangaroo pouch to shrink, it doesn’t matter who you are. See, we’re mothers now and we look like them. Is there a problem with that?
Photos: Jade's own