There was a time I believed I wasn’t particularly vain. Having a baby shattered that myth. It turns out I am. Truly. madly, sadly vain.
In May 2010 my body reached the pinnacle of its physical abilities and delivered a rather beautiful bundle of baby girl. Throughout my pregnancy I marvelled at my swollen tummy, the most obvious symbol of the tiny life I could barely believe was growing inside me. For me, pregnancy and childbirth, defy belief. I understand the science of it and I know it’s how all seven billion of us got here. Even still, it blows my mind.
If it weren’t for the unforgettable thirty-six hours immediately preceding her arrival, I might not have believed it was even possible for a tiny little person to emerge from this body. But she did. Having accomplished that miraculous feat, I remember thinking my body was truly special. It facilitated this fabulous arrival and took on hero status in my mind. At least it did for a while.
Nine months after her birth, I dreaded catching a glimpse of that body in the mirror. The very same body I developed (and owed!) an inordinate amount of respect and admiration for, now made me cringe. I’m ashamed to say it. But it’s true. My tummy sagged, my clothes didn’t fit and my chest could rival Jordan’s. I hated getting dressed.
I wrote this at the time:
Part of me is above these shallow preoccupations but sadly that part only ever appears in quiet moments of reflection. In the heat of the moment – when I’m madly getting dressed for something or trying to buy clothes to avoid moments of such madness – my rational mind is nowhere to be found. Instead I become consumed with self-indulgent thoughts about the extra flesh I’m carrying. How terrible and unfamiliar everything looks. How enormous I feel. It’s not a happy place.
When I step away from the mirror and head out the door I can digest what’s happened. I can see I’m not being rational. I am not overweight. I am five kilos heavier than I was when I fell pregnant but I’m still a healthy weight. I go to the gym three times a week, I walk every day and I eat sensibly. But I cannot lose weight.
In moments of clarity I accept this is my new normal. I am healthy. I have a husband who loves me regardless of my shape. I have a beautiful little girl who has thrived from my body. I know those things matter so much more than my shape. I know my weight is not a problem. At least, I know it shouldn’t be. And, yet, it is. I care that my body doesn’t look how it used to and I care that my clothes don’t fit. And, especially, I care that I care.
I am frustrated that no matter how much sensible internal dialogue I enter into, when I stand in front of the mirror, my vanity inevitably prevails. It doesn’t matter how many times I marvel at the beautiful little person this body grew, delivered and continues to nourish, I still find it in myself to begrudge my body its extra weight. And this is how I learned the depth of my vanity. It seems to run much deeper than any wisdom or insight I’ve acquired. And that disappoints me more than any extra flesh.
Looking back on that now I share the same disappointment at letting those few kilos weigh so heavily. Even more so because when I stopped breastfeeding, my body returned to its former shape of its own accord. Rather than being thrilled, I’m sad I was so ungracious*.
I wasn’t gentle or patient with my body during it’s time of upheaval. I was demanding and insolent and, frankly, quite rude. At the time it needed kindness and gratitude more than ever.
As self-indulgent and idle as it may seem, I suspect anyone who has experienced a body alteration will agree that not recognising the skin you’re in, is tough. Frivolous or not, the way you feel about the way you look, matters. For me, it was another stepping stone to negotiate along the motherhood road. I can’t go back and change how I felt after having my darling girl but if, and when, I’m lucky enough to have another little baby, I will try to be more accepting.
*Yes, this did cause my husband much confusion. Him: “Hang on, we spent 12 months commiserating a wardrobe of clothes that didn’t fit and now they do and we’re not allowed to jump for joy?” Me: “That’s right.”
Mamamia team writes: A few days ago, we came across a project called BirthMarkings created by a lady named Margaret Lazarus. It’s an incredible film that explores post-birth bodies and how our self-image changes after giving birth. But you’ll have to watch it to see for yourself how amazing it is.
And just in case you can’t view the video, we’ve put together some images of post-baby bellies in a gallery for you:
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Georgie is a reformed lawyer, one-time journalist and newish wife and mother.
Has your body ever changed? If you’ve had a baby did you find it hard to adjust? Or are you like Miranda Kerr?