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"I still shift uncomfortably when I'm labelled as a mum."

What do you think a mum looks like? Go on – ask yourself the question. I don’t know exactly how I would have answered that question before I had babies, but I know that however I described her she would have been different to myself, a bit more… sensible, mature. Wearing a boring coat. That’s it! Boring.

I have literally no idea where I got this idea from, my own mum is not boring and her mum was the least boring woman I have ever met; none of my friends who have children are boring or became even a tiny bit boring when they had kids. I could write a list a mile long of mums I know who are great mums but in no way sensible or mature. In fact, I could write a pretty long list of mums who you would do well to avoid if you want to retain your sanity and some sense of dignity (but hey who wants to do that?!).

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So why the hell does it still make me shift uncomfortably in my seat when I am labelled as a mum? This is clearly ridiculous… I’ve got two children, and the number of times I hear the word Mummy! during the day is off the chart. Thinking that mums were somehow different to me – that they felt differently or behaved differently to myself made me feel as though I was on the outside looking in at motherhood. A lot of the time, it has felt like I was playing at being a proper mum.

I suppose a little bit of this was me being a tosser. I thought I was cooler than everyone else; I thought I was different. I’d moved away from home, forged a career, I didn’t necessarily want the same things as ‘everyone else’. Until I did. As soon as my sister had children my ovaries went into overdrive and I wanted a baby; it was not a decision made over late night discussions with a long term partner… it was as though something hormonal had exploded inside me and I needed to get going right away. So I did.

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When I realised I wanted children it almost felt like a bit of a betrayal – having a family is such a normcore thing to do. I think I thought having a family, moving back home, and giving up work to look after children was a cop out. A few years down the line I am at peace with my normality because now I understand that it is completely possible to be a mum and still be the same person you were before. You don’t stop finding dumb things funny when you have a baby although, in the very early days, laughing too much can cause leakage problems. If anything I find life even more hilarious now I’m a mum, I’m probably even less mature and sensible than I was before. I don’t ever remember doing an entire supermarket shop whilst pretending to be a crab before I had children.

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Let me make this very clear – some aspects of being a stay at home mum are dull as shit – but lots of the day is actually a proper good laugh. It’s okay to find aspects of childcare tedious, it’s okay to still want to do other things with your life, you can still ace it as a stay at home mum and never make a cupcake or a homemade thank you card. Mums are not boring, some of the stuff we are expected to do is tedious but it turns out you can totally stay at home and look after children and still really, really enjoy yourself, although occasionally you will have to carry a screaming toddler into the garden and leave him there while you read Stylist because he is getting right on your tits.

So it’s worth taking the time to consider what you think a mum is, and remembering that there are lots of different ways to be a mum, and many of those ways do not involve buying a boring coat.

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There are also physical changes that come with being a mum. Since writing about parenting I’ve had several requests to write about what happens to your lady bits after having a baby. Apparently there are people out there that want to know if their vagina will look different after they’ve had a baby. Do you? Maybe I’m swimming against the tide here but it never crossed my mind what my vagina would look like after I’d had a baby. Who the hell knows what their own vagina looks like? I couldn’t pick mine out of a police lineup. Before or after. Maybe I’m wrong and everyone reading this book could describe their foof perfectly to police in the event of an emergency but I’m happy to be out on a limb on this one.

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There’s no escaping the fact that your vagina is going to have a tough time of it. Mine definitely behaves differently after having babies but then it’s all old and tired now. However you give birth, pregnancy itself has a detrimental effect on your pelvic floor. Pelvic floor muscles are one of those things you only really think about once it’s too late. I slightly regret the fact that I never really enjoyed spending quality time with my fully functioning pelvic floor muscles before it was too late. I should have been nicer to them, more appreciative.

The first time I took any notice of them was when I was pregnant and they were already on the way to ruin. It was like discovering I had a beautiful chocolate cake in the cupboard I didn’t know about, and then immediately dropping it on the floor. Into shit. Anyway, your vagina will probably look different but who cares because unless fashions change radically no one is going to see it. As women, we have enough to worry about without having to concern ourselves about the bits no one sees.

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Why not worry about the rest of your body instead? Although your body is no longer just your body; once you’ve had a baby it becomes ‘your post-baby body’ which makes me want to throw up just writing it. The main problem I have with the words ‘post-baby body’ is that it’s absolute bullshit. You’re not post-baby at all – you are very much with baby, a baby that goes everywhere you go. All that ‘free time’ when you are ‘off work’ that you thought you could use to get back into shape evaporates as it turns out you haven’t got the time, the energy, or the inclination to go to the gym.

Most of what is written about the post-baby body concentrates on the way it looks because, guess what, it turns out if you grow an entire other human being inside you, your body starts to look a little different. Your body is going to change. For a while. And then it will gradually start looking a bit like the body you knew before (although you will not be able to remember exactly if that lumpy bit was always there or if you can blame it on the baby which means it doesn’t count).

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The good news is that you have less time to inspect it as you will be busy running around after a baby. The bad news is: biscuits. As your babies get older you will realise that 80 percent of parenting is biscuits, and that there are very few parenting problems which cannot be solved with a liberal application of biscuits.

I started running again after my second baby mainly because it gave me time out of the house alone. Often, I just ran around the corner to a nice bench and sat there in silence thinking about all the nappies and bedtime fights I was missing out on. Running doesn’t sound so bad when you look at it like that does it? After having babies, running was hard work; for a start there were boobs to contend with, massive leaky sore things that actually wobbled. Added to this was the need to go for a wee every ten minutes. Even when I managed to put in some effort it felt like my body was conspiring against me. I noticed when I got back into my stride and had a good run I felt absolutely exhausted the next day. Turns out exercising can be quite tiring.

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The obvious solution is to try something a little more gentle, like an exercise DVD you can do at home while your baby sleeps. What a brilliant plan! Baby can enjoy some vital tummy time whilst you perfect your downward facing dog. There is literally nothing I can think of that would stop this from happening. Why isn’t every new mum doing exercise DVD’s every day? Come on lazy bones get up off the sofa and… oh yeah just change that nappy first, and then a feed, and then you can get started (once you’ve jiggled the baby to sleep).

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In the real world, exercise DVD’s are just as tricky as getting to the gym. Davina and I spent many, many happy hours in my front room exercising. (Hi Jackie!) So many hours. The DVD was only 30 minutes long but it took all bloody day to get through it once you factor in all the feeding and nappy changing stops. Oh and hiding on the floor in embarrassment every time anyone walked past the window.

The trick is not to panic too much about losing the weight; try to ignore the fact that your fantasy celebrity BFF is already rocking up to premieres in a skin tight dress. Not sure who your fantasy celebrity BFF is? Everyone has one. Think about it… someone in the public eye who has a baby about the same time as you. You will have had absolutely no interest in this person until you discover you are going to become mums together, then you will start following their pregnancy with great interest, daydreaming about how you will hang out together on play dates, comparing sore nipples, and chatting about what a bellend her hubby Kanye is.

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Chances are your fantasy celebrity BFF will start Instagramming pictures of herself doing a yoga headstand in a pair of tiny pants several short weeks after giving birth. How could she do this to you? What a bitch! And you were so close! I mean, not actually close – you’ve never even met – but you would definitely have hit it off apart from all the yoga nonsense.

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Remember, just like Instagram is not your friend, neither are celebrities you’ve never met who appear in the sidebar of the Daily Mail website. Anyway who’d be famous? Life is hard enough as a new mum without having to deal with photographers snapping pictures of you pushing your pram through town and reading headlines commenting on the state of your arse. No thanks! The only time I ever want to see myself featured in the national press is if I’m hiding behind one of those massive lottery checks, cackling whilst spraying champagne all over my grinning face and talking shit about how I’m not going to let it change me.

I’d love to tell you that there’s no point judging yourself against other mums you see in the papers or in the Doctor’s surgery. That you should be proud of having a body that has nurtured and expelled another human being. That you shouldn’t waste those precious first few months with your new baby worrying about being a bit wibbly wobbly. I’d love to tell you this because it’s absolutely the truth. But it’s also total bullshit.

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It’s a lovely idea for us all to embrace our bodies and be proud of the stretch marks and lumpy bits but, if I’m going to be honest, I really just wanted everything to get ‘back to normal’ after I’d had my babies, especially after having baby number two. I clearly remember wishing away those precious first few months with my adorable baby son and dreaming of the day when I could fit back into my skinny jeans. I do slightly wish I’d not been so bothered about it, but when you’re in the middle of the baby whirlwind it’s sometimes hard to see the bigger picture.

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Remember this when you are trapped on the sofa under a sleeping baby and don’t waste your time listing all the things you could be doing – cleaning, exercising, filling in that baby book you were given by someone who clearly doesn’t have children. Instead, just enjoy being a nice soft resting place for your baby. Stick the skinny jeans in the loft and make the most of those precious moments because you’ve actually already enrolled yourself in nature’s boot camp. In no time at all you’ll be squatting, lifting and running after a toddler. Then you will really look like a mum. Nothing says ‘mum’ more than squawking ‘Put that down now!’ whilst wrestling a dirty flip flop out of a two-year-old’s mouth.

This is an excerpt from Kirsty Smith's debut book How to Have a Baby and Not Lose Your Sh*t, which can be purchased here.

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