“Mummy, why is your tummy still really massive even though you’ve had the baby?”
I knew my body wouldn’t be the same after giving birth. As a second time mum I was better prepared to deal with the physical changes that come with the mammoth effort of carrying a mini human and bringing him or her into the world.
I was also prepared for the fact that it can take a very long time for your body to resemble anything like the body you once had, before his sperm met your egg. But still it comes as quite a shock when I look in the mirror at my flabby, swollen belly, angry looking stretch marks, huge breasts and chunky thighs.
Changes that are all testament to the gorgeous little miracle I grew and birthed who keeps me awake at night and smiles continually throughout the day. But still, changes that can be hard to accept and love.
At eleven weeks postpartum my body is very slowly looking more like mine, like it belongs to me, but I still have a way to go until I can recognise it and welcome my old friend back. So when Elsie first innocently asked me this question a few weeks after having Leo, it took my breath away and left me feeling like I’d been punched. My heart pounded, my cheeks blushed and my eyes pricked with tears.
Did I really look that big still? The answer was yes.
I’ve always been body confident and really try to do my best to encourage other women to be so too, but I’ll be honest, I felt like crying in that moment.
Not because I didn’t know that my body had changed but because when you’ve just had a baby and are exhausted but so proud of what you’ve achieved, it just feels so bloody unfair to then be left with a body that looks and feels nothing like your own. I wanted to sob at the injustice of it and the uphill battle I now face – like all women – to try and get my old body back.
I could have ignored Elsie’s question. Pretended I didn’t hear it or changed the subject but I decided to face it head on. To ‘mother up’ for my own sake and for Elsie’s too, who perhaps one day as a young woman, will be in the same boat.
So I told her the truth.
That when you’ve had a baby your body is changed, different to what it once was and that just as it takes a long time to grow a baby, so too can it take a long time to get rid of the big tummy.
It’s not easy to address the physical changes to our bodies that we are left with after having a baby. Nor is it easy to look at the mirror at your naked self.
Leo will be three months old on Saturday and I still don’t look like the old me. Most of my old clothes still don’t fit and if I catch a glimpse of my reflection in a shop window or mirror, I’m still surprised that the person looking back at me, is well, me.
I’m chunkier and my skin is forever marked. My body is a size bigger than it was and the large tummy that housed and grew my boy, is still here sticking out it’s wobbly presence for the world to see. It’s been hard at times to look in the mirror. Difficult to look at myself and not recognise the body that I am now in.
But I will not disown it.
I will not criticise it.
And I’m doing my best to love and appreciate it in the way that it deserves. And here it is.
My tummy is the tummy of a woman in her thirties who has been blessed with two children. The stretch marks that now decorate my stomach and hips tell of an incredible journey of morning sickness, exhaustion, anxious times, joyous scans, tiny kicks and baby hiccups. My breasts are feeding my boy and helping him to grow big and strong.
In time my stretch marks will fade and be barely noticeable, my tummy will flatten, my breasts will stop producing milk and I’ll be a little lighter and more toned. But until then I will continue to love my body as best as I can in all of it’s imperfect, flawed state.
No covering up. No shame. And hopefully no tears.
Because the truth is my body is magnificent. It’s grown two miracles and made me a mother and for that, it deserves to be looked at through only proud, kind eyes.
My body is not what it once was but then neither am I. We’re both forever changed.
But when I look at my beautiful boy in my (chubbier) arms, I wouldn’t have it any other way.