Wednesday 8 June 2016

So... just how long does it take to lose the baby weight?

It's taken me a long time to write this post. It's not just because I've been busy or because I couldn't think of the right words, it's simply because showing photographs of your bare belly can make you feel somewhat vulnerable. For me this is hard, not because I'm embarrassed of my body, but because it's not really any of your business how I look in a bikini or whether I have a flat stomach or not. So, why the hell am I showing you my post natal figure then? Good question...

When I had baby number one I literally had no clue as to how my belly would look after birth. I secretly hoped that the celebrities were right - that if I kept fit during pregnancy, if I ate the right things and applied enough stretch mark cream; that if I did all the post natal exercises and burnt all my calories on breastfeeding, that I too could have a flat stomach in no time (really?!). But the reality was that I winced as I looked in the mirror for the first time. Is there another baby in there somewhere?! I thought to myself.

Growing up most of the female role models in my life hated their bodies. Despite being perfectly healthy, they were always poking at bits of their own skin and saying how awful they looked compared to my thirteen year old body. I learnt from an early age that women were supposed to hate themselves unless they looked like they too were thirteen. But at thirteen you don't feel particularly good about your body either - I had chubby thighs and the boys teased me because I didn't have 'big enough tits' (as though that's all a girl should ever wish for in life, right?). But I did't appreciate my stomach when I was thirteen; I didn't appreciate that the rolls of fat I thought I had were actually just healthy weight gain tied up in lovely smooth skin. I wanted my body to be different but I wasn't quite sure how, because every other woman with a different body hated hers just the same. I remember thinking that something didn't quite add up, that women should stop being so mean to themselves.

I, of course, didn't include myself.

So fast forward about twenty years and I'm stood with a huge pot belly in front of a hospital mirror, wearing a big fetching nursing bra and pants big enough to fit in a maternity pad the size of England (but we don't talk about these things do we?). We find ourselves in a state of shock at how our bodies change but we're not allowed to mention it because it's so uncouth, darling, you know. Instead we're told by the media that we need to buy pull in pants for the rest of our lives. We're not sexy anymore; no longer the object of admiration. Hey, wait, but now I have big tits? Oh, no, we don't like that kind - the nurturing kind - and besides which, your belly comes out further - so now you just look like you're stood in the middle of a huge pile of bloody ring doughnuts. Nothing sexy about that, love.

Me blooming with pregnancy? Er, no, me three days after giving birth. Nope, they didn't forget to take him out, I can assure you of that one!

When you find yourself in this situation you realise you need to cut yourself some slack. I've just given birth to baby the size of a watermelon for God's sake, what was I expecting? And that lasts approximately, what, SEVEN DAYS before you start getting really antsy about losing the god damn baby weight, and you start prodding and poking your skin in front of thirteen year old girls and saying oooh, I wish I had a body like yours. And then you start getting invited out to things again and you suddenly realise that you have to interact with strangers who may mistake you for being six months pregnant. A week after I'd given birth a little girl came up to me and asked me why I had such a big tummy if the baby had come out now. I told her I'd eaten the previous child who asked me why I had such a big tummy - oh, and would she pass me the salt.

Just kidding. 

I don't like salt.

So, now we get to the part where I flash my stomach to the world. And why would I do such a thing? Because I'm tired of hearing the crap about how women should look after giving birth. I'm tired of seeing celebrity mums in Heat magazine a month after giving birth with their flat little stomachs. I'm tired of hearing people say to post natal women "you look amazing!", when what they really mean is "you're losing the baby weight sooner than expected." What they should be saying is 'you ARE amazing', because you've just pushed/had torn out of you an actual human being the size of a football and you're still able to chuffing walk. Go you. Who cares how flat your stomach is, you're a bloody legend.

So, here's how my tummy looked and how long it took to go back to normal.*

*normal being the stomach of a thirteen year old girl. Erm, maybe not. 

* Normal being the stomach I had before I got pregnant. Erm, maybe not.

* who am I kidding, it's never gone back to normal, whatever the hell that is.

For the purposes of the blog post I photographed my stomach from my worst side, showing my appendix scar to show it is definitely me - you know - just incase you thought I was Kate Moss or someone. I should also add that I didn't do much planned exercise after my second, because life with two kids is absolutely bloody mental and that was enough for me to cope with. I did however walk to the shops to buy chocolate on several occasions.

I appreciate that maybe some of you may look at my stomach on week one and think that that's you on a good day, and there'll be others who went back to their post natal size in four weeks (cocky sods). I don't intend to make anyone feel bad if they took a lot longer to lose baby weight or indeed if they never have (I certainly have never got back to my pre baby figure). But I think it's important that both men and women have a rough idea of how bodies look after birth. In all honesty I'd say it took about a year to feel like I didn't have to hold my stomach in every time I caught myself in shop window reflections. And how ridiculous that I even felt that way.

My tummy now. 18 months on.

Since having children I feel I deserve to feel good about my body. It's been through a lot, after all. Many people can be very cynical about women's bodies - oh she's let herself go, they say, as though they have any understanding or insight as to what that particular body has even been through. We're all different, aren't we? But I no longer want to be one of those women who speaks badly of her body. I don't want to endorse the culture that says women should hate the way they look, simply for creating life. Is that not a bonus? And sure, I don't have the stomach of a thirteen year old, but my tummy tells a story - every scar and wrinkle is a journey I've been on that I wouldn't take back, so why should I try to hide the evidence of it? As long I am healthy and look after myself what's the point in wanting to change? Will it bring me more happiness to have a celebrity body? Perhaps, for a day. But I can guarantee that behind the scenes most of them will be pulling at their skin and saying to their daughters and nieces, oooh, I wish I had a tummy like yours.

So don't get caught up with trying to regain your old body. That's like trying to fit into your first swimsuit: It's not realistic, it's degrading. You're better than that: you've moved on.

By the way, have you given birth? You are amazing.

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