I have always struggled with my body image. Some people find that strange given that I'm slim, short, and tip the scales at a whopping 49kgs. But it's true. I grew up with a large chest that, although it helped me out with the boys, was cumbersome, heavy and saggy. It provided me with a focus for my body hate until I had an operation to go from a DD to a C cup. Of course that left me with so many other parts of my body to focus on. My pointy nose. My large protruding teeth. My fat upper arms. My lack of derriere. My horrible toes. Oh the list is extensive...... And that doesn't even touch on the fact that I'm absolutely terrified of getting "fat". So much so that if I hit 52kgs on the scales I begin a semi-starvation diet.
Of course that all meant that pregnancy, for me, was something I went into with a fair bit of trepidation. What would I do when I passed that dreaded 52kg mark? How would I cope with my boobs growing back? Would my arms gets even fatter? My body would be growing, expanding, moulding around another human being..... How could I possibly cope with that?
Funnily enough the pregnancy part was a breeze. For the first time ever in my life, that I can recall, I let myself have extra food. I didn't feel guilty about the second or third helping and I could have cared less about the stretching clothes. I was pregnant after all. I was growing a human being inside me and that was an incredible feeling.....
Post baby is another story though. As soon as baby was out the focus was back on my body. Of course when you're juggling the attempted breastfeeding, lack of sleep, distant memories of showers, no personal space and recovering from a major operation (both of my kids were c-section) your body is the last thing on the list of things "to do". This was of no help to me. People telling me that I'd 'just had a baby' was of no help to me. Knowing that my body had changed because I'd done something awesome was of no help to me. I now had deflated boobs, hair growing from places on my face and neck that I did not know even existed, strange sun spots, larger thighs, even fatter upper arms, veins in my legs and a stretch-marked "pooch" where my tummy used to be.
I won't lie. I did not cope with this time well. I was battling other demons at the time but my body image was high on the list of things that were helping my mental state rocket towards insanity. Of course, instead of attempting to find time to make myself look as good as I possibly could I assumed I too could be a "hippie-earth-mother" with no regard for make-up, hair dos or clothing that didn't include track pants. I so desperately wanted to be someone I wasn't. I wanted to love my "raw" self as much as I did my "magazine" self (me with make-up, good clothes and poker straight GHD hair). Don't get me wrong, I applaud mothers who can look 'Giselle Bundchen awesome' without a scrap of face-paint at 5:45am.... I am just not one of those people, or if I am my mirror certainly doesn't think so. I needed the primping to feel like me.
I also believed that the time I was taking to make myself look good was time I should be spending with my kids (refer to Mama Pyjama's article on Guilt). How dare I have a shower, wash my hair AND take the time to straighten it? Shouldn't I be doing crafts with the kids? Or making cookies with them? Or taking them to another playground? All the other mum's around still manage to look good without their Maybelline faces. Why couldn't I?
Finally I took a step back. I realised that MY body and the way I look are important to the way I, personally, FEEL about myself. For better or worse I need to look my best in order to feel my best. So, I took the time to make sure I was exercising enough during the week (team sport is my go and although it's sometimes hard to find that ever elusive "time" I make sure I get it with hubbycare, babysitters and creches), I tried to watch what I was eating without being over zealous and, most importantly, showered every day, put make-up on every day and straightened my hair when possible.
I also find body image is a struggle for most women without having to add the constant trash-mag barrage of celeb mums who lost their baby weight two-weeks post birth..... We're faced with the Miranda Kerrs, Posh Spices and, no doubt, soon-to-be-mum Kate Middleton. But we also get a view into the Jessica Simpsons and Drew Barrymores. Some clearly put more focus on body image than others and some find it simply easier than others to return to that often elusive (I shudder to utter these words) "pre-baby-weight". As per usual it comes down to the fact that every woman is different. Every mum is different. And each and every one of us should probably be tackling our own body images by staring in the mirror, accepting what we like and don't like, making changes where we think we can and ultimately looking to our offspring to see just how truly beautiful parts of our reflection can be.....