I’ve been doing some research for a new blog-series I’m writing for an awesome maternity company. It’s taken me back down the pregnancy path again… it’s amazing how being pregnant seems like it was such a LONG time ago now, but really, it wasn’t that long ago at all that I was waddling around my mothers house, struggling to get both in and out of the bath on my own… in fact, it was only just over five months ago that we were eagerly awaiting the (long overdue) arrival of our little Bo.
I’ve been reading a hundred and one pregnancy and baby blogs for research and I have to say, I’ve been a bit shocked by the obsession with the post-partum body. I would love to think that this obsession comes from a celebration of the AMAZING thing that a woman’s body has done. You made a baby INSIDE your own body. You created life. It’s a bloody miracle. But it’s not. The obsession comes from women who don’t feel comfortable in their changed skin, who are desperate to return to what it was before, to go back, to “bounce-back”. Now, I don’t blame these women at all. Media has done so much damage to the female psyche, it’s criminal. We look int he mirror and we think, I’m fat. I’m ugly. I’m not good enough. We become obsessed with fitting into our “pre-pregnancy” clothes. We become so focused on the amount of fat we are eating, so desperate to shed the extra kilos. But why? Is it for the sake of our health? Or for vanity? Or just because society pushes us, convinces us that we shouldn’t be changed by something that is undeniably life-changing. My opinion? It’s the latter…
Our body created life, and not only did it birth a child, it transformed us into a mother. Isn’t that an incredible thing? It’s possibly the most incredible thing ever. There are so many “mommy-blogs” that focus on the perfect postpartum diet to shed those baby pounds. Creams to erase the lines that babies leave on our skin. Surgeries to reverse the effects that giving life had on our bodies. Every second magazine has at least one article on some Hollywood starlet who has (or god forbid has not!) shed their baby weight in 2.3 seconds since the birth of their child. Starlets who are airbrushed to perfection. It really isn’t a surprise that we are so focused on going back to what we were before.
I know after the birth of Bo I was surprised at not just the size of my tummy but more so how squishy it was sans baby. It was just such a different feeling. I remember showering with the aid of my doula post birth, with Bo mere meters away in her daddies arms, and feeling a sadness that I could no longer feel her inside me.
For nine months the mother and baby are joined. Bo and I were one. Where I ended and she began was like a river, our life force ebbing from one body to another, changed but unchanged by the others existence. It was magical. When she was born, we became separate beings and there is much beauty in that also. It is the gift of life. I write this now, interestingly enough, because I never wrote a lot about my pregnancy when it was actually happening to me. I didn’t blog. I only wrote letters to Bo, on scraps of paper that are now tied in a yellow ribbon and packed away in a shoe-box for safe keeping. I only had words for her.
My body was/is changed from growing my baby. I gained 23kg, which was almost half of my original pre-baby weight. My body is changed today because of it. I have lost most of the weight that I gained but my shape is very different and I’m glad. People say to me “you’d never even know you had a baby five months ago” – but I did, and I’m so proud of the fact that I did. My body was able to safely bring my daughter into life, and to go back to who I was before… to negate those changes that made that possible… well I think that would be a terrible loss of a beautiful thing. It’s amazing the difference between the western and the local Indonesian culture when it comes to these things. People here say to me “your not too skinny” – they can’t believe that my 8kg something baby has been solely breastfed. Our local village women who breastfeed tend to get skinny and some to the point of being sick, their babies don’t “thrive” the same way.. babies who are breastfed here are smaller. They are jealous of what my body can do because of my background, my relative financial situation and my access to good food and nutrition. Many women put their children on formula because they cannot provide what the baby needs whilst still maintaining their own health. It puts things into perspective… it reminds me every day how lucky both Bo and I are.
Our media depicts unrealistic images of women and I think it’s a terrible shame. The diversity in the shape of real women can be seen in the supermarket, on the bus, in the park. The beautiful diversity of the female form is all around us, but for some reason we all seem glued to the trashy magazines for guidance. I have seen so much sadness in friends who try to live up to some unrealistic depiction of what they “Should be” when they are so beautiful, just the way they are. I find myself trapped in this place often too… why? How do we change it?
Maybe the solution is simple. Maybe it’s up to US, the women, to remember what we have done and to celebrate the incredible life-giving women around us… it’s up to us to remember that every woman’s body is different, just like every womans personality is different and every baby is different – after all, it’s our differences that make us so interesting. And maybe, just maybe, we can help to change our daughters (and sons!) perceptions for the future of what a truly beautiful woman truly is.