I’ve never been the most body confident person. As a small child I was outgoing enough, but that all seemed to change as I reached my pre-teens. I was incredibly slim as a youngster – which, wrongly, made a lot of people assume I must have had it easy in the self image stakes – and I wished with all my heart that I looked different. I was awkward, gangly and straight up and down, and completely convinced I looked like a boy. It didn’t help that I had some unfortunate issues with my teeth and didn’t grow boobs pretty much until I was in my 20s! It was the era of ‘heroin chic’ and allegedly society was obsessed with the idea that skinny was beautiful, but the fact I had this trait didn’t save me from suffering the cruel jibes that seem so commonplace during our school days. Somehow mocking thin people was ok. It was fine to make fun of my lack of cleavage, to tell me I should eat more or ask if I had an eating disorder. I thought that if I could just put on some weight things would be different, and for a while I even started drinking Slimfast shakes on top of my meals in the hopes I might fill out! I certainly didn’t feel beautiful, and wouldn’t, for a very long time.
Adulthood came along and much to my disappointment, I didn’t blossom into a beautiful swan the way I’d hoped. The weight gain came, but surprise surprise, it was not the magical solution to my body woes that I thought it would be. Funnily enough, I did not suddenly become a perfectly proportioned hourglass shape. Instead, while my boobs finally came in, they stayed pretty modest, while my tummy, hips and thighs gradually expanded. I became your good old classic pear, and still I longed to look different. I never really found my peace with the way I looked, but I did learn to live with it. I learned how to dress in a way that made me feel better, I learned to accept that I was simply the kind of girl that would always love cheese and chocolate more than the gym and my body and I reached an uneasy truce. And then I got pregnant.
I worried a lot about pregnancy. It is rare you hear someone talk about their body during and after pregnancy in a positive light, isn’t it? And people seemed to take some kind of pleasure in telling me how my body would change. How I would gain weight like there was no tomorrow. That I’d get stretch marks. That my hair would fall out and my boobs would never be the same. I even got warned that my feet would bloat beyond recognition and I’d have to throw all my beloved shoes away! And of course, all this alarmed me – how was I going to feel happy with my body after all of that when I didn’t like it all that much to begin with?? Except, strangely, the opposite happened. I finally blossomed! I got boobs! My stomach was SUPPOSED to be big! Everything finally balanced out – I loved having a bump and showed it off every chance I got. It was the most liberating feeling, wearing whatever I wanted without feeling self conscious or worrying about lumps and bumps, and for the first time in my life I felt truly beautiful.
The thing is though, I’m not really supposed to say any of this, because we aren’t supposed to admit we don’t like out bodies. Not ever, really, but especially not after giving birth. Anytime I mention how I feel I tend to get the same comments. No, don’t say that! You are beautiful! That body gave you your baby and you should wear it with pride! Be proud of what it’s done for you! And I know that all of this is true. I know that any time it is said it is said with love, and I’ve said it myself to others many a time with only good intentions. But now that it’s happening to me I’ve realised that it really doesn’t help. I’d love to be able to say I can shake off the feelings of self loathing and sadness I feel when I catch sight of myself in the mirror, but the truth is I can’t, and when people tell me I shouldn’t feel that way it makes me feel worse. It makes me feel shallow. As though I’m a silly, vapid person who cares more about what she looks like than how lucky she is to have her beautiful baby boy. And while of course I thank my lucky stars for him everyday, and I wouldn’t swap him for the best body in the world, I still can’t make myself fall in love with the new me, and I think it’s time we stopped pretending that that is realistic. Because it isn’t just about the way I look, it’s about feeling like I don’t know who I am anymore, and desperately missing that feeling of being in control.
I know that things will get easier with time. I know that I might even look something similar to how I looked before one day. I know I’m not ‘fat’. I know that others will look at these pictures and tell me they wish they looked like me. I know I should be enjoying my time with Bailey before he grows up, not worrying about my mum tum. I know I should count myself lucky that I didn’t get stretchmarks, don’t have a C-section scar, have a body that is generally healthy and all those other things we use to compare ourselves. But for now, isn’t it ok that I miss feeling and looking like me? Just while I come to terms with how much my life has changed? I promise that I will try harder to stop obsessing over my flaws, but I also promise something else. I promise that next time one of my loved ones tells me they are feeling down on themselves, I won’t tell them not to. I won’t call them silly and tell them they shouldn’t think that way. I will give them a hug. I will tell them that I think they are wonderful, but it sucks they feel that way, and I’m sorry that they do. And I will ask if there is anything I can do to help. Because I don’t want them to suffer in silence. I don’t want them to feel they can’t tell me the truth for fear of being shut down.
I wholeheartedly agree that we need to get better at accepting who we are, however we look, but I don’t think that can happen when we don’t feel we can be vunerable and be honest about how we feel.
P.S – OMG DID I REALLY JUST POST PICS IN MY UNDERWEAR ON THE INTERNET????