Like most women, I have had a love hate relationship with my body for most of my life. And by ‘love hate’ I mean I hated it even when I should have loved it. I’ve been too big, too small, and every shade between and I was never happy. Ever.
I always wanted my boobs to be a bit bigger, my thighs to be a bit smaller, my hair to be longer (or shorter, or straighter, or more curly).
On the days of clarity, I’d think back to a previous version of my body and how I hated it then, but would commit some pretty serious crimes to have it back now. On the days that weren’t so clear, I’d struggle to hold on to my logic and do some things that were far from healthy.
Ironically, it was gaining 20 pounds, a stomach full of stretch marks and a pretty rocking scar that made me love my body.
That’s right, motherhood made me love my body.
After years of infertility and multiple miscarriages, the fact that my body could conceive and grow a child amazed and excited me. It made me apologise to my body for all the wrong I had done to it and all the hate I had laid on it. It made me celebrate my bag of bones and thank it for being a home to my son (albeit with daily medications to give it a helping hand)
I gained 20 pounds during my pregnancy, which came with some pretty gnarly looking stretch marks (gnarly enough to make the midwife gasp when she saw them – thanks for that) and a wheelchair as my hips struggled to cope. I loved every one of those 20 pounds, every one of those stretch marks, I even loved the wheelchair (actually, I really loved that wheelchair, which allowed to me get out of the house during those last couple of months before, and the month after, my son was born)
Knowing that all of these things came as part of the parcel the stork was bringing excused them in my mind. The excitement of my growing bump gave me the confidence to showcase it to my husband as a badge of honour and an effective loading bar of pregnancy. The stretch marks acted like tally marks in, highlighting another successful day.
Once my son was born, via c section, I added a scar to my new tapestry. This excused the flabby ‘mummy tummy’, which meant I was still confident enough to bare it around the house. It was generally seen at feeding time when I breastfed my son; an act that made me feel I could take on the world.
I had just had a baby and my body didn’t hide a second of those 9 months, but I felt empowered. My body, my weight, my skin; these were not my responsibility. My diet and exercise regime were not the reason for its current state. The presence of my miracle was solely responsible for the condition I found myself in.
The freedom this gave me was incredible. I felt strong, powerful, FREE. My shoulders were weightless, having cast off the pressure they had carried since my early teens, and I was at peace.
13 months after my son was born, there is no hiding my ‘Mum body’. My stretch marks are still very obvious, my tummy is far from flat and firm, my legs have a long way to go to regain the muscle they lost from my pregnancy immobility, but I’m content.
Had I woken up with this body as an 18 year old, I would have been distraught. Now, however, I couldn’t be happier. My tummy gives my son somewhere to snuggle, my boobs provide him with nourishment, my muscle free legs and suffering hips give me pause to sit and read to him, and my scar tells the story of his arrival.
My body looks ‘worse’ than it even has before, and I have never loved it more