I often joke that my stretched tummy resembles a road map – but it’s no surprise given that it’s travelled from Size Twelvesville to Beachball Bay twice in three years. I’ve had two full pregnancies since hitting the grand old age of 30 (one went to 40 weeks exactly and the most recent to 41) but at one particularly arrogant moment in July this year I was confident I was going to avoid my very own ‘tiger stripes’ having made it through one whole pregnancy without so much as a crease. Then, THE DAY BEFORE my labour was induced, I woke with four stretch marks – and a few more emerged after Willow arrived too. Pretty unfair, considering I had practically bathed in bio oil for the previous 8 months. Hmph. I know a lot of you might be saying ‘well that’s not bad at all, it’s only a few marks’ but how we view ourselves is such a personal thing, it’s how YOU feel in your own skin which matters and I am personally not thrilled about the new purple lines living uninvited on my stomach.
Pregnancy is an odd time when your body is not your own – not only are you growing a tiny human and therefore stretching to ‘colossal’ proportions (according to my beloved) but people seem to view pregnancy and even post-pregnancy as a free pass to comment on, make remarks about and generally discuss your physical appearance. A week after Willow was born I was generously informed ‘Ooh, you’ve already lost your baby weight’ (I resisted the urge to respond with ‘HA! You should see me naked!!!’) and two weeks after that I got a ‘You look exhausted’ (err, night feeds + toddler and I’m supposed to be as fresh as a daisy, am I??!)
My two beautiful daughters both came into the world at a decent 8lb 6oz and both labours required me to have an episiotomy (the departure lounge doors wouldn’t quite open wide enough, so to speak). With Rose this was through a prolonged second stage of labour and utter exhaustion, combined with a dropping heart rate and Willow had the cord around her neck, the little monkey. Now don’t get me wrong, I know it’s not exactly the Mona Lisa down there anyway, but when I plucked up the courage to take a glimpse at my recovering lady parts I was shocked how different things looked – in the earlier stages of healing I actually referred to my nether region as ‘Frankenfanny’ and that is genuinely how I felt about it. Well, thankfully the saying ‘Time heals all wounds’ doesn’t just apply to emotions, and my poor, ravaged hoo-haa is well and truly on the mend at long last – and I think I can just about learn to live my cave of wonders being not-so-wonderful anymore. Just about. (Remind me to thank my girls one day when they’re older – perhaps when they’re in the early stages of pregnancy… *evil laugh*)
It’s scary how impressionable girls can be when it comes to their weight – I’ve had countless remarks from my Grandma over the years about any weight loss or gain (and she really doesn’t have a filter: “Ooh you have got chubby, haven’t you?” being one of my particular favourites…) and a cruel stepfather who would sit and count the number of times I had chewed my food (yes, really). I’ve yo-yo’d between a size 10 and an almost-size 16 for the last decade. My first ‘proper diet’ was when I was 21, but I first messed around with crash diets aged 19. I’ve tried being ‘happy how I am’ at my largest, but I’m NOT happy at my largest. Now, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being an active size 16, but for me personally I don’t feel right at that size.
The ‘strong, not skinny’ movement really inspired me after Rose arrived, and despite people’s (quite serious, actually) suggestions that it ‘wasn’t worth bothering’ to slim down if I was planning another pregnancy, I combined a new hobby of river rowing with Slimming World (a brilliant healthy eating plan where nothing is off limits) and got back to where I wanted to be before we started trying for another baby – something I would highly recommend to anyone wishing to enjoy a subsequent pregnancy.
I so badly want to be a good role model for my daughters – so much so that Rose has never once heard me comment on anyone’s size, weight or food intake – I am more likely to swear in front of her than utter the word ‘fat’ and I cringe when Peppa Pig makes comments about ‘Daddy Pig’s big tummy’. I was also very quick to correct a person who dared to call my gorgeous newborn daughter a ‘fat little thing’ in front of her always-listening big sister. For the record she has amazingly squidgy thighs and THAT IS HOW THEY SHOULD BE, FFS.
I’m far from making peace with my own dimply thighs – mostly because I can’t put the orange peel purely down to hormones (when I’m tired I grab at sugary foods like a kid in a sweet shop *sigh*) and I’m determined to tone up and get myself back to a size 12 but alongside that I am starting to feel a new kind of acceptance – I know it’s not easy to lose weight when you enter your thirties, especially when you’ve had children and you’re tired (which doesn’t lead to the best food choices), but I’m feeling and acting positively – for me, and for my daughters. Never again will I crash diet – my girls will never see me on and ridiculously low calorie plan, nor will they catch me cutting out any major food groups. What they will see is a woman who eats everything (in sight… just kidding) in moderation, who exercises regularly, who enjoys treats every now and again and who strives to be fit, not scrawny.
I only wish my outlook towards diet and exercise was like this ten years ago – although this wasn’t likely with a mother who hated her body and hid it underneath baggy jumpers and stretchy leggings and two sisters who are naturally much slimmer than I am. But I no longer want to be ‘thin’ and I am actually quite fond of my ample boobs and bum, thank you very much. My goal is not even really about appearance anymore. I’m much more concerned with being healthy on the inside, so I can be here chasing around after my children and hopefully grandchildren in years to come – of course if I end up looking like Megan Fox as a result I’m sure I’ll cope just fine with that.
I don’t expect my journey back down to a size 12 to be an easy one, I’m sure I’ll wander off course and lose my way from time to time (Like last Saturday night, when I found myself lusting after Little Mix’s legs while gorging my way through a whole bag of Wispa bites), but I’m confident I’m heading in the right direction – after all, I do have my very own roadmap.