Millions of years of evolution and it comes down to this - it's still the women that birth the babies. We, the ferocious givers of new life; we are strong, we protect and grow our children deep inside our own bodies. We labour them safely into this world. We sustain them with our own milk. And then, a few days after that first fog of magical newborn wonder lifts, we look down at our naked selves, blink, and whisper in silent horror: 'What. The. ACTUAL?????'
You're not still high off gas and air. This is what you look like now. Get on board!
Because let's be honest, childbirth takes a heavy toll. Not always an obvious one to outside eyes, but in those secret places that you never even knew existed, after you've had a child or several, it's all a little, well, different.
I'd just assumed that the minute the baby was out, my stomach would be flat again, I could have a large G&T, and the world would go back to normal. I'd always been pretty lucky in that department, (flat stomach, not latent alcoholism) and I was never really one to fret much about my figure.
So it came as a pretty hilarious shock to find that immediately postpartum, those cunning midwives had actually somehow inserted a few kilos of blancmange where the baby used to be. My stomach, once taut and smooth now had a mind of its own - and that mind looked like that of a deranged whale on the wrong side of a cake-eating competition and three hundred late night kebabs.
I was not prepared for this.
Neither was I prepared to find my newly engorged breasts (or 'wildly pneumatic mega-tits' as I now think back on them fondly as) buffeting firmly around my face, several hundred cup sizes larger than they used to be. The books will tell you this is the milk coming in. Your brain will tell you this is the kind of evolutionary design-glitch God must surely have put in as a cosmic joke, because ain't no man coming anywhere NEAR these puppies unless he has recently been birthed out of your vagina. Tough luck husbands! These HURT.
Which brings me on to breastfeeding. (Not literally, I've been weaned a while now). Some people do, some don't, but suffice to say just this: whatever you choose to do, you'll probably still need to buy a new bra at least once a week to cope with the ever changing size of your once perky boobs - upwards, outwards, downwards. Mostly downwards. South. Towards your knees. It's a rare beast who can pass the pencil test after two or more children.
But here is the biggest joke of all - as women we're so conditioned to invest our sense of self worth in these outward appearances. We are sold fear in spades - 'don't be caught out growing hairs on your legs! Buy this razor!' 'Worried about losing the man in your life? Get thin!' etc. I'm generalising, but you get the gist.
Nobody tells you that after you've had a baby - this perspective can change.
That it's ok to just be a human, with a body, that looks a bit different to how it did before. That now, actually, it's not just all about you. You have changed, and in a more fundamental way than just the size and shape of your stomach.
When you bring forth a tiny new human being from inside your body, the whole world shifts on its axis slightly, and the centre of the world becomes them, not you; and certainly not anyone's opinion on the shape of you. Your child will delight in every inch of you - wobbly or not - and literally could not care less if you wet yourself on a trampoline from time to time due to complete pelvic floor trauma as long as you love them with everything you have.
Don't get me wrong, there's definitely a place for doing things to make yourself feel gorgeous again, especially if like me you get a child that likes nothing better than lifting up your top in public places, jabbing his hands deep into your belly whilst gleefully yelling "MMM, SQUISHY MUMMY!!", but it's nothing a stiff gin and a new handbag can't offset from time to time. I've got A LOT of handbags.
So the most important thing that no-one tells you? That you are a woman, and your body is powerful. That your body was beautiful, and continues to be so. It works. You GOT this. You were BORN for this. We women have looked like this since the dawn of time, and the human race has survived this far.
Your body is just your body is just your body - what will count is what you do with it next. So be kind to it. And be kind to yourself. You've just had a bloody baby, after all...
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