I am starting to feel nothing but negative connotations with this term ‘snap back’ and the pressures us mothers put ourselves under in order to ‘appear’ as though we never had a child whilst still in the early postpartum stages. My mother has boasted for as long as I can remember that she was able to fit into her jeans upon leaving the hospital after having me and I too boasted the very same back to her after I gave birth to Allegra and was able to fit my jeans. Needless to say that was short lived, but that is besides the point. Of course, generally speaking, most of us would have it that we instantly have our pre-baby bodies back the moment we give birth. But why is it there are so many negatives attached to appearing as though we HAVE given birth, if we have?
The changes that our bodies go through in order to carry our babies and give birth I believe to be tremendous and, not necessarily equally, traumatising. I gave birth naturally and I can most certainly say it was bloody traumatising. I lost shit loads of blood, caught an infection, tore like a mother, had a vagina that swelled to the size of a giant pillow and could not sit down for a week. It’s pretty fair to say my body was traumatised, having said that I feel tremendous about what I was able to endure and I honestly would not change any of it. I know some of us would have had less trauma and others more and I know that that is all a matter of perspective. The point is, despite all of these very natural but not everyday changes our body and our mind has experienced, we still fail to be a little kinder to our bodies after child birth and just love ourselves for what we have achieved. Admittedly, some of us say we do, but we don’t want the markings that signify that we have given birth to the greatest little people in our lives.
Let’s be honest, one of the fairest compliments of them all is, ‘You don’t even look like you’ve had a baby.’ Those that say so are saying it to be complimentary and those on the receiving end feel great about this, no matter their “Snap back journey”, be it good genes or a hard graft in the gym. I think we need to change the narrative and the definition of snapping back. The focus is all so physical and so vain, but pregnancy and motherhood bring about far more changes than physical ones. We should, when the time is right, get back into a fitness regime and start working out, but it’s concerning that many of us make it our priority, our sole mission after childbirth to to get our bodies back to what they were before childbirth. Some of us, before we’ve even had children have all kinds of superficial ideas of what kinds of mothers we’d like to be; Yummy Mummies, MILFS, hotter, sexier, thinner ‘Better’ than we were before.
My mother never boasted to me about being mentally or physically in good health after child birth, in fact, it’s not even something that has ever come up. Yet I know that ‘from behind nobody even knew I was pregnant’ ‘I worked out till I was seven months pregnant’ and ‘I wore my jeans home from the hospital’. This pressure isn’t new, but it’s not good and it certainly isn’t healthy ‘mentally’ or physically, should our bodies not naturally return to what it once was with immediate affect. How do we change the narrative, the pressures and the emphasis on snapping back?
Firstly, we must understand that everyone is different. We must not compare ourselves to that celebrity, that hot mama on Instagram, our friends or even our mothers. Not only are our genes different, but our pregnancies, our birth stories and our lives in general are all different.
My story is this…
I have put on a dress size over these eighteen months since having Allegra. My boobs have gone up a size, my back is broader, my arms bigger, hips wider, waistline disappeared completely and even my feet may have increased by half a size. I look at myself naked in the mirror and in all honesty, I don’t love what I see, but I don’t hate it either. What I do know is that after childbirth I lost most of my weight within weeks…I may have even ‘Snapped back’ if that is the preferred terminology. As I said above, it was short lived. I couldn’t maintain the size I was before childbirth after childbirth, because the lifestyle as a mother had completely changed. I wasn’t particularly active, I didn’t love going out for walks like most mums seemed to do and after having Allegra I wasn’t able to get into the gym as soon as I would have liked to because I never had childcare so readily available.
Once Allegra turned six months I was able to send her to nursery and admittedly, I made it my sole purpose to go to the gym while she was there. I feel awful saying this, but at that time all I wanted to do was get in the gym to get my body back. I look back on that time now as I write this and I realise how lost I was back then (for so many reasons that I may even share in another blog post). I was still employed by a company that had treated me terribly while I was pregnant and knew I was never going back there. In my maternity leave not only was I establishing life as a mother and re-establishing myself as a woman, I would also have to re-establish my career. As mothers we are tasked with a lot on maternity leave, a time period that is comparatively and relatively short. In my situation, snapping back really should not have been my priority.
Well, priorities soon changed and realities got really real once my maternity pay came to an end and I resigned from my job. I knew I would never work for anyone else other than myself ever again once I left Farfetch. I started writing, blogging, making money on eBay and discovering the amazing mum community on Instagram that I could connect with and that was exactly when, for want of a better phrase, ‘I found my path.’ Instagram allowed me to connect with and be exposed to lots of different mums and that was exactly what I needed. I was fortunate enough to get pregnant around the same time as one of my best friends, but I never joined any mummy groups, so my exposure to other mums was pretty limited. Instagram really opened up my ideas and ideals on being a mother instead of closing in on them and leaving me feeling trapped. The snap back, pre-baby body I longed for so desperately then may have been my way of protesting against what I believed at the time to be the constraints of motherhood.
Admittedly I’ve still not found my pre-baby body, but I am OK. There are days when I get down about this body, but generally like I said, I am OK. I really fucking like myself since becoming a mum and that clearly has nothing to do with the number on the scales. As women that become mothers, our bodies go through a lot in a relatively short time. But what we go through is both mental and physical. Our minds are our bodies too and they need just as much attention as our waistlines, if not more. This is not to belittle the impact our body image naturally has on our mind and our well-being. I have days when I have felt nothing but awful about my body since becoming a mother. I feel angry and disgusted with myself, sometimes even embarrassed that I have not been able to find a diet and workout routine that I can stick at. But I also know that thinking like this doesn’t perpetuate anything positive. If you watch my Insta Stories you will have heard me rant about my struggle to love my new body. I am far from being the perfect ambassador of positive body image. But I am someone who has always been extremely image conscious and have managed to come out the other side feeling OK with a body that I never imagined I would ever have.
I have not found my pre-baby body, but I am building a career and a life that I am really excited about. I have taken leaps of faith and risks that I thought only people other than me could take. I have relinquished the security and luxuries that nine to five life afforded me to take control of my life and run my shit. I kid you not, that makes me feel better than being skinny any day. So I guess what I am trying to say is, for those struggling to love their bodies, women, men, mothers and fathers, we need to love ourselves wholeheartedly so we can be kinder to ourselves about the things we don’t love so much. Then, in the grand scheme of things, that extra bit of weight will be something that we’ll get to when we can, just like everything else in our busy lives. If we like ourselves enough, we should trust that we will get to it when we can and if we don’t or we can’t, we can manage that shit. We don’t need to go out hunting on a Snap Back mission, we need to give ourselves the time it takes to figure our shit out, the rest will follow.