So this is my first post for Kiki-Blah Blah and whilst excited to be the new girl on the team, I’ve been putting off writing it.
For starters, my laptop, which was purchased a mere three years ago is old and decrepit. It takes 12 hours to load up only to then skip, freeze and repeatedly ask me about ‘Add Ons’ (what are theeeese???) Suffice to say, I don’t relish using it. To date I have avoided purchasing any form of Tablet or Notebook in a bid to be sensible and save money on ‘frivolous’ things; being a new mum on unpaid maternity leave will do that to you.
My procrastination is however, more to do (OK, almost entirely to do) with the content of the post. I’m nervous. I’m nervous because as we all know, image is [seemingly] everything. If you’re not 5ft 8” with voluminous hair, perfect skin, (sans makeup) great teeth, amazing eyebrows and of course a size zero figure – then you should go and hide in a very large (to accommodate your more than a size zero figure) box. If you dare to come out of your oversized box then you should spend your time ridding yourself of your unacceptableness at your local gym/hairdressers/beauty salon, whilst consuming as few calories as possible. If you spend enough time and money doing the above, and munch on only lettuce leaves drizzled with a tap-water dressing (mmm), then you won’t look like you anymore, hurrah!
Being fat is deemed ugly. Having acne is deemed ugly. I remember watching a very early series of Britain’s Next Top Model on which was a gorgeous girl with striking features, figure etc. but who had the audacity to suffer from the occasional outbreak of acne. She was humoured for a few episodes then binned because of her unsightly complexion.
I have both some fatness and some acne going on (yay me!) and whilst I’ve touched on the acne side of things, it’s the chubby factor I’d like to put out there in this post. Quite literally “put out there” (please look away now if you are averse to chubby tummies).
We had our first baby in January this year. Prior to giving birth I was a UK size 14-16. My stomach was by no means flat pre-pregnancy; I am a self-proclaimed foodie and my husband and I used our freedom and disposable income to indulge in much delicious food and wine. It was a great time and I knew that such a lifestyle would mean I would never be anything less than a size 14. Fine by me.
During my pregnancy, I gained no weight apart from the weight of the baby. I only wanted to eat cereal and fruit; normal food repulsed me. Oh, and I had morning sickness until week 26…that’ll do it I guess. I haven’t gained any weight since having my baby and remain a size 14-16. Despite all of this, my body is now very different and more specifically I mean my stomach is now very different.
Before motherhood, I had a general bit of chubbiness around my middle, now I have a stretched, saggy pouch-like entity where my little pasta belly used to live. I have heard other mums refer to this sag as several different things: “kangaroo pouch”, “flat tyre” and “shelf.” A little while ago I came across the term ‘MuTu’* – which I learned is short for ‘Mummy Tummy.’ The term made me laugh and since then I often refer to my saggy entity pouch thingy wotsit as my mutu.
Early into the pregnancy I knew that my tummy would be different post-bubba. I had religiously rubbed creams, oils and ‘anti-stretch mark’ potions onto my ever-stretching belly, but stretch it did and marks were the order of the day for this lady. I knew they’d eventually fade but they would forever be there (aint no amount of Bio Oil gonna send those bad boys packing.) I won’t lie, I was upset. I may never have had a perfect body but I’d never had stretch marks before and so I cried. A lot. The logical part of my brain was telling me it was perfectly normal and a somewhat to be expected part of being pregnant, but the emotional side usually won out – resulting in tears and self-loathing at the discovery of each new mark.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I was incredibly excited to be pregnant and the loathing was not as a result of the ‘baby ruining my body.’ As mentioned, I didn’t have a perfect body to begin with and so the loathing was aimed solely at my failure to prevent stretch marks from appearing on my seemingly inadequate body (“I only applied oily potion five times last Wednesday instead of the usual six times daily……..IT’S MY OWN FAULT I HAVE STRETCH MARKS, I DESERVE THEM FOR BEING SO LAZY AND CARELESS!”)
Once I’d had my daughter, I waited (impatiently) to see if my saggy pouchy mutu would rectify itself in any way. It didn’t. Three months on there appeared to be no elasticity left in the skins cells on my stomach. Where had they gone?! Please come back, I need to wear regular clothes again and banish my maternity jeggings into a vacuum-pack clothes storage bag, destined for the loft. My stomach had basically dropped by about two or three inches; it was now hanging in despair, keeping watchful eye on my [no longer swollen] ankles. Good-o.
I’ve been a mum for ten months now and I still have my mutu. I am by no means sedentary but neither am I an exercise buff. I’ve no doubt that if I powered myself through hours of gymming and months of dieting then an improvement would be had.
The crux is, I don’t want to become a gym bunny or diet addict and this confession has finally brought me an element of peace. By admitting to myself that I don’t want to go out 3-5 times a week to exercise classes – or eschew carbs from my diet, I’m no longer beating the crap out of myself for failing to attend those exercise classes or for giving in to a desperate urge to chow on toast and Marmite for breakfast a couple of mornings a week (sometimes it’s even white bread – call the carb police!)
I’ve only very recently realised that I need to start loving myself some and look at all of the good things I’m doing. We don’t live sedentary lives stuck inside watching CBeebies all day – we go out, we play, and we see new things. I walk pretty much everywhere and when my hips aren’t being gammy or general busy-ness doesn’t get in the way – I burn off about 2 million calories at local Boot Camp sessions (ouch!) Some days I don’t go running or squatting or crunching and the only reason I don’t go is because I’d rather stay home and spend time with my family. Some nights my husband and I will share a bottle of wine, eat pasta for dinner and munch chocolate for pudding. I used to feel guilt, guilt, guilt and oh a bit more guilt over these things, but now I don’t so much. Sure, I still have my “shouldn’t have” days, but they’re becoming less.
I realise now that pregnant or otherwise, I will never be like the celebs who pose on the cover of magazines with their beautiful, stretch mark free baby bumps, and who bounce back into perfect shape six weeks after having a baby; not a mutu in sight. They have much help getting back into shape I’m sure, and whether you agree with it or not – it’s their job to look great; their image is more often than not their selling point.
Even as I’m typing this, I’m still in two minds as to whether to share these photos of me at my most vulnerable. Is there a limit to the term “Sharing’s caring?” Some people, many perhaps, will think so and will recoil in disgust from their screens. Some may even leave mean comments, but if that’s their bag then so be it. Maybe I shouldn’t post on such a visual level and should just let the words tell my story, but as everyone knows – a picture is worth a thousand words. If this article helps even one other person to love themselves that little bit more – lumps, bumps and sags included, then it’ll be well and truly worth the potential embarrassment.
I may always have a mutu or I may work it off one day. I will always have a tiger striped stretch mark tummy, but for now I’m learning to try and accept both of these as evidence of the best thing that’s ever happened to me and my husband. It’s OK not to be perfect and as long as we understand there is a balance to all things, then a little wine, chocolate and sacking off the gym in favour of time with your family is ay OK.
*Phrase found on the website mutusystems.com – a U.S based site which offers post-partum exercise programmes. I have no affiliation with this company, I simply happened upon the site and liked the phrase mutu.
Hayley is an amazing Mummy to two, an awesome cook and wine connoisseur.