When I was pregnant, I paid little heed to my changing shape.
As someone who had always been slim, I embraced my growing bump as one would an interesting novelty item. Something to be enjoyed for its newness and difference, but which would soon be discarded. As someone who had always been tiny, I loved being massive. I took pride in being the tiniest pregnant woman with the most enormous bump. Round and ridiculous, like there was a beach ball strapped to my front.
I didn’t care if the weight didn’t come off immediately. I was thirty-four years old and desperate for a baby. My bikini years would be behind me soon anyway, and surely the baby would make any loss of figure more than worth it. I was a proud feminist who would never be taken in by any pressure to lose the baby weight before I’d even left the maternity ward. And not that it mattered, as surely once I was a single mother no one would ever see me naked again anyway. I could just let myself go, wear leggings and a milk-stained T-shirt for eternity, and no one would care.
And I was bound to snap back into shape eventually anyway. I had never been more than seven and a half stone and couldn’t seriously see myself as someone with anything other than an impressive metabolism. And if I didn’t, well, I’ve seen Fat Families. How hard can it be to lose a few pounds?
Well reader, it can be hard.
Breastfeeding made my appetite go through the roof, and now, two years later and still breastfeeding, it’s still there. Although I am far from being overweight, my stomach is no longer as toned as it was before, I have a visible paunch, and I do not like it.
I envy those women who say that after childbirth they are proud of their bodies and what they have achieved. That they wear their scars and stretch marks with pride, as the badges of motherhood. I cannot do this. Every time I see my caesarean scar I am reminded of how I never got the birth I wanted, of how I feel as though my body failed me and failed my son. How I feel I can never truly say I “gave birth,” but stutter over my words and use passive phrases about how he “was born.” I am reminded of my failure to get back into shape, of how I am no longer young, and thin, and desirable.
I am reminded of how I lack the willpower to go running, and instead make excuses about not having enough time or wanting to burden my mother with extra childcare. I am reminded of how I now routinely eat too much, and find it difficult to stop.
I see my future self in one of those TV documentaries where a prying camera records an overweight person shoving food into their mouths at close quarters with prurient glee before doing a full body scan and reeling off a list of potential conditions which will kill them before they reach old age, in the patronising tones of someone who believes that the obese simply lack self-control, and deserve to die.
I am exaggerating, of course. I am not obese. But I am not as slim as I was, and it bothers me. I now understand a little more of that pressure to be thin, to be young , to be desirable, and to be found wanting in all areas.
And so what to do, I either do something about it, or I accept that this is the way life is. I’d like to say I’m choosing the latter, but for now, I’ll be dusting off those running shoes.
This post first appeared on the website Meet Other Mums