Today I wanted to start the conversation about body confidence after having a baby and how we feel about embracing our new Mum bods.
As a Mum of 3, my body has definitely undergone numerous transformations, one of which very recently with the birth of my now 3-month-old baby girl Posy.
Therefore my stretch marks or battle scars I’ve fondly named them are still pretty fresh and my Mum tum is still showing prominent signs that my baby used to reside there.
For this blog post, I finally had the courage to strip off and have a look at myself naked in the mirror. I have new lumps and bumps and I’m still pretty curvy, my stomach is still very much extended, which looks like I’m about 4 months pregnant. It’s just a lot more wobbly now with excess skin.
I have 2 caesarean scars – my first being too low down after my emergency c-section with Henry, so they had to go in again higher with my subsequent births with Georgie and recently Posy. I have the type of skin that over heals, so each scar is very much prominent, my newest still an angry red. Thankfully both still very much low down if I ever felt the confidence in the future to try a bikini.
Being a stylist I have become very good at disguising my lumps and bumps and the stretch marks which adorn my breasts and tummy are also hidden away. I know they are there and I’ve learnt to live with them.
But is accepting these marks of motherhood the same as saying I have body confidence?
If we are to go back in time, pre-babies, I lacked body confidence before I even had my children. Those insecurities were only amplified when I became pregnant with my first. My boobs became bigger, which has had a breast reduction in my 20s, is a major insecurity of mine.
Alongside this, my upper arms filled out as did my bum. I also developed back fat, which I believe is your body’s way of storing fat for breastfeeding. Ironic considering I could never master breastfeeding with my 3, so my fat is redundant.
After I gave birth to my son Henry I was in this amazing new Mum bubble of love, with a major dose of sleep deprivation. My days were filled with baby massage, extended coffee mornings with my NCT friends and long naps in the day. I was happy in my maternity jeans because I was so happy our baby was finally here.
It wasn’t until I had to return to work that I came to the realisation that my old clothes no longer fit, or didn’t quite suit my new mum figure. I remember going shopping and crying in the fitting rooms because my usual go-to clothes didn’t hang on me right. I’d spend my 20’s finally identifying what suited my shape and frame and here I was in my 30s having to start all over again.
I remember just buying oversized checked shirts that I lived in with my maternity jeans. I also bought some fashion bits, as working in buying I still wanted to feel like I knew about trends. Those things were never worn as they required big pants and an extra half hour in the morning to pull the look together.
Working in an office of young trendy women also added to my insecurities and I have to say it was the first time in my life I fell out of love with fashion. I dressed to get by and struggled to get excited about shopping and styling myself.
It wasn’t until I got pregnant with Georgie that I realised what major effect this lack of confidence had created in my life. I was scrolling through my phone of pictures of Henry and for all of 2 years, I almost didn’t exist. Other than a few random pictures, I was absent through my camera roll. I was so self-conscious about myself that I wouldn’t allow my picture taken.
It was then that I embraced pregnancy style and promised myself I would start dressing the body I have now and embracing those lumps, bumps and curves. And thankfully that pregnancy was so much more enjoyable as I started to have fun with dressing up. I even had a pregnancy shoot as I was proud of my bump.
When I returned to work after Georgie I was thankfully in a better place and relished planning my return to work wardrobe. I realised the big knickers were a godsend (when you get the right pair for you) and I felt much more like the old me when I went back. Just curvier.
Thanks to an array of Instagram Mum’s sharing their real postpartum bodies, the conversation around body acceptance is starting to take shape. Those familiar images of wobbly bellies, oversized maternity pants and swollen breasts unite us all in the idea that we are not in this alone.
But at the same time when Meghan Markle a mere two days after giving birth did her first public outing, the world over was unkind. She wore a beautiful white sleeveless trench dress (I always remember the outfit) and she had tied her belt over her belly. The belt accentuated her post-baby belly and she looked undeniably gorgeous. I loved how she was putting out a positive message that it’s normal to still look pregnant after giving birth. She didn’t feel the need to hide away until she had gotten her figure back.
But the comments she received, especially from a woman, in particular, were shocking. They commented on how ‘pregnant’ Meghan still looked, others mocked her hair and make-up, proclaiming she didn’t look as polished as her sister in law Catherine. Meghan like so many parents before her just wanted to showcase her new baby and yet people were more occupied on how she looked.
So do we still have a long way to go on accepting what is beautiful?
During pregnancy, your body (now this is where I have done a little research) or specifically your uterus, abdominal muscles and skin are increasingly stretched for the greater part of a year. So why do we believe that a few days, weeks or even months are going to decrease that area and return to its original size?
I tell so many of my styling clients to dress the body they have now. But I think a much more positive message would be to embrace, appreciate and celebrate the body you have now. The relationship we have with our bodies is unique to us and only we are undergoing these journeys. So it’s up to us to create our own positive body image as a healthy body image is important for good mental health.
Images by Katie Fallon Photography