The house that she built

Today’s post by Meredith is one of those where you’ll want to stand up and cheer after reading it. Whether you have your own post-partum body niggles, or a different set of worries about your appearance, I think you’ll relate to what Meredith is saying – we need  to recognise the huge achievements of our bodies and celebrate them, every day.

Like many women, I’m often insecure about my looks. Post-pregnancy, that is even moreso the case as I adjust to a new shape that may or may not continue to shift and change. I’m still hoping it will! Looking in the mirror, I feel like a mess. I feel like I’m missing the mark. And you know what? There’s really something wrong with that. I’ve made a human. That takes it’s toll. I’m tired of hearing from various media sources about how I canprevent stretch marks (or correct them, in my case). I’m tired of being bombarded with postpartum fitness articles, telling me I’d better use any ‘down time’ (ha!) I can to exercise and to start before I get too ‘comfortable’. I mean can I just enjoy my baby for a second? Can I just use any ‘down time’ I actually get to take a nap or take a shower or do some laundry? My daughter doesn’t seem to mind my ‘comfortable’ body…though, to be fair, she pretty much just looks at my face and my blouses at the moment. BUT, she does fall asleep quite easily against me in all my cushiness.

During pregnancy, my husband and I got into a habit. As my tummy got increasingly babified it got itchy! So every night he would rub cocoa butter on it. It helped the itchiness and felt good. It was also supposed to help with stretch marks. Well, I still got stretch marks, even though I gained exactly the right amount of weight and applied this lotion every night. Apparently it’s mostly down to genetics. I must have a lot of genetics! Haha! Anyway…It sounds weird, but our ’tummy time’ became a special habit all about the three of us. Me and him and bump. After our daughter arrived, we stopped. Then a few weeks ago, we decided that we missed that time. We reinstated it, this time with Bio Oil, because, as you will soon see, she stretched me to the limits! I’m glad it’s back. Although, since there’s no baby inside anymore, I find myself especially conscious of my bump/pooch/roll/whateveryoucallit. I mean I’m now 15 weeks postpartum. Shouldn’t that be gone? Kate Middleton’s was. Victoria Beckham’s was. XYZ’s was. Why isn’t mine? Then this conversation happened one night, during our ’tummy time’:

Wife (guiltily): I’m sorry I still have a bump.
Husband (sweetly): I like your bump.
Wife (incredulously): Why?!
Husband (sincerely): It’s part of you. And it made her.
Wife (tearily): But it’s different than before.
Husband (matter-of-factly): Yes. A new curve. And one I like.

Perspective is everything.

I took this photo when I was three months pregnant, in order to share the news with family and friends.

Our daughter actually arrived April 15 via emergency cesarean. We had a hell of a first month, but that’s another (longer) story for another day. A story that, honestly, I don’t think I’m quite ready to ponder over and share. But suffice it to say that we are all doing well now.

I took this photo three months postpartum, in order to remind myself of what my body has been through, what my body has accomplished and what beauty can (and often does) look like. It’s now become a favorite.

Why do we put so much pressure on ourselves as women? Mothers or not, we ALL do it. I think it’s about time that we stopped! It’s one thing to lead a healthy lifestyle. It’s entirely another to constantly pick apart every flaw, line, bump, curve, or mark. I will choose to see this stretched and puffy body as a blessing. To see every mark for the kick that it was, this ‘pooch’ as an empty nest! It served a purpose. A wonderful purpose. It housed her. It was her first home. She built it, bit by bit. It’s her first work of art. Should it not then be celebrated?

My current, and likely abiding, challenge is to see myself the way my partner and child see me. I hope that you can do that as well! For we are ALL beautiful. And I think when we all start to realize that, the world will indeed be a better place.

Categories: Becoming a Mother, Body Image
19 interesting thoughts on this

19 Comments

  1. Posted August 4, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I love this post, thank you Meredith – and thank you especially for sharing those photos. I’m also very lucky to have a husband who, whenever I criticise my body, is quick to point out that I made a human with it – and whenever I think about that fact I realise how proud I should be about it. Its hard though, we grow up with so many images and ideas of what women “should” look like, so of course we’re going to feel confused, uncertain and concerned about our post-pregnancy bodies. I also have a daughter and I’m really aware that I don’t want to criticise the way I look in front of her – not least because I want to encourage her to have a positive body image when she’s older. It’s hard though, but I try and see myself through her eyes, and I know that to her I am (at least for the moment) beautiful, and that’s good enough for me, right now.

    • merashphi
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your comment, Emma. Sounds like we’ve both snagged good husbands! I have good days and bad days in terms of confidence, as anyone does. In fact, even yesterday (quite hypocritically) I was worried about the way my arms looked in a photo. I read what I wrote again as well as the comments – constant reminders, that’s what I need. Ha! Your point about critiquing yourself in front of your daughter is good and one I must remember. I want for my girl to grow up knowing that she is not defined by any one feature and that as long as she is happy and healthy that is what’s important! The thought of being her role model is somewhat terrifying to me but what a good opportunity as well – maybe through her I can learn as well. :)

  2. mysparethoughts
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Brilliant post Meredith. We too did the night time bump massage before our daughter appeared although stopped after her birth. I love the idea that you are continuing this little ritual and I imagine it will help you and your husband stay connected during this intense, sleep deprived time. I remember those days well, grabbing sleep where and whenever you could. Putting sleep and food over cleanliness and clothes. But taking 5 minutes a day to just be a couple and having that moment together will work wonders for your well being.
    I’m fortunate (genetics) that I have never had body issues as such but having suffered from raging acne as a teenager and later as an adult my face is scarred and I feel very self conscious about it. My daughter sits next to me or on my knee watching me put on my make up as I get ready for work, picking up the brushes and stroking her own face with them (or poking herself in the eye more often than not) and I worry that I’m encouraging her to think she needs to mask her beautiful face.

    I loved the writing but when I saw the picture my instant reaction was not – look at the stretch marks it was ooooh pretty manicure! Does that make me more or less shallow, I’m not sure.

    • merashphi
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for your comment! How sweet that your little girl is at an age where she wants to know about everything you do. I imagine it can be quite stressful for you as well! How do we find the balance? How do we teach our daughters that makeup can be a fun way to express yourself but that it isn’t necessary in order to make ourselves ‘better’ for the outside world? I remember as a girl the first time I shaved my legs. My Mum was so mad because I was only about 10 years old. The funny thing is, though, looking back, I didn’t do it because it would make me more ‘beautiful’, I did it because I’d see my Mum do it and I wanted to be like her! I’m not sure when my motivations for ‘beauty’ became less about being like Mum and more about societal acceptance…

      Also, haha about noticing the manicure. Hard not to when my skin on my tummy is soooo white in comparison to my nails and arms – Lol. Yes, that was a nice treat!

  3. Rowan
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Great post Meredith and that’s brilliant that you’re learning to feel proud of your body and see yourself through the eyes of those who love you.

    I found this website interesting in pregnancy to get used to the idea of my body changing and to see non-celebrity photos of real women’s bodies post-pregnancy: http://theshapeofamother.com

    It sounds like you had a rough start but I hope you’re able to take your down time to rest and enjoy your baby all the more!

    • merashphi
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

      Hi Rowan, thanks for you comment. And thanks for the website! Looks like a great place to talk it out with Mums in similar situations. The babe and I are having fun now – just went to a Mum/Baby film screening of Roman Holiday. Loved it. :)

  4. Katielase
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    I love this, such a brilliant piece and such wonderful writing. I love the idea of it as her first work of art, her first home. I was so determined I would be proud of my post-partum body but I’m finding that a lot harder than I anticipated. Hands up, I gained more weight than you’re ‘supposed’ to, and than I wanted to, and now I’m finding it hard to come to terms with how I’ve changed. So wrong, because I’m so incredibly proud of what my body achieved. I’m so amazed by what it did, the person it grew, how perfect she is. You’re right, it makes no sense to hate the marks that grew such perfection.

    Your photo is simply beautiful, by the way. Just wonderful.

    KLx

  5. Fee
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    I think this post is just amazing. You are so right, I noticed that A LOT if conversation with my antenatal group was about losing weight straight after our babies were born. I realized that we feel sad for teenage girls obsessing with their weight/size but as adult women we often do it after going through an incredibly physically demanding process.

    I got stretch marks during my pregnancy and six months on, although I can wear most of my pre-pregnancy clothes, my body has changed. My boobs are different, my stomach is different but then I am different. I never thought I would be able to do it so I am proud of my body for what it achieved in carrying a baby to full term, stretch marks and all.

    Thank you for writing this – it’s fantastic x

  6. Emily
    Posted August 4, 2014 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

    Good article. Having just had my third child, I do, however, feel grateful that I stuck to healthy eating and light exercise immediately after the birth of my first, as I am sure we all know the dangers of a growing waist-line (I have been bitterly reminded by a loved one’s recent adventures). So I would encourage everyone to seek a balance between the two (slightly extreme) sides Meredith is presenting and neither aim too high and beat yourself up about it, nor relax and think it is ok, as making excuses will only see the pounds piling up for some time — which will make it harder in the long-run (especially with another pregnancy).

    • merashphi
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Hi Emily, thanks for your response and congrats on your third baby! How wonderful! I agree with you that healthy eating and light exercise is important. However, this post made no mention of postpartum eating or fitness. Rather, it was about stretch marks, and my reaction to them, so I am curious about where you read the ‘extremes’ to which you are referring, those that you say I present? I can guess that you mean being unfit and fit postpartum – forgive me if I’m wrong but I will address it. I am not advocating an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle. And I am not advocating an equally unhealthy over-worked/stressed/rushed level of fitness postpartum. What I am advocating is a recognition of what your body has done, being happy with the changes that your body undergoes and not feeling societal pressure to be exactly the way you were before baby within an (for most of us who are not celebrities or Duchesses) unrealistic time frame (and knowing that ‘realistic’ will mean something different for everyone also!). I also am advocating that we as women need to support other women. We as mothers need to support other mothers. Sometimes that means disagreeing with others’ methods of parenting perhaps but also should always mean realising that everyone is just trying to muddle through the best they can, with the first babe anyway (that’s the extent of my experience thus far!). Above all, I think it’s important to acknowledge that very woman is different and has had a different experience pre, ante, and post pregnancy, we all have a different set of priorities (for me, ensuring a very sick baby got well and now tending to my mental health after trauma trumps being overly concerned with the features of my body, most of which I can’t change, such as stretch marks), and we all have different work to do within different time frames. And we need to realise that that is okay even when Vogue tells us otherwise… :)

      • merashphi
        Posted August 5, 2014 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

        Pardon me, no mention of postpartum fitness apart from at the beginning that is. Silly me, I can’t seem to remember which draft I submitted! Anyway, yes I see where you found the ‘extremes’ now to which you referred in your response. :)

  7. Sami
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    It’s a truly beautiful photo x

    • merashphi
      Posted August 5, 2014 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Sami. :)

  8. Posted August 5, 2014 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Hi Meredith, great post and very much needed in this day and age. It does anger me that the media constantly bombards us with articles and pictures of celebs congratulating them on their tiny bodies after just giving birth. It’s just all too much, the pressure to look good whilst youre pregnant and then just after giving birth is getting so out of hand. Can the focus not be in on being healthy for mother and child?
    I think your photographs are beautiful.

  9. Beth
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Awesome thoughts! I’m 7 months post baby, and I look in the mirror at my stretch marks on my stomach, chest, and butt and rub my hands over them all the time thinking about what I looked like before baby, and I can’t remember! I love the part about thinking about the stretch marks and whatnot as something your baby created and is beautiful. Thanks for sharing your words of wisdom and for having the courage to show what we really look like post-pregnancy! Celebrities are not the norm. We are!

  10. merashphi
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Thanks everyone for the commentary. Will respond to everyone as I get the chance. :)

  11. Amanda M
    Posted August 5, 2014 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

    Your husband sounds adorable.

    And what a wonderful, brave post.

  12. joy
    Posted August 30, 2014 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    I loved reading your post. I believe woman are under so much pressure to lose weight when they have had a baby. I had my baby three weeks tomorrow, and I was born April 15th 1973 x

  13. joy
    Posted August 30, 2014 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    congratulations x

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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