Delighted to be asked to share some of my writing experience on this blog. To be honest, I’m a little jealous of The (Oblivious) New Mama when I see those gorgeous Instagram pictures of her lovely son, but then I remember the twenty-four-seven job that […]
Month: October 2019
I feel quite vulnerable and self-conscious posting these photos and this article today. I feel so passionately about women being madly in love with their bodies, while at the same time fearing that I am coming across as self-important, vain, attention-seeking and whatever other insults I am sure people could come up with.
The other day, little man and I were walking through Macquarie Centre and, upon reaching the Bras and Things store was unexpectedly overcome with emotion when I laid eyes on their promotional posters. The women modelling the lingerie were curvaceous; underwear cut into their hips, there were tummy rolls and incredible thighs. I am under no illusion that those photos were airbrushed and touched up, but the simple fact that I recognised myself in these women made me feel hopeful.
I know that this is a very tired subject matter, I get that. As a global community we have comes leaps and bounds when it comes to representation in the of female bodies, but there is also a very long way to go. I was thinking in the shower this morning about how amazing it would be if there were mannequins out that that were made of silicone or some other squishy material to show how clothes will ACTUALLY fit. Something as simple as Nike using a plus size mannequin was enough to make the news and to me that is the perfect example of how far we have yet to go.
I don’t want to talk too much about the greater issue or body image, we are all well versed in that. I WANT TO GET PERSONAL.
I have been lucky in that I grew up with my mum who was, and continues to be, an incredible role model when it comes to self-love and body image. I have always had a good relationship with food. During my teenage years I went through what a majority of young women go through – I wished I was thinner and taller with straighter hair, and that I could wear off-the-rack bikinis like my peers, and that I didn’t have quite so much hip. On the whole however, I have always felt very grateful for the body I have been given.
The year before I fell pregnant with Hunter was probably the most confident I have felt in my body. I was healthy, I loved how my clothes looked on me, and for the first time I could honestly say that there was nothing I would change about my body.
I was not someone who cared about the fact that my body was going to change during my pregnancy. I was under no illusion that I was going to gain weight, that I was going to get puffy, that my thighs were going to rub together and that my entire figure was going to changed. not only did I not care, but I welcomed it. I loved watching my body change with the knowledge that it was doing whatever it needed to do to house and nourish my beautiful son. (Towards the end this changed because it was like four thousand degrees and I wasn’t agile enough to even get myself off the lounge and all I wanted was to be one baby body lighter.)
I packed my regular Nike tights in my hospital bag to wear after giving birth to Hunter. I knew that my body wouldn’t automatically just spring back to its former glory, but I naively thought that it would deflate enough for me to fit into my size six tights. Yeah. No. I was a fool. I was the fool of fools. As time went on and the days went by, my body slowly started to change. I learned that my uterus was slowly putting itself back to its rightful resting place and the rest of my insides were reshuffling around it. Those first few days were strange and somewhat disheartening. Not only had my identity completely changed – I was a mother – but I didn’t fit into any of my clothes that made me at least look like who I am. My maternity stuff was too big, my regular clothes too small. You would think that with a newborn and no sleep I wouldn’t have had the time to even think about the way I looked, but it is quite the opposite.
New mums are in complete unknown territory even though their surroundings and most things in their world are completely familiar. I wished for so long that I was able to just throw something on and feel powerful and sexy and attractive and MYSELF. I started yearning for my ‘old body’ and feeling really crappy about my ‘mum body’. With hormones running at an all time high I often cried at the thought that Pete would never find me attractive again. “How are you ever going to think I am pretty again,” I blubbered almost every night (and day).
I can say in hindsight now that the most ridiculous thing was that my body actually bounced back really quickly. I was able to fit into my jeans about three weeks post-birth. More and more of my wardrobe started to fit me with each new day and yet I still found things to dislike about my body.
I don’t remember the exact moment that that changed, but it did. There are still clothes in my cupboard that don’t fit me, and may never fit me again; my favourite denim skirt, my Kookai crop tops, my high-waisted white linen flares with long splits down each of the legs. And, the things that DO fit me don’t look the same as what they used to. My jeans fit me perfectly, but where my side profile used to be quite tight and toned it is now rounded thanks to my ‘kangaroo pouch’ belly. The skin of my stomach is still loose, exceptionally squishy and yes, pouchy. My thighs wobble more than they used to and my glorious breasts that were once full and perky are now soft and not-so-perky.
You truly cannot appreciate the absolute glory, power, magic or wonder of the female body until you give birth. Not only are we able to grow life within us, but then amidst the physical and mental exhaustion of the ‘fourth trimester’, our bodies start to heal themselves. We are fucking goddesses. Women are incredible, we really are.
So, instead of running through the mental list in my head of all the things I should be doing to change my body and get thinner and firmer and more sculpted and ‘better’, I instead celebrate the changes that I can see in my reflection. I am healthy. My body has never failed me. Not only has my body never failed me, but it created a perfect little human. My body made every vein in Hunter’s body, every orange hair on his gorgeous head, every toe on his feet, every finger on his hands. My body went through twenty hours of exceptionally hard labour and did not break or tear or let me down. When I look down and see the skin of my belly folding over my underwear I think of the why behind it. That skin stretched well beyond what I thought possible to accomodate new life. When I used to go to the beach I was KEENLY aware of how my body looked and I felt like I always had to be sitting or standing or lying in a position that was flattering and appealing to others. It was exhausting. Now, however (and I realised this very recently when I went to the beach for the first time after having given birth), I don’t even think about what I may look like to others. My swimmers cut into my hips and when I sit down to play in the sand with Hunter my rolls are there for everyone to see and I feel proud.
There are so many women out there who are not able to fall pregnant. There are so many women out there desperate to put their body through everything pregnancy throws at it, but will sadly never have the chance. There are so many women out there who would look at my loose stomach, soft boobs and wobbly thighs and think, “I wish that was me.” I feel so grateful every single day that my body was able to do what it has done. Who am I to complain about the after-effects of pregnancy when there are others out there who will never have that opportunity. And finally, who am I to chastise my body when it has never failed me, has always worked and has allowed me to bring new life into this world.
Body, I thank you.
I will end this post with the wise words of Elaine Benes:
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For a very long time, my family has found it extremely hilarious and entertaining how punctual, organised and time-aware I am. Where my brothers and mum are relaxed and keen believers of ‘going with the flow’, I am the stark opposite. I would rather be […]
I am so excited and humbled to introduce you all to my beautiful friend, Jess. Jess and I met through the Peanut app when our babies were two months old. If you aren’t familiar with Peanut it is essentially Tinder for new mums. Jess and I both swiped right and since then we have seen each other at least once every week and we talk every day. I cannot express enough gratitude to this incredible woman. Not only does she know exactly what I am going through – as her gorgeous daughter Imani is only a week younger than Hunter – but she has taught me so many things about my own son, about my body and about life. She is a nurse and has plans to move her career in a direction which will see her helping mamas everywhere. For her inaugural post, Jess has penned a piece on breastfeeding which is something she is an absolute boss at. Jess, you are incredible and Hunter and I adore you.
Breastfeeding: beautiful, natural, relaxing, nurturing, beneficial. Also painful, stressful, uncomfortable, inconvenient, and lonely!
Unfortunately, not many people like to mention the latter part. If you’re a new mum, with a tiny baby and swollen boobs, I totally see you! I see you second guessing yourself, feeling as though you’re failing, questioning your instincts and not knowing what the hell you’re doing.
I was that mum only eight months ago. I had my gorgeous girl on the 15th of February 2019, and after a twenty-two hour labour we were both exhausted.
“Okay, time to feed her,” said the midwife. Ok, yes. Breastfeed. Should be easy enough right? I just gave birth so of course this will be easy in comparison! Latch baby on. Ouch. Try again. Nothing. Hand express (get yourself milked by two midwives at 3am). 0.2ml. Feed baby. Ouch. Repeat. One nurse told me I would just end up putting her on formula because my milk output was so low. Knowing what I know now, it actually wasn’t low! It was because we had a traumatic birth, blood loss and a poor latch.
Sadly, there really isn’t a lot of support for new mums. Breastfeeding was the one thing throughout my pregnancy that I was committed to doing. I joined all the breastfeeding Facebook pages, attended all the breastfeeding classes, bought all the nursing pads, haaka, hospital grade pump and bottles shaped like a boob (just in case of course).
So, when I had my baby girl and breastfeeding didn’t come easily I was devastated and broken, but determined. I made a goal to feed her for a week. After losing more than 10% of her body weight in the hospital, we were only allowed to be discharged once we agreed to a strict feeding plan of breastfeed, top up feed, pump and repeat. So I would feed my newborn for 30 minutes, top up approximately 20-30mls of expressed milk or formula, then pump for 30 minutes. If you have ever had a newborn, you can probably appreciate that once that whole exercise was completed we were back to step 1 again. Add all the washing of bottles and pump parts and pumping at midnight/3am/6am, I honeslty felt defeated. I even asked my husband, “Why am I doing all this? I may as well just bottle feed her.” He told me that I had made it this far and just to give it another week – he knew how important breastfeeding was for me.
At two weeks old, I had an appointment at the local breastfeeding clinic to have her weighed. She had finally gained weight. I decided to cut out the top ups (I still pumped up to 3 times a day some days) and trust my body. By the next weigh in at a month old, my girl had put on a whole kilogram! Wow, what a feeling. I was so happy! And proud of my body.
My next goal was to breastfeed for two months, then three months, then six months, with my ultimate goal being a full year of breastfeeding. Now we are eight months on our journey with no end in sight and I am so happy that I pushed through. It is the most amazing feeling to know that my body created and grew her, and has now nourished her and continues to do so.
I feel like finding that nurse who undermined my body’s ability to feed my child and show her my healthy eight month old, as well as my eight litre stash of milk in the freezer. I’d also like to introduce her to the six mums I have donated over sixteen litres of milk to via informal milk donation. That’s right, the young mum with no milk has gone on to donate EXCESS milk! How? Well, through my fear of “losing my milk” I kept up pumping.
Still, to this day, I pump once a day, or every second day, and freeze. Once I reach a surplus of milk, I look for a mum in need. I donate my milk via the human milk 4 human babies – NSW Facebook page. There is one set up for every state in Australia. It is an informal milk donation page whereby mums with excess milk, or mums needing milk can post and help each other. Due to its informal nature, there are no laws surrounding this and thus there is a lot of stigma.
“What if the mum takes drugs/is sick, etc.,” is something I hear a lot. All I can say is that milk donation is a very altruistic act. We take time from our families to pump, bag, freeze and deliver the milk, all for no gain (except that warm fuzzy feeling you get when you help someone). Essentially, what I’m saying is – why would we do all that to intentionally hurt another baby?! On top of that, us mums are also feeding our own thriving babies and that is evidence in itself.
So, new mum. I see you.
I know how hard it is, how the nights feel like they will never end. The sore, cracked nipples. The leaking, engorged boobs. The “do I have enough milk/my boobs feel empty/she’s hungry again?!” thoughts.
My advice to you all is this:
1. Surround yourself with people who support you and your breastfeeding relationship. The last thing you want to hear when you’re already struggling is, “just give her a bottle”. You need that village that will look after everything else so you can skin-to-skin with your baby and feed, feed, feed.
2. When in doubt, whip it out. Crying baby? Boob. And literally everything else. Don’t worry when people say you’re spoiling your baby (um, isn’t that the whole point?!). Especially for the first three months AKA the fourth trimester.
3. Drink plenty of water (3-4 litres a day!) and eat healthy nourishing foods. What you eat definitely has an effect on your milk supply. Galactogogues AKA milk producing foods like brewers yeast, oats, lentils, chickpeas, barley, malt, etc., are great. Milo (for the malt), Powerade (for the electrolytes) and porridge (for the oats) are good to have on hand.
4. Social media and online support. Join the Facebook pages like: The Australian Breastfeeding Project, Breastfeeders in Australia, The Australian breastfeeding association, Pinky McKay and Milky Meg.
5. If you are struggling or need some extra support or guidance, there are drop in clinics that you can be referred to by your hospital. You can also hire a private IBCLC (probably the best option) to come to you or via Skype.