I wore a bikini for the first time in over a year the other day. As I looked down at myself I saw something (well, quite a few things) that made me think about body image and the pressures we sometimes feel to ‘get back in shape’ or become ‘body proud’ again after having a baby. (Mine is Billy, ten months old.)
I thought for a bit about how I used to look. Whilst I’ve never had that ironing board tummy, I’ve never really struggled with weight – other than the lost years after uni where I finally had more than ten pounds a week to spend, and spent most of it on white wine and hangover pizzas. Boob-wise, they were nothing to write home about. But gravity hadn’t taken its toll too badly, they were equal in size and were even once named – albeit by my husband – the PCP’s (perky crowd pleasers. I know… But it was just between us. Sorry, Greg). I was lucky enough – and I do think it is luck – not to suffer from cellulite. And being quite sporty meant that I managed to stay reasonably toned until I hit my 30s.
As I looked down at myself, what I saw that day was somewhat different. Having struggled with large fibroids that grew and grew with my baby, I ended up having a difficult c-section. In the words of the obstetrician, they ‘really had to rummage around in there’ to get Billy out and into the world safely. As a result, rather than one of those neat little horizontal scars just below the bikini line, I was lumbered with a big vertical one that went all the way up to my belly button. And they messed it up a bit so it split near the bottom, leaving me with a few extra centimeters of red scar tissue sticking out just above where any respectable bikini begins.
The fibroids also meant that towards the end of my pregnancy I was beyond massive. The skin on my tummy and thighs became so stretched that it came out in a sort of marble effect. A bit like luncheon meat. No amount of bio oil could prevent the onset of ugly stretch marks, which provided an excellent contrasting pattern against my black bikini.
And then we come to the boobs. Oh the boobs. 9 months of ballooning followed by 7 months of tugging, scratching, leaking, inflating, biting and generally a lot of wear and tear has left them in an appalling state. Stretched, shriveled and sagging are words that spring to mind. They’re not even the same size anymore, as baby took a preference to the right. In short, the PCP’s are far from P. And I can’t imagine they will ever be CP’s again.
My best remaining feature, my arms, were still passable. Though even they were covered in bruises, bite marks and scratches – from lugging buggies, bikes and bags of Aptimil up and down stairs daily, and being used as a human teether.
But as I looked down at my body in that bikini, I also saw something else. I saw a body that had, against all the odds (and they were not in our favour) overcome those horrible fibroids and carried a baby full term. A body that had over nine months provided that baby with everything he needed to grow into a real-life person that would before long be able to function completely independently.
I saw a body that had been opened up so precisely that our beautiful boy could be brought into our lives safely. And that had healed so quickly that I could pick him up, nurse him and take him home within 36 hours. I saw a body that had fed and nourished that baby completely for 6 months, and provided comfort and warmth in many moments of distress.
So now, I love my stretch marks. They remind me of the big belly that protected Billy for all those months in his floating paradise. And I love my scar. It provided his entrance into our lives.
I look at my little boy and he is thriving. He is growing and developing every day – and he smiles every time he wakes up because he feels happy and safe. He makes us love life more than we could have ever imagined. And it was my body that grew him. My amazing body.