I’ve spent most of my adult life hating or disliking my body in some way. As a teen I was slim and curvy but still lacked confidence and constantly saw myself as fat and ugly. Having my first baby did nothing for how I saw myself, if anything I disliked my new body even more. Instead of just thinking I was fat, I could really see it now as well! It has taken several more babies and eleven years for me to first make some kind of truce with myself, and more recently to actually start to not only accept my body for what it is but to appreciate it and maybe even love it as well.
As western women we are constantly bombarded with images and ideals of how the ‘perfect’ female form should look. The reality is that this is bloody nonsense! There is a reason that only a select few women become supermodels – they are examples of the extreme end of fashion. The majority of women, real everyday women do not fit this ‘ideal’, and so we berate punish and abuse ourselves. Whole industries revolve around this aspiration to so-called perfection, undermining our femininity – in the true sense of the word – and playing on our insecurities, both creating the image to aspire to and the handy solution we can buy to get closer to it. The truth is that every woman is different, and so having one idealised view of how a woman should look is a fallacy and deeply counter-productive in our every day, non-catwalk based lives.
The female body is an amazing thing (and I’m sure it’ll only be women out there disagreeing with me!). Mine for example, has grown four new human beings inside it. It has gone through the incredible process of birthing these babies and then continued to nourish them for months and years after. It has done all this despite my worries, concerns and sometimes lack of faith in it, and has shown me that it can do exactly what it is meant to do in spite of what I might think of it or do to it.
Yes I have stretch marks galore, I could do with losing some weight and I have a host of other minor complaints I could list, but I also have some pretty fabulous features and reasons to love my body too:
- My breasts are great – yes they point more to the floor these days (as my husband lovingly reminded me when helping me fix our newborn’s latch recently!) but they are as awesome as they were a decade or so ago. A little different yes, but in the best kind of way. I appreciate their awesomeness even more knowing that they have been and continue to be such an invaluable source of nutrition and comfort to my babies as they grow. I feel an immense amount of pride when I look at my 17lb twelve week old baby, knowing that me, my breasts and I are solely responsible for those gorgeous chubby rolls of fat.
- My stretch marks are part of the package now – signs of motherhood, reminders of the cherished pregnancies that brought me my beautiful children. I’m no longer ashamed of them or embarrassed by them. I wear them with pride!
- My belly isn’t flat and firm as it once was, but at twelve weeks after birthing baby number four I have a new appreciation and admiration for the strength and stamina it took my belly to contain that almost ten-pound baby for over 42 weeks and then to push him out, OP presentation and all. I’m amazed at how quickly those muscles shrank my post-partum belly back down, despite having held four big babies inside me.
If we don’t have confidence in our bodies, we don’t trust them to do what they were built to do. If we don’t trust our bodies we are far less likely to let them do what they are capable of doing. My confidence in my body was shaken towards the end of my last pregnancy. I had passed 40, 41, and then 42 weeks. I had never had a pregnancy that long and I was suddenly in unknown territory. I worried that my body had failed me, that I wasn’t going to go into labour naturally, that some unknown thing had gone wrong. However I was healthy and the baby was healthy so I declined induction, but knew that it may be on the horizon if problems arose. Unsurprisingly (from the other side of the fence anyway!) I did eventually go into labour naturally and I gave birth to a big gorgeous baby at home in water, with no interventions or problems. Had I taken the standard route, I would have been induced in hospital at 41 weeks. Letting it happen naturally allowed my body and baby to be truly ready for the enormous task of labour, birth and recovery. Trusting my body played a big part in this.
Experiencing the amazing, raw power of growing and giving birth to my babies has helped me realise that yes, my body is great! The female body can do some amazing things and I wish more women would realise just how amazing their bodies are, just as they are. As the saying goes; charity starts at home – love, cherish and respect your body and demand the same respect from others. You are fabulous! Have confidence in your body and trust it. Give your body the love and respect that it deserves!