Everyone’s experience of pregnancy is different. I am convinced that there are no universal truths when it comes to how a woman feels during, or after, pregnancy. Sure, many of us undergo the same symptoms on a similar journey, but the way that these affect our self-esteem can vary enormously. My experience can only be described as freeing.
As soon as I fell pregnant I felt my body was doing something it was designed for. That’s not to say that I had an easy time of it – in fact, I actively disliked being pregnant – as I’m sure regular readers recall – and I haven’t forgotten that. But I was comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life. I felt, for the first time ever, that my body was an acceptable shape – it’s ok for a woman to be fat if she’s pregnant. Which is frankly a horrible thing to say and a damning indictment of our society’s views on beauty. Nothing new there, then!
Post-birth, many of the niggles of pregnancy fell away quite literally overnight. I could sleep on my back without losing my breath, I could actually take a deep breath and fill my lungs, and I no longer suffered horrendous acid reflux the moment I was horizontal. But I was surprised by my body shape, the fact that my tummy stayed inflated and pregnant-looking until… well, even this week! I still have a vivid purple-red scar from the c-section, and some spectacular new stretch marks below the belly button (which in my case, and much to my disappointment, never popped out – I’m still an innie!). And the rest of my body, which I felt hadn’t really ballooned whilst pregnant, looks much heavier than it used to. Almost as if my pregnancy belly fat redistributed itself once it no longer had two little babies to cushion.
Of course, much of this can be attributed to my ridiculous diet in the final weeks before birth. I was given steroid injections to boost the boys’ growth, and told to eat 4000 calories a day to help them fatten up. 4000 calories a day is actually a trickier number to reach than you might think, when you’re also trying to provide nutritional food to your unborn charges, and feeling somewhat nauseated to boot!
And now, well, my personal experience is that breastfeeding leaves me ravenous! Every time the boys finish a feed I’m left feeling physically weak and starving, not to mention desperately dehydrated. I’m getting through gallons of water and buckets of squash, as well as milkshakes, smoothies and yoghurts enough to feed a small army… so it’s really unsurprising that my body is holding onto those extra pounds just now. But it is difficult enough for the body to produce enough milk to feed two, and I know that the more I eat, the fuller and heavier my breasts feel – reason enough for me.
As for my wardrobe… well, it’s limited to say the least. I’m not yet slim enough to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, most of which emphasised my relatively slim waist – no longer in evidence! And the near-constant breast-feeding means anything I do wear must have easy access. Not even specialist nursing tops always offer discrete access to both breasts at once – in fact I have had to accept that feeding the boys in public is not going to be an option, unless I feed them one at a time rather than simultaneously. For the most part I’m living in beach tops and dresses with either buttons or elasticated smocking, that I can just pull down when the boys start rooting. I bought two such beach tops to wear over leggings and under cardigans (see last Friday’s post): at £6 each from Matalan, they were hardly going to break the bank, but are somewhat more respectable than my nighty when people come to visit!
And yet, despite all that I have said here, I remain more comfortable in my skin than I have ever been before. I no longer worry about being seen in public with my hair scraped back and no make-up. I am oblivious to my tummy when out with the boys, far more concerned with their outfit choices – are they warm enough? Or too hot? Is their head covered? Is the sun in their eyes…?
I’m also excited about the prospect that my pre-pregnancy figure might never return. It seems to me that I find myself in something of a win-win situation. If I get my figure back, I will fit into the wardrobe I have spent 15 years cultivating and frankly love to wear. But if not, well, I get to start over, to discover what shapes and styles suit my new body, to shop for a whole new look. I might finally be able to wear some of the looks I used to covet, but found myself unable to pull off! I might still be able to wear my old clothes, but with a new emphasis, perhaps away from the waist and on the bust, for example. The possibilities are endless!
Which really sums up how things feel for me at present – ripe with opportunity. I have no idea how the next few months, years, decades might pan out. But having the boys has turned my life upside down and inside out. These last 3 months have been difficult and painful and challenging, and wonderful and exciting and awesome. In my wardrobe, as in my life, I can’t wait to see what the future will bring!
Tunic: Joe Browns; vest: Primark; blue cardi: New Look; red cardi: South @ Very (Clearance via ebay); leggings: Matalan; wellies: Wilkinsons