Ah pregnant with my first baby. There I was glowing – shiny hair, great skin, the shape of regular me but with a lovely firm bump which I dressed in pretty bodycon fitted tops and dresses and skinny jeans. Delighted with myself so I was.
Before got pregnant I would have been a small size 12. I’m a tall lass so I’d cut a slim figure in that size but I had to work at it. Even though I ate rings around my pregnant self, I ate really healthily, conscious of my daily nutritional aims – 7 a day, heaps of calcium, plenty of iron. My mind rarely turned to my post pregnancy body – sure why would it? – and when it did, it was with the comfort of two things: the naive and false belief that my body will just “bounce back” after my first because it’s the subsequent pregnancies that are harder (ha!); and I planned to breastfeed and breastfeeding mothers get their figures back super quick.
Sold. A. Pup.
In the early days of breastfeeding my son, along with a thirst like the Sahara, I had the appetite of a bear waking from a particularly cold long winter. I couldn’t think sometimes I was so hungry. Obviously the last thing on my mind at that stage was “getting my figure back”, I was only interested in keeping everyone alive! But as the weeks turned to months, the hunger stayed. I cut down on the ridiculous instant treats that had become a temporary staple in those initial days, like those M&S fruit trifle pots that my mother kept replenishing in our fridge, God bless her. But I had a genuine physical need to eat more food. Look, it had to be the breastfeeding, it couldn’t be anything else. As I watched my fellow new mums shrink back into their own clothes, I started to feel, well a bit crap actually. I was embarrassed by my clothes. I felt I was too long in my maternity jeans. I felt shabby in my tshirts and tops because everything felt flabby and loose. I even missed my bump because it had been nice and firm compared to this pouch I felt left with. The hardest day was when when I started a post natal Pilates class where a floor to ceiling mirror confirmed to me that the old tracky bottoms and tshirt I’d thrown on were only accentuating a body that I didn’t recognise and didn’t want. I felt cheated. Obviously, the miracle of breastfeeding induced weight loss was not to be for me.
Another factor that added to the crap feeling was something I’m a bit embarrassed to admit to. As a self-confident, card carrying feminist I’ve never been strongly influenced by the media frenzy over celebrities, fashion obsession, the body beautiful etc. Even as a devoted reader of Sugar magazine as a little teen, I was more interested in picking up bright multicoloured nail varnish and the newest tshirt from cutting edge fashion house Miss Selfridge than aspiring be like the skinny, teeny models on the pages. Now I am quite partial to the odd bit of celeb gossip and the flick of a fashion magazine but only as a distraction, although E! News did feature quite heavily on my television rotation when I was glued to the couch feeding the baby. But I was tired and vulnerable and Victoria Beckham had a baby the same week as me and she was just everywhere. I have to admit, Victoria Beckham made me feel like a failure. It’s ridiculous! I knew she had a make up artist, a hairdresser, a wardrobe of beautiful haute couture clothes, a chef, a personal trainer and I’m hoping a drawer full of high end shapewear. But for the first time in my life I felt like a newspaper headline, in fact, exactly like this one. It wasn’t nice.
I wanted to feel good about myself again. I couldn’t cut down on my food intake because I did genuinely need it. I upped by Pilates attendance to twice a week and I started walking the baby through his afternoon nap most days. Things started to tighten up and the weight began to come off. In fairness, I had a good motivation: I have one work wardrobe that I can’t afford to replace anytime soon so I’m getting into those clothes or I’m going to work naked. I still have a bit of a winter coat that I’m aiming to lose but I’ll get there. I just never thought it would be this hard.