When I was almost nine months pregnant, a friend of a friend made the comment ” 9 months?? you look great!”. After giving birth the odd compliment was thrown my way as to how quickly my body had bounced back.
I am not telling you this in a bid to show off how wonderful I looked. Having been in the dance industry for several years it is practically impossible for me to feel positive about my body, but that’s another story. I am however highlighting people’s obsession with judging women’s bodies during and after pregnancy.
Since the Demi Moore photo, pregnancy has been projected from the abject to the fetishistic. Within the media celebrities are seen ‘blooming’ in tight fitting dresses, perfect hair and beaming smiles.
After pregnancy the same celebrities are snapping back to their pre-mummy bodies as beautiful as ever.
But what effect does this maternal representation have on the average woman and how do we deal with this effect?
I can only speak from my own experience.
I was not comfortable with my body during pregnancy, I was constantly trying to hide my bump. Having always been told to lose weight as a dancer, the act of surrendering my body to it’s new form did not come easy. I felt nauseous constantly and in the first and second trimester struggled extensively with depression.
My reality was far from the beautiful earthy experience that I was, according to maternal discourse, apparently a part. I certainly did not project a glowing picture of health in the way that celebrities such as Beyonce did.
I was short changed.
To be honest I was a little angry that no one had given me warning, because surely I was not the only one???
After pregnancy my weight went back to normal within a couple of weeks. This was because I had exercised so much throughout the 9 months in a bid to keep control of my shape that I gained nothing apart from Parker and a little fluid. However my stomach muscles were not as tight and I had the new addition of a C-section scar.
Yet, my lifestyle had changed and I wasn’t working as much as before leading to much grazing! I was determined to get in great shape after giving birth but in the first two and a half years I gained about 9 pounds (which for a dancer was a lot) and in the past 6 months due to an ectopic pregnancy and a miscarriage I have gained another 5 pounds through comfort eating.
I tell you my experience briefly as the important issue here is how we view our bodies after such experiences.
The media has created a culture where we analyse women’s bodies both within and out-with the media.
We look at Beyonce in awe of how beautiful she looks pre and post birth. We look at our friends, family and ourselves and judge with those same spectacles. But whether you are complimenting or criticising I suggest that we shouldn’t judge either way.
A woman’s body should not be an object to be analysed regardless of whether you view it in a positive or negative way. We should not be taking a woman’s physique as measure of her maternal experience.
So how do we deal with this judgement? Not just from others but from ourselves. Again, I will talk from my own experience.
I have come to view my shape as fluid, an ever-changing body which reflects each stage of my life. A body that tells a story, that can be read, that holds reason.
My body is now 12 stone 5Ibs, size 14 as a result of my life experience. It is a strong, fit body. It is a curvy body and podgy in places. But these are simply aesthetics.
My story is of woman with a strong fit body that gave birth to a beautiful boy, adapted her lifestyle to care for her child. I managed to get through an ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, both of which happened within 4 months of each other and I am now on the other side. My body was my vessel and it’s current form is how it needed to be to take me through these experiences in one piece.
My body may change, it may not, but whichever form it may take over the coming years it will be part of my story.
So I ask you when judging your own and even other people’s bodies (we all do it, we have been conditioned that way) what is your story?
Whether you are big, small or in between. Whether you are happy with your shape or not, your body is a reflection of your life experiences and not something to be judged but something to be accepted.