Occasionally, the need to say something vaguely controversial takes hold of me, and I simply cannot rest until I have shouted that ‘No I don’t bloody well like champagne, I can’t stand Holiday by Madonna and I’ve never watched Back to the Future!’
It’s all relative, obviously.
So here we go. In many ways, I like my post-babies body better than I liked my pre-baby body. Yes, even with the teabag boob-thing. (This phenomenon was brilliantly summed-up by my new favourite blogger, Steph at Sisterhood (and all that), which you should all definitely read.) That’s not the general line women are supposed to take. We’re supposed to resent them, these flabbier bodies that have betrayed us. We’re supposed to loathe them so much that we diet our way back into our skinny jeans and flick through the before and after shots of surgical procedures aimed at ‘reclaiming your pre-birth body’.
I’m not saying that I look amazing or anything, although I do actually quite like having less in the boob area than before. I was never entirely happy with my pre-childbearing years slightly Jordan-esque chest. The fact that I could now, if I wanted, wear a polo neck, or a halterneck dress, or that I can buy pretty underwear rather than the firm scaffolding type is liberating. My body has changed and grown, and is not the same, but I don’t resent it at all.
Ultimately, the way that I feel about my post-baby body is not about aesthetics at all. It’s about me relaxing, and letting go of a long-held belief that somehow, I should aspire to the bodies of those girls who were in FHM & Maxim and all over everywhere when I was 16. That accidental aspiration has gone the way of the ones I had when I was younger about being able to do the splits, or a no-handed cartwheel, or finding Narnia.
Even though I never wanted to be those girls, and while I could see that there were more interesting things to aspire to than titillating 16 year old boys in a gingham bikini, I must have just absorbed those images and subconsciously held them up as a thin-yet-perky ideal. Luckily, images of Kelly Brook and various Hollyoaks girls no longer haunt my brain, and the relief is astonishing.
It’s like I had never really appreciated how much pressure there is to have this ‘perfect’ body until I had gone beyond the point of feeling that it might be expected of me. Having shrugged off the pressure, I found myself suddenly much more at ease with what I have now, which clearly, is not exactly supermodel standard, but I can honestly say now that I’m OK with that. It just no longer seems to be so important to have a perfectly flat stomach, or a hip bone with only the smallest amount of flesh around it, in fact, I can’t really remember why it seemed so important at the time. There’s more to life than adorable abs and an enviable cleavage, and it is sad to think that it took me having kids to discover the truth of that.
This is a funny and true story though: during an extremely long and insanely painful labour with Polly, a midwife said to me in a disparaging tone ‘you’ve not really got child-bearing hips there,’ and I (off my face on gas and air) considered it the best back-handed compliment of all time. It was clearly meant as a comment on my inability to get a move on with having the damn baby – the labour ward was busy at the time and my little hips were keeping other mothers-to-be waiting, but I was delighted that she had basically called me skinny. In labour. The general ridiculousness of this state of affairs has amused and disgusted me a bit ever since.)
So whenever people sigh, and say that all this fuss about how the media portrays women is not that important in the scheme of things, that magazines in themselves don’t cause eating disorders, or that of course fashion models need to be that thin to show off the clothes; that it doesn’t really make much difference whether Barbie is thin and blonde and busty or not, I think well. I think it does matter, actually, and all of those tiny things added together make this overwhelming sense of a certain body type that even young women determined not to be influenced by all of that just absorb. Just by living, and looking, and reading, and seeing, we are all being told that that is what is expected. That really, this tiny waist and perfectly pert boobs are what you should be aiming for.
Like pretty much everyone else I know with small children, the soundtrack to our summer has been massively influenced by the film Frozen. And every time I hear my girls shouting along to the words of Let it Go – I am proud. I hope that they feel whenever they yell ‘that perfect girl is gone’ that the way ahead is not perfection, but acceptance.