Sunday, 12 June 2016

Perfectly "Imperfect"; After-Baby Bodies

Nothing could have prepared me for how my body would change when I had children. Yes I was warned how my shape would change dramatically after pregnancy, but was I prepared at how dramatic that would be? No.

I spent most of my life being uncomfortable with my body, and my post-partum body was no different.
There was brand new jiggles, wrinkles, blemishes and lumps, and I started to wonder why I had taken my pre-baby body for granted.

Fast forward to being a mum of 5, and my body is a lot different to how it was after my first child. But what's changed most is my attitude to my body-I have realised it isn't about the skin that houses my body, but what goes on inside, and that is truly magical. I've realised that my body is the way it is because of some of the amazing things it has done.

It's no secret that the whole process of conception, pregnancy, birth and beyond absolutely fascinates me; how a woman's body is finely designed to make and grow these beautiful little miracles (and don't get me started on my love of belly buttons!). My children and I have had many a conversation about why my body looks the way it does after growing them, and they're almost as fascinated about it all as I am. 
It's also no secret that I don't like to comply to the common standards that society holds for appearance. As the saying goes: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". To me, everyone is perfect. I've always had an attraction to "imperfections" as they're what makes us unique. 
Whether they're jiggly and lumpy, or lean and smooth. Bodies are bodies, and the changes during pregnancy, the degree of change, the size, shape- everything about your body and soul that changed with each pregnancy, it should make you proud. Because you are already a 100% perfect version of yourself, and your body has done some pretty clever things.

Anyway, the point of this post; I wanted to post something to try make mothers see their bodies the way I see them. I hate to think of other women feeling the sheer horror I felt the first time I caught a glimpse of my naked body after my first child was born- although I'm sure at some point most people who have been through pregnancy do feel disgusted by their own bodies. Times have changed dramatically since then and now I wear my mum-bod proud. Proud of the children I have to show for it. I'm not the whole way there but I'm well on my way to loving the skin I'm in, and I want others to feel the same way. 

So here I have a collection of women after pregnancy. They have all carried babies, some not for quite as long as others. They have all birthed a baby, their bodies have all changed. They are all at different places on their journey to come to terms with the way their bodies look post-baby. And they are all beautiful.

I asked these mums to think about what it was they love about their bodies now, and why they love it. Some of the replies made me cry; these mothers are truly amazing!

Meekah, 3 pregnancies

"My stomach has changed ALOT after having three babies, I was never really 'skinny' but it never really worried me. After having three babies and losing a fair bit of weight, I'm left with so many stretch marks and a lot of loose skin. It does get me down sometimes which I know is normal, but it also makes me proud. Proud of my body, it housed my three boys, kept them safe & healthy. It's hard learning to love something you hate, it takes time but I just keep thinking of all the positive things and I'm proud of my stomach, all the skin & every single stretch mark because I'm lucky to have what I have.💛"

Aleisha, five pregnancies

"I love my new stomach, my kids say it's squishy like playdoh and as snuggly as a pillow. I have too many stretchmarks to count but I'm thankful that I was able to carry my babies for long enough to cause them. They are now my little battle scars 🙂 "

Anonymous, 4 pregnancies

"I'm proud to say I've carried 4 beautiful children, and come out the other end looking like I do! Iv been extremely lucky!! (this is my good angle) all us mothers know the saggy pouch we get when lied on our sides, 😂 even I have a love hate relationship with myself sometimes, but I do love my body and its is so worth it for our kids."

Lauren, 3 pregnancies

"My tummy grew my children, held them & kept them safe inside of me until it was my turn to take over. And because of that I will never hate what I see. And I am in no rush to change the way I look as every day I see my scars and wobbly bits and I am reminded just how lucky I am to have had the privilege to grow 2 amazing little versions of myself."

Zoe, 4 pregnancies

"Since having babies my body has changed a lot, my stomach isn't flat, I have stretch marks and my hips are wider but I love all these things, i don't mourn the body I once had this is just a different phase. I love that my body fed my third child and I stay body confident for my three kids so that they grow up with healthy attitudes towards body image.'

Nikki, four pregnancies

"I have never had bikini body but since having kids my baby has changed a lot and everything has  gotten BIGGER, my belly, my boobs and my bum. What I love most is that I now have a stomach, back and bum that is covered in sliver lines and I wear tiger strips with pride because they helped bring my children into the world and they are something I will carry with me forever, sort of like a natural tattoo that my babies helped create. I also love the bigger boobs too even if they are pointing more south after breastfeeding 4 kids."

Sophie, 1 pregnancy
"At first I didn't like my stretch marks, I felt like my body was ugly and would never be the same again. But as my bump grew big and I could feel my little girl inside kicking and wriggling I became proud of them! In fact I hope my body never does look how it used to because it shows that my tummy was my baby girls home for 9 months! I couldn't be prouder of my body and the amazing things it went through during those 9 months and after! ❤️"

Emily, two pregnancies

"My twin baby tummy reminds me every day that my baby boys had each other not only when I was growing them, but for the rest of their lives, and to me that makes my body beautiful"

Sydney, 6 pregnancies

"My body is not the same as it used to be, but i love it more now because i have realised how amazing it really is, having grown, birthed and nourished five little people!"

Zoe, 5 pregnancies

"So this is my belly in its full glory, 8 weeks post partum on baby number 3.  Yes I have stretch marks and imperfections but I don't care. This belly housed my three beautiful boys and if I could I would let it house 3 more!
It isn't perfect it won't be in any magazines but I love every inch of  it because ultimately it brought joy, happiness, laughter, fun and lots of love into my life.  In fact not just my life and my husbands but a lot of people's lives and that is amazing and something I would never change!❤"

Anonymous, four pregnancies

"I look at my body and 80% of the time, I'm unhappy with it.

At times I've even dreamt of chopping the fat away and hoped for the 'stereotypical' or 'conventional' body: size 10, C/D cup size, long hair, flawless skin.....Instead, I've looked at myself in the mirror and seen a size 18/20, H cup with split ends and spots! 

Then I think about what my body has given me! Two beautiful babies and a husband who adores me. A husband who tells me everyday he loves me and my body. A husband who stresses how much he fancies me. A husband who would sacrifice his life for me and my children. 

I realise then that despite the stretch marks, sagging and fat I hate so much is ME! Even if I only see this 20% of the time, it makes me appreciate my body and how wonderful it really is! 

"This body has carried both my beautiful children....I may not like how it looks but for what it has given me, I will be forever in awe". '

Tamara, three pregnancies
"Strangely enough I love my little (yes just one) stretch mark. This came with my second pregnancy and almost competely faded afterwards, I was gutted as it was proof of my angel babas residence in there. After third pregnancy it is back and I couldn't be happier 😀. I've never been a person who's particularly happy with the appearance of my body but since my children I have little bits to focus on such as my scar, stretch mark and saggy bits to remind me it's not important, my body brought my wonderful children into the world so it's actually pretty amazing 😀 "
Taylor, two pregnancies

"For a long time I struggled with my postnatal body
It's a love hate relationship currently 
But without the stretchmarks, c-section pouch and my three monsters who gave me them - I wouldn't be me
I am proud of my post pregnancy body because it reminds me daily how lucky I am to have my children and their unconditional love
I am doing this to show other mums that we are all beautiful and don't all look like celeb mums do in the media and that is just fine with me"

Kerrie, two pregnancies

"I love my stretch marks on my post baby body, as this is a reminder of the amazing thing my body has done. I've grown two beautiful healthy little boys."

Lottie, four pregnancies

"Pregnancy was a massive shock to me both times. Slowly though thanks to Amazon and the NHS I became informed on every aspect of pregnancy,labour and beyond.

The only thing I was in the dark about was my post natal body. I was bombarded by all these picture perfect mums skilfully photo shopped and there I was swollen,sore and tearful with this little baby yelling at me at 2am. 

The day I finally fell in love with my body was the day my children were squishing my post natal belly. They were so amazed that they had been inside of it for 9 whole months. "Look mama we left cracks you grew us so big" my youngest said to me. They saw nothing but the truly amazing and awesome body that grew them and nourished them for 9 months. That's the day I really saw how incredible my body was."

We only get one body, (and a clever one at that) your after-baby body is something to be proud of, not to be ashamed of, and no two post-baby bodies are the same! I hope this post helps mums everywhere- the ones reading, or the ones that were amazing enough to take part- to embrace their body, and learn how to turn societies negatives into body positives. 

I'd also like to say a massive thank you to all the wonderful ladies that helped me out with this project, I hope thinking about why you love your body has made you feel that extra little bit positive. You are all so beautiful. 

Love, Lucy x

Go check out one of my amazing mummys blog here: Keep Strong And Moving Forward

Friday, 10 June 2016

Stopping Breastfeeding?

So far I have spent 42 months of my life breastfeeding. I've thrown the towel in at 4 weeks and I've had a baby self wean just before their second birthday.
I have my own reasons for breastfeeding and I just want to clarify I have nothing against bottle feeding-it just isn't for me. I'm too lazy to get up in the middle of the night to make bottles, I don't have the mental capacity to listen to a baby scream while I prepare a bottle, nor am I organised enough to prepare bottles in advance.
Of course the other stuff comes into it-nutrition, bonding, lowering risks of whatever. Just as an all rounder, for many reasons, breastfeeding is what I do. It just is.

Now as most mums that have breastfed for any length of time will tell you, it is not easy. Having a baby suck the very being out of you through your nipple is no mean feat. Avoiding eye contact with your baby, or dodging out of the way so he doesn't see you out of the corner of his eye, because as soon as he recognised you; it's time. Even if he only fed 5 minutes ago. And he makes the most delightful "feeding grunt" that just makes your ears ring. Sounds lovely doesn't it?

Having a very mobile baby smack, scratch, climb, turn and fuss the whole time he is latched on-presumably very similar to trying to hold a wet fish still-makes my skin crawl, and inside (and sometimes outside) I often break down.
It's not the first time I've experienced nursing aversion. With my fourth child I dreaded feeding him and spent so many nights crying to my husband that I was stopping and I was stopping right now. He was supportive then, and is still supportive now, and he has always reminded me that it won't be like this forever, and to never quit on a bad day.
I now have a baby who will not take a dummy, or a bottle, barely eats any solids, and I can't wear any top that the neckline comes lower than my collar bones without him trying to help himself, whenever and wherever-he's not shy.

So this brings me to today, this week, this month in fact. And I am not enjoying breastfeeding any more. I've spent hours staring into space whilst feeding, my skin crawling, holding this baby that wants me so much and feeling guilty that I don't want him to touch me.
So why am I doing it you ask?
Because of the reasons above. When the dust settles, he's finished and I've calmed down, I often remember that I am all this little boy has ever known. I am his food, his drink, his comfort, his love, his sleep, his pacifier. The sound of my heart, the smell of my body and the touch of my skin is his home. He needs me, and I know I need him too. 
While I sooth my cracked nipples and swear to my husband I'm stopping feeding and I can't do it any more, really I know I'm doing it for my baby. And I will continue as long as he needs me.
This feeling is a small price to pay for my little boy, and when the day comes when he doesn't want to feed any more-and that day will come round fast-I will miss the time we have together. The thought of never breastfeeding him again fills me with more dread than when he starts making *that* noise. 

It won't be forever. 

Lucy x

Thursday, 2 June 2016

My Pregnancy And Birth Story: Part G

This has been amazing to write, to sit and remember all the fine details of my pregnancy and the day I gave birth to my eldest child, Grace. 
Becoming a mum molded me as a person, and was truly the best thing that ever happened to me. I was just 16 when I fell pregnant. I was fresh out of school, I had dreadlocks in my hair, every piercing you could imagine and had an fiesty streak to match my appearance.
I lived with a group of friends (I use that term very loosely) in a house that we managed to avoid ever paying for. Life seemed good. It wasn't, but it seemed it.

We would drink every night so peeing through the night wasn't out of the ordinary, nor was feeling a bit queezy the next morning, so by the time it occurred to me that i'd missed not one, but two periods, I was already about 9 weeks pregnant. Although I was in no way prepared for the news I was about to get, as soon as I saw them two lines, I knew it would all be ok-something took over me to make sure I would sort out everything for this little bean and I was confident from that moment that I'd be the best mum I could be. 

The pregnancy was a pretty smooth pregnancy, I had a little bit of sickness and fatigue (but nothing that ice pops couldn't fix!) but other than that I really enjoyed growing a new life inside me. 
The pregnancy was long, I went 11 days past my due date at the height of summer- I'd been naive thinking I would be one of the few who's baby would be here before their due date, the heat was making me so uncomfortable and I was just so excited to find out whether our baby was a boy or a girl!

I had chosen a natural birth, and although I really couldn't have anticipated just what labour would feel like, so was in panic mode at the time, on reflection my birth really did go to plan.
I had a stretch and sweep at 9am Monday morning, and woke up Tuesday morning to my waters leaking. I went straight up to the hospital, where contractions were starting but weren't too strong and were quite irregular. By the time we had finished at the hospital it was about 3pm so we walked and walked, got something to eat and made our way home.
We arrived home about 6pm and by that time the contractions had really picked up, coming every 5 minutes, but not so strong that I felt we needed to go yet, so I got in bed and put 'friends' on. I remember so clearly it was the episode where Rachel goes into labour, one that I'd already seen twice already during my pregnancy. My mum phoned to see how I was getting on and I grumbled a bit (a lot) saying "if Rachel has this baby again before I have mine I swear I'll have a breakdown" (ok there was definitely a few swear words in there as well) but straight away, all of a sudden I had an almighty contraction and heard my mum urge me to go to the hospital, and quick.

It was about 10pm that we phoned the hospital, gathered the bags and waited for a taxi, but whilst waiting my contractions started coming every 2 minutes and were REALLY intense. I paced the room waiting for the taxi to arrive, convinced the baby wasn't going to be long.
I was checked at the hospital at about 10.30am and was 4cm dilated, so the midwives filled up the birth pool just as my mum arrived.
Things progressed really quite quickly, and I wasn't checked again before I started to get the urge to push-which didn't take long.
I got in the pool but I was so uncomfortable in the heat and with the contractions that I got in and out a few times, and found my most comfortable spot was right by the fan, on the bed, knelt up against my pillow, letting gravity do its work. 
All of a sudden at 12.50am I got the urge to push; my body was doing it by itself. I told my midwife I was pushing, so she pressed the buzzer and ran out to get a delivery trolley, but before the door could even swing shut, one mighty push and my sweet baby was born into the world.

I was in such a daze I brought her up to my chest, still knelt up and just kissed her over and over saying "hello beautiful"... It didn't even occur to me to check whether she was a girl or a boy straight away-I was just so happy my baby was here, and it truly was love at first sight.
We had skin to skin straight away, and my sweet baby went from laying on my chest, to nudging her way towards my breast and latching herself on perfectly. I remember laughing with the midwife saying it was a good job we had chosen to breastfeed, as my baby girl surely knew what she wanted!

To me, giving birth is the most amazing thing I've ever done. The female body is such a clever thing, to grow, nourish, and deliver a sweet human being is the most magical thing, and I'm so blessed I've been able to do it five times, I can honestly say I enjoy giving birth, feeling every wave of pressure that's bringing your baby earth side, the overwhelming emotional process, and the new chapter starting all in a moment where love is at an all time high. Although labour was nothing how I expected it to be the first time around- and I definitely panicked a few times along the way, looking back, I did get the natural unmediated birth I wanted, and even if I hadn't, what can be more special than bringing new life into the world? For me, nothing. 

L x