One of the thing that you are completely unprepared for when it comes to having a baby is the body that you get left with at the end of it. All I had ever thought about was what it would be like to gradually get bigger during pregnancy.
We care a lot about how we look. I think that I, along with thousands of other women across the country, struggle with Reflectionitis. This is a genuine affliction. If you don’t believe me then look it up for yourself. (Actually no, don’t do that.) But for all intents and purposes it could be a real thing.
Reflectionitis essentially refers to the condition where a person looks at themselves in a mirror and hates what they see. Other symptoms can include self-deprication, being overly self-critical and an assumption that when someone pays a compliment they are either lying or blind. I’m sure many of you will be able to associate with this.
Our society and our world constantly bombard us with the image of the perfect body. It is tanned, hairless, flat in all the ‘right’ places and curved in all the ‘right’ places and can most often be found on the cover of a magazine. In fact I don’t think there is anything more than a handful of bodies that naturally fit that description in the entire world, if any. Plunging the the rest of us into a permanent state of Reflectionitis.
So, having set the scene, we now come to a body that has produced another human being. Growing a baby is a really big deal, and when I began to produce a solar-eclipsing bump some of my lovely close friends asked me if I was feeling ok about my changing shape. I was delighted to be able to reply honestly that I really was ok. I loved my growing bump because of the life that was inside it.
But fast-forward almost 1 year and I will admit that I don’t love my changed body so much. Reflectionitis has reared it’s ever so perfectly made up head again. In place of the pride I felt at my huge bump, I now feel self-conscious about the new droopy and wobbly bits that have appeared. I had never known before, nor ever had cause to think, that growing a person and then transferring that person into the outside world would change my body in so many ways. It feels noticeable in how many of my clothes sit differently on me now that I have larger boobs, wider hips, a bigger waist.
I was lamenting my feelings of roundness to my husband recntly and he reminded me that my body is different now because it grew a person. I feel like you should read that last sentence again because it’s really important. My body was built with the capacity to grow another human being (with a little bit of help of course). I have spent the last few days trying to focus on that.
So when I look in the mirror and I start to feel the symptoms of Reflectionitis creeping back in, I try to deliberately look at the squishy bits, and the stretch marks and all the bits that are different now and I tell myself that these are souvenirs, trophies and awards. I bet my daughter thinks my body is great- it made her, grew her, sustained her, nurtured her and it continues to do so. Without my squidgy bits she wouldn’t be here.
So I propose a challenge, as much to myself as anyone else, to stop holding up an airbrushed model as our ideal body. It isn’t realistic, it isn’t natural and it actually seeks to erase all the beautiful and mysterious reminders of how amazing a mother’s body is in producing new life. I invite you to join me, whether you’ve had a baby recently or not. Let’s try to look in the mirror and smile.