Originally published: 21.07.15
Last week I saw a picture of a musician mother’s tummy from South Carolina on my Facebook feed. Tired of being told that she has the perfect body, she wrote,
“Everyone always compliments me on how I have such a ‘perfect’ body after 4 kids. I decided to upload this pic and leave my belly ‘unedited’ and ‘unphotoshopped’ because I used to struggle with accepting my body after kids.”
Even though my initial reaction was, “I would never tire of someone telling me what a fab body I have,” the picture made a huge impact on me. I thought about my own assessment of my body because yes, I too have struggled to accept it.
I mean, who hasn’t?
In 2012, I was in the BEST shape of my life. This is not to say I am dangeroulsy unhealthy as of right now, but back then, I fit the media’s idea of what sexy and gorgeous was supposed to look like. At 125 lbs and 5’7”, I loved the way I looked- my abs, my biceps and my tall skinny legs. Mind you, I’ve never actually had a six pack but I loved everything about myself and was proud to flaunt it. Standing tall in a size 4, I had no insecurities and was proud to admit I was one of the few women who loved their body and was comfortable in her “skin”.
In July, I got pregnant. As my bump began to grow, I noticed, with a slight paranoia, how size 4 was quickly becoming a thing of the past. I began to shop at maternity stores. The normal pants were the first to go. That tiny bump soon meant nothing in my wardrobe fit me. Shopping ensued. Throughout my pregnancy, I exercised like a maniac, ate healthy and was extremely careful not to pack on any additional pounds. I did not like the idea of dealing with that nuisance later- that was not for me.
A day before my daughter was born, I weighed myself. I was exactly 22 lbs over my pre-pregnancy weight and well pleased with how everything had gone. But things soon started to go south after her birth. In the ensuing madness, I did not get time to exercise and ate whatever I could find. End result: I packed on some more weight. The scales tipped and I soon went up two pant sizes.
Right about now some people might be laughing at me. She is complaining about being a size 6?
Yes, I am.
But let me make it clear that I am not complaining because of this number; I am angry at the pressures we as women put on ourselves to look attractive, fit and sexy after popping a child out of our privates!
Ever since that day, no matter what I do, the weight will not leave. I went back to my old exercise routine and participated in every diet you can possibly think of. I joined a kickboxing school but only ended up busting my knee. Absolutely nothing works and the weight will not leave. The saggy belly does not tighten, the arms do not subside – the damn weight is stubborn!
One day, I noticed some cellulite on my left thigh and freaked out. I mean, I literally freaked out. I packed away all my shorts and resigned myself to a lifetime of pants and at the very least, knee height dresses. I gave excuses that I needed to dress my age and like a mother. The days of shorts were long gone. I never said it out loud, but I started to extremely dislike the way I looked. My hair looked dirty so I chopped it all off, my face appeared old and tired, I felt that my body was haggard. I started to become one of those women who hated herself and was too overwhelmed to even look at herself in the mirror.
Then I saw the picture of the musician mummy tummy. I read the comments that ensued, the incredible support that she received and the way in which all mothers responded. I started to think that all of us – mothers, I mean – look this way despite of what others cannot see. Our skins sag, we get stretch marks, our six packs are gone and the flab never leaves. Our children leave their mark on our bodies and regardless of what men say and society believes, our body will never be the same.
I realized that despite what I do and how much I exercise, there is a certain change in my body and it will not go back to its pre-pregnancy shape. I realized that there will always be a difference between me and women who have never given birth and that this is not a difference I should be ashamed of. If anything, this is the mark my daughter has left on me and I should be proud of it. I don’t necessarily have to flaunt it, but I do not have to recoil in horror when I see it.
Today I was on the step machine, watching Murray play at the Wimbledon. In the audience were William and Kate and I noticed one stark difference. While Kate looked exactly like she did when she first married him, William was bald, looked old and had a much fuller face. This led me to question – did Kate pop two babies or was it her husband? Why are we as a society so obsessed with women’s appearances and how quickly they shed the baby weight after giving birth? And if we are, why do we not extend the same courtesy to men? Why is it fair that Kate has to look stunning and William can look old, bald and bigger?
In honor of all these realizations, I pulled out my shorts from the dusty drawer, bought some short jumper suits from LOFT and decided to look at myself with new eyes. I decided to love myself more, be more accepting and stay aware of everything that my body has gone through to give birth to a beautiful girl who I love more than any one else in this world.
Yes, this saggy skin is a reminder of my daughter and while there might be days while I relapse and criticize my body, on the whole I am thankful that it carried my child and is now carrying me through this beautiful life with my family. I will continue to exercise and stay healthy but that does not mean I need to look like Kate or Gisele.
I am me and I deserve to love myself, regardless of how my mind thinks I look.
This article first appeared on skirtcollective.com
Liberating Realisations I am womanist. I’m a writer passionate about women’s right and equality. My aim is to bring change in the way women and men are treated around the world and specially in India. I’m fighting for respect and to be treated as an equal. My blog, Liberating Realizations, on Tumblr talks about /documents the inequality – violence, abuse, rape, torture – that women face everyday all around the world, and, particularly in India. I was a victim of violence for many years and for the first time in my life am finding my “voice”. I want to use this voice to talk about equality and promulgate the belief that women are equal to men and deserve to be treated better. I occasionally write about other things as well – anything that might grab my fancy – but in the end I am a champion for women/girl rights. My Twitter handle is @rupandemehta.