A powerful and thought-provoking piece from Lyndsay @hisveganmama is our second guest contribution to the Love Mum-Body series. Visit Lyndsay's fabulous blog and join Canada's first Make Date to have a go at loving your own and sharing it here. Her amazing photographic response is below.
Body image is one of those topics that can always be re-examined. There is always a new ad, a new line of clothing, a new 'role' model to discuss. There is always a person impacted by media, culture or peers questioning or doubting the body and beauty that they see before them.
This topic is relevant to women, men and children. But, society seems to place an exceptionally heavy weight on the bodies of women who have carried a child. As much of an issue our bodies are for mamas, we aren’t always talking about this. We aren’t admitting our frustrations, and we aren’t talking about our experiences.
I have been all over the map with my body - I have loved it. I have hated it. I have celebrated my body with tattos and piercings. I have tortured my body with diets and starvation. I have used exercise in dangerous ways, dropping below 100 pound in my mid-twenties.
Since having my son, beauty means different things to me. I now celebrate the stretch marks that have calmed to the colour of my flesh, and I am almost ok with the curves that I think will be here until Aodhan is done nursing.
During the hours of labour, where my body worked to bring my child into the world, I began to understand and relate to my body and its incredible beauty in ways that I never could have understood before Aodhan’s birth. Not to suggest that women who haven’t given birth can’t connect with this body power, but my own personal body journey was initiated with the experince of birth.
The other day, while sunning my stretch marks, I started thinking about our discourse around bodies and pregnancy. I remembered comments in the first week after Aodhan's birth, like: "wow, you don't even look like you had a kid" - that was a lie. I mean, seriously, I could have walked out of a pet store with some kitten contraband shoved into the bulge that protruded from my middle. They were saying this instead of saying
“hey! it's ok to be fat because you just birthed a kiddo.”
I mean, people weren't still commenting on my post-baby body when, still nursing at 15 months, I was still chubby around the face and my middle bits. They weren't commenting because it wasn't ok anymore for me to be 'fat'.
For our society, there was no excuse for me to still be carrying around that extra 10 pounds of flesh. It didn't matter that I just didn't have time for 2 hour gym sessions anymore. It didn't matter that I would rather spend the early hours snuggling my kid (or, you know, taking a shower), instead of hitting the pavement for a run. I wasn't skinny anymore. And no one was talking about it.
Our society makes room for the bigger bodies of women who are preparing for birth. Interesting though, with this acceptance of our growing size, we are expected to make room for the groping hands of the public who seem to get their 'fat jollies' by rubbing our massive fronts. This behaviour to reach out and touch the large bellies of pregnant women is almost status quo; those of us who tell you to 'back off and get your own belly' are considered 'hormonal' and 'touchy'.
This social acceptance of the pregnant belly, quickly shrinks, becoming judgement and criticism if we don't fit back into our skinny jeans a few months post-partum. Websites and books suggest that we can hop back into shape by the time our children are 6 months old, and there are countless websites marketing their diet plans to post-partum bodies.
For as much as I find myself loathing these unrealistic reactions to the post-partum body, I am more concerned about the bodies that don't have the baby.
What happens to the conversation that ended for me with "wow, you look great" for women who have experienced miscarriage, have had abortions, or have placed an infant up for adoption. Again, babies are excuses for those conversations and when those babies aren't available to massage these 'body' conversations, the talking just doesn't happen. For women who have experienced a different end to pregnancy, to the weight gain, to the ligament changes and skeletal transformation there isn't an entry point into publicly discussing their bodies.
I would argue that many of the women who have experienced abortion, adoption or miscarriage are even more in need of conversation and social inclusion and tools to love their mum-body, and yet we don't have the social mores that can make a space for these bodies and by extension, these women - these mothers. Isn't this lack of conversation an extension of the cloistering and physical shutting away of women whose bodies haven't behaved in a way that is considered socially acceptable?
I don't have any answers. I don't think our culture has any answers. But it needs to be thought about and talked about. It needs to be considered and we need to ask these questions.
All mothers , all women, and all bodies need to be honoured.
About Love Mum-Body
This month on story of mum, we’re sharing photos of how our bodies have changed since we became mums and grandmums. You can photograph your actual body, or you can shape your body in plasticine. We don’t mind how you share it, as long as you do your very best to love it. Whether or not you've birthed a baby.
More blog posts about our wonderful mum bodies:
My Body Is... Pippa Best
My Mom-Body in Poetry: Sonya Cisco