Mumbod worries - both inside and out.
I'm so in love with the Huffington Post #mumbod campaign. I love that women (far braver than me) are stripping off to show wobbly tummies, caesarean scars in the shape of the Nike swoosh, stretch marks that show how a body has grown to accommodate a tiny little human being. And any talk that reassures a mum she isn’t alone in feeling uncomfortable or unconfident in a new, slightly fleshier body, is good by me.
My mumbod issues were the usual - stretch marks, a mourning for my skinny jeans, low confidence and a panic about what I could fit into on my first night out down the pub. But my mumbod issues weren’t just the visible muffin-top, or the generous boobs, or the bags under my eyes. I had a birth injury that eroded my confidence, affected my relationship, and stopped me bonding with my tiny, squished up baby.
My birth was relatively straight forward. 18 hours from start to finish, incorporating a hot bath, a Michael McIntyre DVD, and an incredibly uncomfortable taxi ride in the middle of the night. How I envied the Shoreditch hipsters we drove past, coming back from the pub, as I held on to the black cab’s yellow bars (remarkably useful for labour) and wondered how quickly I could get my hands on some excellent pharma. How I hated the nurse who insisted I had ages to go and wouldn’t admit me to the ward for an hour, until it became apparent that I was about to deliver a baby on the grey tiles. No smug, “I told you so”, was possible because the next thing I knew I was in a bed having my baby.
I had what was described as an “interesting” tear. Groups of med students came to look at me, but I was too busy crying with pain, relief, hormones and love to care very much. I was stitched up by a kind and gentle doctor and was home in time for Eastenders.
Everything feels different after you birth a baby. Your boobs swell, your tummy sinks, and in my case, my most intimate area was incredibly sore. I couldn’t sit down without a rubber ring, and moving at night to collect my mewling baby for a breastfeed was agony. My midwives assured me that everything would get back to normal, but I knew, I just knew, that it wasn’t right. And after the multiple examinations from my midwives, I wasn’t keen on showing my damaged lady-garden to anyone else. But after a dismal and painful attempt at a shag (egged on my NCT group who’d all ticked that box off), it became apparent that something was wrong. What had opened up enough to birth a baby, was now pretty much sealed shut.
So off I went to the doctor, who gave me my eleventy billionth examination, and confirmed that a drawbridge had been drawn up. She was sympathetic as I wailed on her shoulder, my breastmilk leaking onto her shirt. But she couldn’t help with the lack of intimacy in my relationship, the fear and pain I suffered with the internal examinations, and the dread of returning to hospital for a repair job.
If I tell you that I went on to have a second son, you’ll know that there is a happy ending. I saw a charming gynae surgeon who repaired me (not a highlight of my life, having my feet in stirrups, eleven people in the operating theatre, bright lights and Jazz FM in the background). And I fought very hard indeed for a caesarean section second time around, and was bitterly angry at the (male) consultant who told me my second labour would be much easier than the first. Easy to say if you’ve never had an “interesting” vagina, and repeated examinations of your battered and broken lady-garden (I got my own way, and had a wonderful c-section experience). I wish he had known that mumbod issues can be as internal as they are external, and just as hard to come to terms with.
This article first appeared on the Huffington Post. You can read more about the campaign by following the hashtag #mymumbod
And finally, head over to my Instagram to win a subscription to Storytime magazine for your little monsters.