“I can’t wait to get my body back!”
This is the most common statement you will hear of late coming from the lungs of this, your 36-weeks-pregnant correspondent.
I’m ready. I’m sick of myself. I’m counting down. And four weeks is a lifetime!
Pregnancy is a beautiful, miraculous thing but there comes a point when supporting a watermelon-esque belly cantilevered at your midway point (can someone confirm that I still have legs – I haven’t seen them in so long!) gets plain old. And did I mention the swollen ankles, indigestion, fatigue, stretch marks, weight gain and the looming promise of who-knows-how-many-hours of grueling labour? (Pity my husband – he listens to these laments often enough!)
And so, with more than a sprinkling of self-pity and self-loathing, I say, “I can’t wait to get my body back!”
There’s something wrong with this way of thinking though – mostly because it reveals a mind conditioned by the media’s warped representation of women and their bodies. The glossy magazines present pictures of pregnant celebrities and supermodels with basketball bellies and stick figure limbs. After, they are praised for their flat bellies and miraculously swift return to pre-pregnancy weight, accompanied by airbrushed and augmented photos of the new mother triumphantly cradling her new charge.
The miracle of motherhood takes a sideline in favour of a Top Ten Tips to Lose Your Baby Belly column.
J.K. Rowling had something to say about this warped focus when she asked, “Is fat really the worst thing a human being can be? Is fat worse than vindictive, jealous, shallow, vain, boring, evil or cruel? Not to me.”
Cripes! Where’s my perspective?!
The woman described in Proverbs 31 came to mind, snippets fluorescing in my memory: “strength and dignity are her clothing… she opens her mouth with wisdom… the teaching of kindness is on her tongue…” Any reference to losing baby weight is strangely absent.
I visited the Babymum cottage a few weeks back, and it was wonderful. Babymum is an organisation that provides invaluable support to first-time mums under the age of 21, including accommodation, resources, advice, care and education. The sense of community amongst the mums, their bubs and the volunteers is incredible, heartwarming stuff.
I talked to one young mum who was sleeping rough, under one of Launceston’s bridges, before she fell pregnant. I looked at her with her bubbly personality, her glowing face and the confident way she interacted with her two-year-old daughter, and could barely believe it.
Did motherhood do this to her?
But, heaven forbid, that would mean motherhood is empowering and somehow good for your health, wellbeing and body image!
The women behind Beauty Redefined, an organisation “working to help people recognise and reject harmful messages about beauty and health,” would reply with an emphatic “yes!”
“Our PhD research reveals that motherhood works as a resilient trait that boosts positive body image and motivates women to be positive role models of healthy body image for their kids,” they write.
“The mothering body can be a resistive site by reclaiming it as a site of women’s own life, pain, and joy. Your body can house and feed a baby. Your body bears the signs of that miracle. Your body is REAL. You can use your body to resist the Photoshopped lies about what mums should be and look like.”
I am mother – hear me roar!
Mother’s Day is on Sunday and if you hear me – or any other expectant mother – utter the “I can’t wait to get my body back” lie, gently remind them that there is no more glorious use of a woman’s body than to bring forth a new little life.
First published in The Examiner Newspaper for Keeping the Faith column on Monday May 5, 2014.