This week I had the chance to take part in a new parenting panel on Erica Davis‘ morning show on Hope 103.2. It was very kind of Erica to invite me and I had a ball. I couldn’t help feeling though, how much my life has changed in just four months! I felt ridiculously nervous appearing as a guest on the show that I used to host. I also felt incredibly out of place in a professional work environment, (not unwelcome, just out of place) where people are all busily carrying out their business. The pace of life at home and school is just so much more relaxed and casual. It was also the first time I’d ever been so physically far away from Molly and the 40 minutes of freeway between us felt like a void as wide as the Simpson Desert.
This week on the panel we talked about the publicity that surrounds celebrities getting their “body back” after a baby. Is there too much pressure on Mums to get their body back into shape? In once sense I find this question a little laughable, as if we were all perfectly sculptured gym junkies before we had kids. I don’t know about you but I had wobbly bits before kids, and I have wobbly bits after kids, at least now I have more of an excuse! Personally I don’t compare myself to celebrities. They’re paid to look good – it’s their job and they have a team of personal trainers, nutritionists and nanny’s to help them. (I certainly don’t envy her job. If I wanted to be gawked at while standing around in my underwear I’d visit my dermatologist.) So if Miranda Kerr looks hot after a baby, good on her. She was hot before and it has no relevance to my life. If women feel pressure to look like her, before or after bub, then surely it’s a pressure they’re putting on themselves.
If anything, the time immediately after giving birth is the time you could head out in your pyjamas and people would tell you you’re fabulous, they’re just so impressed that you’ve managed to leave the house. If you bother to run a tiny bit of lippy over your mouth before you head out they’ll say you’re amazing. I remember clearly when Molly was six weeks old walking to the local shops in the late afternoon. I passed a Mum of twins cutting through the park and she looked a little despondent so I stopped for a chat. I remember exactly what I was wearing. My hair was in plaits that had been done at the crack of dawn and were now falling out in a mess. I had a green cap on, an old stained white singlet that was thinner than a supermodel, an orange skirt that was falling off my hips, and red Birkenstocks. A medley of clashing colours, no make-up, no jewelry, probably hadn’t washed my hair or shaved my armpits for several days. This lady I’ve never met before asked me how old the baby was and when I replied that she was six weeks, she gushed, “Wow, you’re looking fabulous!” It was all I could do not to burst out laughing. I looked like an unwashed hippy who had escaped a commune for the day.
Having said all that I did struggle with my body when I was pregnant. By the final 8 weeks I really did feel like a whale. I shamefully confess that I turned down a number of invitations to events, lunches and catch-ups in those final weeks because I felt too conspicuously unattractive, un-coordinated, inelegant and unsociable. The last thing you want to do is knock over somebody’s expensive glass of wine with your mega-pregga belly as you try to squeeze past the white tablecloths without inadvertently collecting one on the way. I also didn’t want to meet new people at a time when I felt so awkward and exhausted and wasn’t capable of giving them my full attention and energy.
While it’s nice to get a bit of positive, albeit unrealistic, feedback about bouncing back after bub, it seems a little unfortunate that we’re more likely to be told we’re looking good and less likely to be told we’re doing a good job. The other day I arrived late to school pick-up after racing across to Chatswood to pick up my niece from pre-school. I had phoned my neighbour and asked her to wait with Birdy until I got there. A full ten minutes late, I garbled my frantic apology. ”I’m so sorry I’m late, I just totally underestimated how long it would take, thanks so much for waiting, I’m so, so sorry.” My friend stopped me, “Katrina, it’s fine. Can I just say that I think you’re coping really well? It’s a lot to take on with a new baby.” Wow, what an encouragement it was to hear those words for the first time in three months. (It may not be the first time somebody’s said that, but it was the first time I’d heard it.) And it was just what I needed to hear. So while it’s lovely to have somebody say we’re looking great after a baby, let’s also encourage each other with how we’re doing. That’s the feedback new Mums really need to hear. Because while our bodies may change after a baby, what changes so much more is the heart. Our own selfish ambitions and desires gradually fade into the background while our better selves, the one that just wants the best for our baby, fights its way to the fore. That’s taken a little longer for me second time round, not because I’m more selfish, but because I had more to give up. So on those days when I’m feeling tired, haggard, grumpy and restless it means a lot to hear that I’m doing OK, even if I look like crap.
Are you concerned about regaining your body after a baby? Have you struggled to lose weight, exercise or to find time to take care of yourself? How have you changed since having a baby? What has encouraged you in your parenting role?