It has been just over two years since I posted my blog, My Real Postpartum Body. Two years and it is still going viral. Two years of mums reading this, major media outlets sharing it and being asked for interviews. Two years of getting messages time after time saying how relieved mums are to not feel alone with this. To me this just shows how much the changes that happen to us after having a baby affect us. How much pressure we have to look a certain way after having a baby.
A few weeks ago, during one of the last days of our ‘real’ summer…you know when it was hot enough to get in the water, we took the boys to a family day at the beach. I had just finished writing my book and we were all looking forward to some quality time at our local beach.
My husband took a small video of all of us – one for the memory books – he loves doing this. That evening he showed me the video and some of the photos he also took and asked me if he could share this (on social media). My first thought when I saw this video was “but do I look ok?”….. “Are you sure I do not look fat?” Now whether I am or not is secondary here – and that is very subjective….what is actually the measuring stick to this? But it does not matter because this was my first thought.
Why is how our bodies look always the default that we go to?
I say ‘we’ because it is what I go to and I know from the MILLIONS of people that have read my blog and are still reading it that this is also what so many of us go to.
But we are just so much more than how we look.
At this period of time I had completed my doctoral thesis, published a cook book AND just written another book all while working and running the parenting marathon day in and day out – where is the measure of this in a photo?
Where is the strength that is required to do this? Forget the work for a second – where is the strength, the physical strength you need to cope with the fatigue and repetitive tasks that come with raising children?
And what about our minds? A photo of how we look does not capture our beautiful strong minds – the mental and emotional strength and resilience that we develop to stumble our way through this parenting journey.
To find a way to sooth our babies at 2am all on our own, to find the patience to teach our children how to dress themselves, to guide them to deal with their own emotions all the while making incredible sacrifices ourselves.
Where is all of this captured in an image of us in our togs?
As a society we are just so focused on the superficial and this has become engrained in us potentially since we were born. Interestingly, enough when my blog first came out, I mentioned Kate Middleton as she received a lot of media following the birth of her children. Just recently her sister Pippa got married and similarly there was global press about this. Now I personally did not see one comment, one media article that talked about who she really is. I read and saw thousands that all spoke about how she looked, her body size, including her biceps for crying out loud and how much she spent on her wedding as if it is somehow our business. We have no idea at all about the person Pippa is – to me this is where the problem lies.
I do not know what the answer is to change this. What I do know is that I still struggle. It is still often my first thought but I just keep trying to catch this thought. I am more confident in myself than I ever have been my whole life – yet I am more tired and less fit than I was before children. But this confidence has come from what I have done – which is why just quietly I am such an advocate for education for woman as it gives you an inner power that no one (or no photo) can take away. This confidence also comes from putting good food into my body and not feeling guilty if I do reach for chocolate on a bad day. It comes from doing activity – not out of self-hatred – but out of knowing that it makes me happy. Even if it is ‘just’ a walk with the pram.
Maybe that first thought will always be there.
Maybe we will always worry about how we look.
But we can help each other to not feel alone with this and catch that inner dialogue better.
We can keep doing little things each day that nourish us and help our bodies and minds stay strong.
We can keep reminding ourselves just who we are – which is just what this community is all about here and what I hope to help with. This was why I wrote that blog in the first place, to help one mum feel less alone and provide encouragement to feel ok about looking after ourselves during what is a time of big change in our lives. This is what I will keep striving to do for as long as I can and hopefully, one day, these social norms will change.
Xxx Dr Julie Bhosale
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