Sending a woman shopping 9 weeks after having a baby has got to be some sort of psychological torture. On one hand my friends and family are telling me how great I look. (I don't really care if they're just being polite, I'll take the compliment) I've even gone back playing football, so I know I'm doing OK, but accepting that my boobs are 4 sizer bigger than they normally are, my ribs and hips are wider, and I have a kangaroo pouch hanging out of my front is a little tricky to come to terms with. Especially when trying to find something that's dressy and elegant and looks good. I've even thrown budget out the window, and still coming up dud.
I've worked retail for the last 10 years, and have dressed more brides/ bridesmaids/ mothers/ grannies/ guests than I can even remember. And have always prided myself of how well they, not only looked but, felt in their outfits too. It's important to feel good in what you wear, because it is reflected in how you stand and even how you enjoy yourself. But I'm yet to find a sales assistant who's been at all helpful, let alone someone who's opinion I trust more than my own. I've had one ask me if I was 'expecting another one', as I navigated around the shop with Fionn in the buggy and Daithí in the carrier. Needless to say I said no and left promptly, never to return again. That was it, game over, my confidence was shot for the day.
It was that incident that got me thinking about how new mothers are made feel. Be it intentionally or not. It's like people don't realise that most women after having a baby don't just pop back into shape as if like magic. We're not celebrities who disappear for 6 weeks to a team of chefs and personal trainers to 'get their body back', like they lost it somewhere along the way, and were just a floating head after giving birth. Fair play to them, it's got to be tough, to constantly be scrutinized for how you look. But for most of us, struggling through a night time cluster feed or keeping on top of the day's laundry is all we have energy for. Never mind dieting and working out.
We're told we have to lose the flab, and tone up, and erase the stretch marks, like it's shameful to show any evidence of the incredible thing we've just done. This isn't about jealousy, or laziness, it's about the constant bombardment of messages that how we look is more important than how we live our lives, keep a home or mind our children. (There's plenty of judgement there too, but that's a rant for a different day). I want to eat healthy and exercise to be a better mother. So I have the energy and fitness to keep up with two boys and to set them a good example. But I also want to raise them with a realistic image of women. The images in magazines, and on TV and in films are unavoidable, but maybe if a positive body image started at home, we'll all grow to be a little happier with ourselves.
I've spent the best part of the last 3 years either pregnant or breastfeeding, so my body hasn't exactly been my own. I may not like how it looks, but I'm bloody proud of what it has done.
That's what I'll keep telling myself anyway. In the mean time I'm going to pack 4 dresses (and shoes, bags, fascinators and shawls) and see what I feel like on the day. It's a bloody good thing we're driving home.
I left Shane with the two boys while I tried on some clothes, this is what happened!