Tiger Stripe Pride…

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Katie Price has been in the news recently, that in itself is nothing new, but at the moment the story is about her posting pictures of a super toned and slim body just under three weeks after having an emergency c-section.

Now having had almost an identical birth – booked in for a csection and then one week before that planned operation, an emergency csection took place, and both our little girls were born early. The biggest difference is that three weeks later, I did not look like I’d just left the gym. Perhaps a marshmallow factory, but definitely not the gym! Now I could defend my wobbly bits by using the excuse that I then had a second operation after the csection but even the idea of doing that brings me to my main point…

WE HAD BABIES!!!

I no longer read magazines like Heat. But thousands of women do and they’re surrounded by pictures of a) celebrities with red rings of shame round wobbly bits/’are they pregnant’ rumours or b) showing off their proud post baby bodies or revealing their secrets on how they lost 12 stone in 12 minutes (clearly an exaggeration but you get my meaning..!). So the message is clear, keep small or it’s something to be embarrassed about, that’s the message being pushed onto girls and women everywhere. And it’s the same for men. Heats ‘hunk of the week’ never has anyone who hasn’t obviously been on an extremely strict exercise regime and diet. Men’s magazines shame the un-toned just as much as women’s.

My opinions of the medias representation of weight is opening a huge can of worms so let me simply concentrate on the specifics. After giving birth, your body is completely changed, you need to heal, your baby becomes infinitely more important than a few areas that aren’t quite gladiator arena ready. In the case of a csection, you’re not allowed to exercise for the first three months and there’s an even stricter 4-6 week period where you’re really quite physically restricted.

But please don’t mistake me being on a ‘these bloody skinny bitches’ tirade. Katie Price looks ridiculously fabulous for a mother of five and has been careful to make it clear that since the birth she’s done that through eating and drinking really well combined with very lucky genes. That’s really great for her, she’s a healthy Mum. But that’s the key, ‘healthy.’ Where are the articles with the headlines, “find out how this celebrity Mum feels great and has a happy healthy baby” without feeling the need for a picture in their bikini, without clothes size being the biggest aim? It’s equally unhealthy to be so against the skinny issue and push body confidence without mentioning that the opposite is equally unhealthy. The latest #fatkini fad where larger women post pictures of themselves in bikinis started with a great message. How do you get a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. But obesity is also a huge health risk, especially for a expectant or new Mum.

The fact is, a ‘size’ issue has been grossly mistaken for what should be a ‘health’ issue. The curvy Hollywood starlets were replaced sometime in the 60’s by stick thin models and we’ve been talking about size ever since. And it hugely varies. Some women are a natural and healthy size 6, some women are a natural and healthy size 20. Not to mention the gulf of variety in between and either side. Luckily the trend is changing, the opinions I’m voicing aren’t considered groundbreaking. More and more people have them, the media are just slightly slow in catching on, magazines haven’t quite got there yet. But the problem is young girls and boys (and older men and women who have had the wrong messages thrust upon them for years) still read these magasines. There will be new mothers seeing pictures of celebrities, (some healthy, some not so much) talking about how to get their post baby body back in mere weeks and feeling the pressure to do whatever they can to match the results.

Weight is variable, when I was younger, I was tiny, really tiny and still weighed in quite heavily. At my heaviest in pregnancy, I weighed 15st 9lbs. At 5’4″, that sounds really heavy, but I was healthy. Eight weeks post baby and I’ve lost three stone, which still puts me at very heavy for my height. But I’m a solid, healthy size 14. It’s taken me years to be ok with it, but as an adult, 14 is my natural size, with an occasional 12 when I’m playing more netball and the occasional 16 usually round Christmas time! Those are my numbers. But my body shape changes much more than the numbers. I’ve been unhealthy small and unhealthy large; in my early twenties I went through a stage of exercising loads and barely eating and gained a rather unhealthy ‘lollipop head’ type figure and then in my mid twenties I went through a stage of mainly eating pasties, cream teas and not really moving much and my already large head gained quite a bit extra. At both ends of the extremes I often felt dizzy, got a lot of headaches, didn’t have any energy and just didn’t look healthy.

When I found out I was pregnant, it was suddenly much more important to look after myself. For me it put all the numbers into perspective, as my body grew, I knew I was eating well for my growing baby and I cared less and less about my weight and my size. At the same time I had a lot of nausea, and some days it was just a case of getting in what I could, but as far as was possible, I made sure I had plenty of vegetables and energy rich foods. And now she’s born and gets her nutrition and immune system from me through breast milk, it’s monumentally important to make sure I’m eating well and drinking enough to make sure I can get through the day with enough to give to her. It breaks my heart to read stories about women starting ridiculous diets just days after having baby because of the pressure to look good (especially when ‘looking good’ is equated with ‘being thin’.) even if they’re not breastfeeding, new Mums need as much energy as possible to be the best Mum they can be. Not to mention passing on a positive body image and healthy lifestyle to your children.

Whilst on holiday with family in Brighton this Summer, baby Scarlett and I spent most days at least popping down to the beach, and with the beautiful weather, for me, it could have gone two ways. 1) We have a fabulous time on the beach, splashing about in the sea, giving Scarlett her very first dip (only the very tips of her toes of course, she was only 5/6 weeks old after all!) laughing together and enjoying family time, or 2) keeping away from the water to avoid my clothes getting wet, being too hot and irritable whilst everyone else larked about happily. For me it’s all or nothing, on the beach I don’t really enjoy myself if I’m not able to get involved and that means being in a swimming costume. And as we were down there nearly every day and my costume needed to be washed, it also meant being in a bikini…a bikini, five weeks after giving birth, having not started a fad diet, I know, I know, to some I’m barbaric! I have several lumps and bumps, I have shiny bright red tiger stripes…and I was having an absolute blast with my family and little girl!

Fun at the beach!

Fun at the beach!

It definitely helps NOT reading those sorts of magazines, the magazines with the red circles of shame alongside the diet pages. And I’m lucky to have a partner who found me attractive during all stages of pregnancy and afterwards, a man who found the natural state of pregnancy a positive thing and that does makes a huge difference. As much as I can sit here and write about how important it is to have self belief, as someone who has in the past allowed other people to dictate her confidence levels and thoughts of my looks, I know how difficult that can be in reality. But it is true and we can all start by ignoring the red ring of shame, embracing our red tiger stripes of child rearing and embracing ourselves for our individual quirks, marks and the map of life our bodies show.

So I applaud Katie Price for eating and drinking well and having the confidence to show off her body, I’m sharing my holiday pictures for the same reason, to embrace my figure, the body that brought my beautiful baby girl into the world. A body that tells various stories of my life, every curve, every scar! It’s a very different image to Katie’s, but that’s ok, it would be a very boring world if we all looked the same. But the news shouldn’t be about numbers, it shouldn’t be about how many pounds, ounces and inches have been lost. We’re both healthy, we’re both proud Mums and we can both hold our heads up high and be body confident. If you’ve had a baby recently or are about to, look into that mirror and see how beautiful you are. Those stretch marks show how strong your body is to accommodate your baby, those curves show your womanhood, and you need that expansion while pregnant to keep your baby safe. If you’re feeling ill, tired, under the weather or under strain, it may be that you need to look at your diet and lifestyle to feel and be a bit healthier. But once you’re healthy, your body is your own temple and if you’re into sports and/or working out and want to tone your body to be a finely carved sculpture, good for you. If you want to emphasise your curves and embrace a cosier frame, that’s great. But no-one has the right to put a ring of shame around you but you, and even you shouldn’t!

Katie Price has been in the news recently, she looks great, healthy Mum is something to be celebrated, healthy Mums should make the news…the wait for weight to be old news should be over!

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