Autumn is now upon us, and part of me is very glad. As we make the switch from tropical to Tundra I can legitimately hide my mum-gunt back under a series of extremely baggy sweaters. Over the past six months I have been suffering with a bout of body loathing. Well loathing is quite a strong word. It’s more like the way you might feel about a pair of saggy old jeans. They are comfy, they get the job done, but you wouldn’t wear them on a night out where you saw actual PEOPLE. My shape completely changed after having Bella. Specifically the saggy, recently vacated basement flat that is my belly, the flaccid spaniels ears that are my desiccated boobs, and my now ACTUAL child bearing hips. And let’s dwell on the bosom area for one moment. Before I got pregnant my general maxim was “if it’s a handful it’s a waste”. At school I was a late developer, in fact I wore a VEST til I was fifteen, only succumbing to a bra due to heavy locker room disdain. And then it was basically pouring two fried eggs into a lacy crop top from Tammy Girl. But when I was pregnant and then breastfeeding I suddenly developed enormous veiny barrage balloons for boobs. The muffin bra became a thing, as they bulged uncontrollably out of the side of my normal A Cup. Then I stopped breastfeeding and BOOM. All gone. And not only that, they are smaller than before. HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE? There was nothing there anyway.
But for the first year post partum, I didn’t really mind how much my body had altered. Partly that’s because I was still in awe of its ability to grow a whole human inside it and then push her out. And when you are the proud owner of a newborn no one expects you to look all abs and sinew, like a hungry Madonna. They are just impressed that you are a) upright, and b) not openly weeping. Also, adjusting to life with said tiny creature took up all my attention for the first year. I didn’t have any energy to care about what I looked like. If I made it out of my milk-encrusted sweatpants and brushed my hair then that was a GOOD DAY. But 20 months later my body has changed irrevocably and I have just realised that it’s never going to SNAP back to what it once was. It seems to be carrying a permanent muscle memory of being pregnant, like a fat ghost. And I am struggling a bit with that.
So I am now party to a somewhat unforgiving internal monologue. Things I now believe people are thinking when I walk past:
Is she pregnant again? (That’s a new one, thanks.)
What’s that coming over the hill, is it a monster, is it a monster?
Why are those girls (my mates) out with their mum (me)?
Wow, it looks like Lindsey ATE Lindsey (don’t tell me you haven’t thought this about Christina Aguilera on a number of occasions).
She’s big boned, or (worse) statuesque.
I do recognise that I am not obese, and my BMI is in a healthy range. I think it’s more the change than the absolute that’s sending me into a spiral of self-doubt. I feel like a Russian doll version of myself. The old me is in there somewhere, desperate to get out but not desperate enough to stop stuffing croissants in her mouth like some kind of rabid pastry hamster. And this is worse in summer. In the depths of the British winter, as I push the pram round the tundra that is Tooting Common, the baggy sweat shirt can hide a multitude of gunt-based sins. I can wrestle my stomach into a pair of skinny jeans and vacuum pack it down. I could be ANY size under there. But SUMMER, season of tanned nubile flesh, floaty dresses, tiny shorts and (shudder) CROP TOPS, brings me out in chills (ironically). I now hate fabric too ephemeral to hold my mum-pouch in check. The one sartorial saving grace this summer has been the ascendance of the BUFFET DRESS. This is the fashion equivalent of a marquee and comes in a variety of patterns and lengths, but all reassuringly tent-like.
So until I a) put down the pastries, b) get some masochistic PT to get me to do more exercise by shaming me with their rock hard abs, or c) accept my changed body for what it is, I will instead do d) wear every buffet dress going and fake it before I make it.