I’ve been talking a lot about body confidence over the last couple of months and whilst I can’t cover every topic, there is one last one I want to talk about: pregnancy.
You see, being a young woman in my mid-twenties, I had naively assumed that insecurities and self-criticism were things that you overcame with age. It had never occurred to me that the process of bringing a baby into the world (which is supposed to be the most incredible experience of your life, right?) could bring back those insecurities that you spend so long getting over. However, a few of my friends have had babies recently and each one of them has opened up how much they struggled to adjust and deal with all of the physical changes that happened during those nine months and their ensuing effect.
That’s why I decided that all of the mums and mums-to-be out there needed to hear from GLOSSYBOX’s very own Lois (you’ll recognise her from our Facebook Lives). As a new mother to baby Seb, and someone who wrestled with an eating disorder for many years, she knows the struggle of dealing with body image during pregnancy and postpartum better than most.
Pregnancy Meet Body Image, Your Worst Nightmare
From the age of about 15, Lois suffered with anorexia. Whilst she now openly talks about her struggles and will be the first to tell you that she can manage it 99% of the time, she did have genuine concerns about how her eating disorder might be triggered by pregnancy (anyone who’s had an eating disorder will know that you never fully recover – the fear, the insecurities, they all have a way of creeping back in).
Everything from putting on weight to getting increasing amounts of cellulite were all daunting and horrifying to her. Five weeks after having brought her little ‘bud’ into the world, though, Lois has never looked happier or healthier. As I caught up with her for this interview, it struck to me just how much she’d grown into herself, and believe me, everything she had to say about body confidence is worth hearing…
Q: Let’s Just Dive Right In: What’s It Like Going Through Pregnancy Having Struggled With An Eating Disorder?
A: I won’t lie, I had always worried about how my eating disorder would affect my pregnancy. I didn’t want to find myself counting calories again or harming my own body which was trying so hard to keep another’s safe. The thing is though (and this did surprise me in the best possible way) when you’re pregnant, your priority is that baby. I didn’t even have to question it.
I was eating healthily and in reasonable portions so that my son would be healthy too. When my bump grew, I wasn’t worrying about whether or not I got stretch marks, I was just thrilled to know that he was getting bigger and stronger.
Q: So, You Didn’t Struggle With Any Of It?
A: I wouldn’t go that far. Cellulite was probably one of the hardest things to deal with, particularly at the start of my pregnancy. I had legs like cottage cheese and I really did start to feel unattractive because of it. It got easier however, and though I was an S-shape by the end of my third trimester (with a too large bum and huge bump), I can’t criticise my body for the way it looked. It gave me my Seb.
Having a baby reminds you that your body is an incredible thing, and when I look down at my little boy, I’m always thinking: how can I hate my body when it has brought me so much joy?
Q: What Advice Would You Give To Mums Out There Who Are Struggling With The Way Their Changing Bodies Look?
A: My advice would be dress the way you want to feel. People might think that spending a lot of time in sweatpants is the dream, but honestly, I hated it by the end. Yes, there were days when I just wanted to be comfortable, but there were a lot instances where I wanted to wear something that felt normal.
I’m a huge fan of jeans, but let me tell you that ‘mom jeans’ are definitely not made for mums. Instead, I found myself wearing a lot more dresses because they were far more comfortable and looked really flattering. It’s also worth pointing out that a lot of maternity clothes are practical but lack style. However, I did find that the ASOS maternity range was really good. They sell normal, fashionable clothes that are just adapted to a baby bump.
Q: Now That You’ve Been Through Your Pregnancy, Do You Feel Pressured To Lose All Of Your Pregnancy Weight Straight Away?
A: There’s definitely a social pressure to look the same pre and post-pregnancy. I’ve seen so many tabloids share workouts about how to lose your pregnancy weight in just a few weeks and then fill the page with pictures of celebrities flaunting their ‘bikini bodies’ 12 weeks after giving birth.
Most of this societal pressure, though, comes from a lack of education. No one tells you that it takes a full year to get over a pregnancy and that your body needs time to heal. No one tells you that you don’t need to be doing exercises for your stomach to come down. No one tells you that your pre-pregnancy body will naturally come back after about 4 months.
Instead, we soak up these negative, body shaming ideas that we have to work really hard to immediately look like those 9 months never happened. I won’t be doing that. My body is slowly becoming its old self again, and I’m just giving it the time it needs, whilst focusing on making sure my little buddy is happy.
Q: What Do You Think Women Can Do To Change This Situation?
A: I think women need to be more open and honest with each other about what pregnancy, childbirth and post-natal life is like. I found that friends and family were a great source of help after Seb was born, but a lot of women were reticent to talk about it while I was actually pregnant with him.
Take childbirth, for example. It was only after I’d been through it that women who had previously said to me ‘it’s not that bad’, ‘don’t worry, the stories have been exaggerated’, ‘I got by on gas and air’ were suddenly saying ‘oh I know, it hurts so much’, ‘I thought I wasn’t going to make it through’.
I wish someone had just said, ‘yes, it’s terrifying, yes it will hurt like nothing else, yes you will feel like you’ve lost all control over your body – but that’s okay and that’s normal’, I would have found it far less traumatic. The same is true of body image. If someone had told me that my body would go back to the way it was, I wouldn’t have had so much anxiety beforehand.
Q: So What Message Would You Like To Give To The Other Mums Out There?
A: Your body is doing the most incredible thing, so look after it. If you’re concerned about stretch marks, use a body butter (I used one and now only have one tiny stretch mark on my hip). If you’re worried about putting on weight or gaining more cellulite, don’t be. Your body is naturally stocking that up so that you have energy for childbirth. After you bring your little one into the world, any natural pregnancy weight will all go away on its own. Oh, and don’t be a hero. When you go into labour, take the drugs.
In 2020, I want to openly talk about issues that face every woman every day. So far, we’ve discussed all things menstruation and body confidence. Next month, we’ll be talking about mental health. Stay tuned!