The step I took in pregnancy that stopped me hating my post-baby body

A miraculous thing happened to me after the birth of my son. Since the day he was born I have not hated my body once.
A miraculous thing happened to me after the birth of my son. Since the day he was born I have not hated my body once.  Photo: Stocksy

When I was 14 weeks pregnant I did a wardrobe clean out, probably the biggest one I've ever done.

(I still had clothes in there from when I was 17. Maybe I was vainly hoping that one day lace up jeans with a low waist and flares might come back? Or that I'd ever squeeze myself into them again? I don't know.)

There were two reasons for my clean out.

Firstly, I used the wardrobe in the baby's bedroom and had to clean it out to make room for the baby's clothes and paraphernalia.

The second reason was a bit more complex. Like most women (and many men) I have had an "interesting" relationship with my body and, by extension, clothes.

I can't count the number of times I've stood in front of a mirror grabbing handfuls of my flesh and hated my body. Like nine out of ten women, I've had times when I refused to go out because I felt crappy about how I looked. But my body and my life were going to change forever, and I wanted to be proactive about accepting that.

So, if it didn't fit me at 14 weeks pregnant, it went. It also went if I felt it wouldn't suit my new life (a tight, white, short, low cut dress I used to wear to bars and clubs comes to mind).

This was a pretty confronting and uncomfortable process. Not only was trying on clothes that no longer fit a reminder of my ever-growing physique, something women have been conditioned to fear our whole lives, but it I realised that it wasn't just my body that would be altered irrevocably.

The pile on my floor grew and grew. A mountain of the person I was and would have to let go of. I felt like I was in limbo: not quite the career-oriented, ambitious, determined (but a bit neurotic and perfectionist) woman I had been, but not whoever it was I was going to become. Would I like the new person? Would I like myself?

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One thing I did know was that I had to move forward. Not back. I didn't want to ever get my body "back", go "back" to work, or get "back" into my jeans (and I would probably never again go "back" to bed). I was not that person anymore. I would have a new body, a new way of working, and new jeans. I never wanted to stare at a wardrobe full of clothes I was too big for and feel bad about myself.

A week after I came home from the maternity ward, I gathered up the money I'd made when I sold a few of the more valuable items of clothing from that pile on the floor, and went to the shops. It felt like a gift from the old me to the new me. I had been kind to myself. And now I had a wardrobe to stare at where everything fit me and my new life.

A miraculous thing happened to me after the birth of my son. Since the day he was born I have not hated my body once. Not for a single second.

I'm certainly fatter and jigglier. I have stretch marks from my bra to well below my knickers (though, my knickers sit a bit higher these days), and from one side of my tummy to the other with no more than a couple of millimetres between them. I have loose skin on my tummy because of it. My boobs have dropped at least 10 centimetres and I certainly no longer pass the pencil test.

And I have no issue with my body at all.

Now, I do not think it's all down to buying some new clothes. But I do think that not having to stare at a wardrobe full of clothing I was too big for every morning in a sleep deprived state did wonders for my self-esteem.

I also think that having a baby clarified a lot of things for me about what is and is not important. Not only does my son not care whether I'm fat, thin, big, small, jiggly, toned, or covered in stretch marks, but these things are irrelevant to who I am as a person.

More importantly, I asked myself whether I wanted my son to grow up watching his mum agonise over her body, watching every morsel of food, never eating pasta with the family but just the salad, and going to the gym every day to sweat out the self-loathing?

And what would he learn from my actions if I did? Do I want him to watch his own weight intensely and be cruel to himself about it? Do I want him to grow up thinking how he looked and how much he weighed was important? Do I want him to grow up thinking that how a woman looks has anything to do with her worth or value? No. I do not want that.

Our children learn from what we do. If I want my children to learn that people are not valued based on their body, I have to show them that I don't value myself based on my body.

After all, there are far worse things than not having an "ideal" body. You could be cruel, or vacuous, or dull. And when you obsess over your body, you often are all those things! You're cruel to yourself, you're vacuous because you miss all the things that are more important than how you look, and you're dull because there's nothing more boring than hearing someone itemise how many calories they ate today or how many reps they did at the gym.

For our children, we need to stop being cruel, and vacuous, and dull. For our children, and for ourselves.