We lol-ed, we sympathetically nodded, we stood aghast and we screamed at injustices. This is what happens when you get 14 mums, and mums-to-be, together on a cold February night in Edinburgh to talk about post partum (post birth) bodies.
Here are some of my fave quotes from the night including some of the best nuggets of advice for anyone thinking of having a baby in the future.
Special thanks go to Fiona Young from Young Scot who came along to talk to us about the project Young Scot are about to launch to help new young parents with what they may experience as they become mums and dads, and Stella Hervey Birrell who performed one of her beautiful poems which celebrates her post baby body.
I’m honoured to have been around these women, to encourage the telling of these tales. To have felt their warmth and wisdom, to share concerns and to have been blessed with this knowledge as I may well require it some day in the future, hopefully.
ON GETTING/ BEING PREGNANT
“I’ve been told since I was a teenager that the worst thing which you could EVER do, was get pregnant, so even though we were trying for a baby, when the test said ‘yes’ all the blood drained out of my body. I instantly thought: People are gonna think I’m an idiot for falling pregnant!”
“Growing hair inside your belly (on your baby's head) is so weird.”
“I grew a penis!”
“Pregnancy gave me strong nails and thick and luscious hair”
“I hated being pregnant. I thought I'd be glowing but I had really bad skin and gums during pregnancy and I started snoring”
"I lost my identity, I felt like I was a vessel for something else and I struggled to connect with what I was growing”
“My partner thinks my pregnant body is so sexy and attractive”
“We really struggled to get pregnant. It was a really difficult time.”
“People are offensive when you are pregnant and have multiple children. I’ve had: “Oh you like a good poke in the fire” “Do you own a TV?” “You'll be raking in the benefits." and because I was pregnant with twins everyone presumes it’s ok to ask me if they were natural.”
“I absolutely love being pregnant”
“My friend is a multiple surrogate because it stops her arthritis being painful!”
Emotional Birth by Ivelisse Photography
“Don’t let the trainee stitch you up after you have given birth!”
“I wish I took a picture of my vagina before to show the person who stitched me up”
"Did you hear the husband stitch is not a myth?"
“Watch LOADS of birth videos”
“I loved that I was able to claim my body back after I gave birth. I could close the door and make my body private again”
“We only hear negatives about childbirth, we need to hear positives too. My labour was great!”
“I’m imagining it’s going to be like running a marathon”
“I was so pre-occupied during pregnancy with what I should wear when I went into hospital to give birth because of the woman who wore a bikini on ‘One Born Every Minute’ and in the end I couldn’t give less of a shit what I was wearing”
“I really wish I had booked a birth photographer. I really regret not having one.”
“I think I’m still in shock from the trauma.”
“It’s good to make a labour music playlist!"
“When I gave birth I felt like a goddess even though I felt terribly vulnerable”
“EVERYTHING is swollen”
"Women are creating life, creating the next generation. We should be worshipped!"
Image by Janko Ferlic via Unsplash
“When I breastfed I used to stare at people, silently daring them to come over and tell me to cover up. Come on, I dare ya.”
“Breastfeeding is such an instinctual 'mother' thing and it just didn't work for me. You can't help but feel you have failed somehow."
“I hated it. I didn’t feel like my breasts were mine. I went to bottle as soon as possible.”
“I loved it, did it for ages”
“I was so paranoid of people telling me I was doing it wrong”
“I felt like I was being milked like a cow”
“I felt more empowered when breastfeeding than I did when I was pregnant”
ON POST BABY BODIES
Amazing image by @th3littlestavenger
“On follow up visits let them, actually no, make them, look at your stitches. No matter what.”
“Having a 2nd baby actually sorted the stitches I had from having the first baby!”
“Don’t read magazine’s. Seriously, it’s just some guy sitting there typing up shit about women’s bodies, especially post-birth ones, and 99% of images are airbrushed!”
“We need to see normal images of mum bodies! MUMS LOOK LIKE THIS!”
“Shout out to Kate Middleton for wearing a white floral dress when she left the hospital with one of her kids: white!! And the papers were saying she still looked pregnant! For goodness sake!”
“I thought my body would ‘bounce back’ because I’m really fit. It didn’t and that was a bit of a shock.”
“Bounce back? You made a human, your body is forever changed and so it should be.”
“I feel like my vagina isn’t just mine anymore.”
“My hair went wispy, it's coming through thicker now.”
On IVF: “I paid for those stretchmarks??”
“People ask: “You have had 4 kids? Where is your tummy?”
I say: “It's tucked into my pants and my daughter told me this morning that my belly looks like Grandma’s face.”
“Sometimes I look at my kids and then see my body in the mirror and think: Wow, I built a whole human, I’m a superhero”
ON MENTAL HEALTH
Image by Caleb Woods via Unsplash
“I had such a feeling of dread: What am I going to do now?”
“My mental health was actually much better when I was pregnant”
“I never felt love like it”
“I felt detached from my baby.”
“If you have access to help for Post Natal Depression, or even information, it is a privilege. If you don't know where to look, or you aren't in a supportive community, or you don't have access to education then you are at a real deficit. ”
“I was so in love with the end product”
“I had a complete identity crisis. What have I done!”
“Sleep deprivation is a form of mental torture. Everything is amplified. You have to really look after yourself.”
“Trust your instincts”
SHARING YOUR EXPERIENCE IS A GIFT
In a previous blog post I explained why our brains focus on negatives... So if you read this blog and think that squeezing a watermelon out of your va-jay-jay is a bad idea then maybe... look again...
These women had babies. Some even went back to have more and more babies! They make their experiences into funny tales to re-tell and yes, perhaps there are a few fond memories of those pre-baby bodies, but not one of them said they wish they hadn't bothered. Not one.
HERE'S TAE US...
So to all of those out there who want kids, who don't want kids, have had kids, who haven't, are struggling to or have given up. I send love to you and to your bodies. Life is a rollercoaster. Wherever you are on your journey be compassionate with your mind and your body. Share your woes with those around you. No matter what is going on inside and out, your bodies and your minds are powerful.
HERE'S TO ALL THE MIGHTY WOMEN IN THE WORLD!
To learn more about The Chachi Power Project and how I’m uncovering the mysteries about how we can love our bodies more, check out The Chachi Power Project website, follow me on Instagram: @chachipowerproject or Facebook: @chachipowerproject or Twitter: @chachi_power