In that moment, lying frozen from the spinal epidural, with a huge dressing over my tummy where he had entered the world, with a warm, soft little miracle nuzzling my breast looking for milk, milk that my body had made especially for him, I was so very proud of everything my body had achieved. I had endured the gruelling IVF process, been lucky enough to get pregnant first time, survived a rather hellish pregnancy with big bleeds, horrendous sickness (especially at 4am on a night shift), battled through pre-eclampsia, experienced the harsh contractions of induced labour and then calmly and confidently walked in to that operating theatre knowing my abdomen was about to undergo major surgery to ensure the safe arrival of my precious cargo. I had done all that and in that moment after his birth, I felt like a warrior.
It's so sad then that now, three months down the line, I am struggling so much to accept my postpartum body. Now my tummy has a droop to it that once housed my beloved boy, my skin is splattered with pink stretch marks that tell of a bump, grown with so much love and care, my csection wound is purple, a little uneven and still so raw, my breasts are swollen with milk and have gone up at least two cup sizes. And then there's my hair, and my skin, both now lacking that beautiful pregnancy glow I loved so much. Instead they both appear a bit dull, and a little greasy, probably from the severe sleep deprivation only a baby can bring, coupled with a huge change in hormones that only a birth can. I look at myself and I feel lost. Will I ever get back to feeling like me? Will I ever look in the mirror and see beauty in myself once more?
Bank holiday Monday is just another day in this household, with our jobs life just goes on as normal. So as Sarah left for work as usual and I sat feeding our hungry, gorgeous, chubby little boy, who likes his milk hourly from 5am, I reflected on myself, the sadness, the longing to find beauty in myself, and decided I need to try and make sense of me. The stretch marks will fade with time, I can lose weight when I'm ready (and once the breastfeeding hunger subsides!), my scar will lessen and heal, but I will never be the person I was before I had him.
Mentally, emotionally and spiritually I have fully embraced that he has changed me. I am not the person I was before I became his mother, I am calmer, gentler, I have more patience and so much more love. I dream of things differently now; places I want to go, the things I want to achieve, are all about him, us, our family. He has made our relationship stronger, happier and more complete than it already was, which I never thought possible, and he has made me a better version of myself.
So I decided, in that moment, that that needs to extend to my physical being too. I need to be gentler, calmer and more patient with myself. That tummy right there, that is covered in deep pink marks? That's the ones that grew our son, the one that gave him life. Those boobs right there that leak milk at the most inconvenient of times? They have allowed our son to double his birth weight in just 3 months. They food provide his sole food source, but so much more, they cool him down when it's too hot, they provide him comfort when he is sad, they reassure him his mother is still there, when it's dark, in the middle of the night and he searches, eyes closed, for the comfort of knowing I'm here. I'm never going anywhere my baby boy.
It may take me a while to be proud once more of this wonky, awkward body, but I made a promise to myself in that moment. I will take steps to give myself a body that I can once more find beauty in. I will take steps to lose some weight. I will stop having tea and biscuits for my lunch! Because I'm too tired and too busy caring for him that I forget to properly nurture myself. I will get out every day for a walk with him in the sling or the pram, he will benefit from it, but so will I. But most of all I will give myself the gift of patience, of appreciation that this will take time. I will slowly return to someone who vaguely resembles the person I was before Oskar, but until then I will try and take more pride in my stripes, in my scar, in the way I look. Maybe I am a warrior after all.