“Real Women Have Curves”
It’s been the bain of my life that phrase, the one thing which really gets a rise from me for a whole number of reasons. I remember years ago in my early twenties, struggling with my mental health, I saw a psychiatrist who looked me up and down and told me, “I don’t know what you’re worried about. Men prefer women with meat on their bones.” And it had completely taken me by surprise, like a punch in the stomach, as I had gone home plagued with thoughts that I was failing as a woman, and as a wife, when men preferred women with curves.
Obviously as I recovered I realised that what men preferred really wasn’t the issue here, nor those cliched sayings about “real women” at all. The stronger I became as a person, and the more I learned to love my own body, I focused solely on how I felt in my own skin, on being healthy and happy, and I pushed that memory to the back of my mind.
Last month I saw something on social media which took me back to that moment. A moment of surprise inadequacy and actually, a sense of failure.
“Real Mums don’t bounce back.”
A new Mum on Instagram, the girlfriend of a reality TV star, had posed in a sports bra, just ten days post-birth, with a completely flat stomach. And no surprise, she was lynched. The comments I read were vile, “You look anorexic!”, “Clearly dumped her newborn baby to go to the gym?”, “Bet she starved herself throughout the whole pregnancy!”, “What a bad example you are to other Mums”.
And I guess you could say that when you’re in the public eye you leave yourself open to those kind of comments, to the keyboard warriors who are filled with such bitterness and hate that comes spilling out every opportunity they get. I guess you could say that photos like this are setting a bad example, that they may cause other Mums to feel inadequate about their own bodies, to feel the green eyed monster come and bite them on their post-pregnancy ass.
I mean, do I think it’s irresponsible to be posing on social media ten days post birth with a stomach flatter than most women will ever achieve? Perhaps I do, a little. Do I think it’s irresponsible to promote weight loss supplements alongside those photos? Absolutely. Do I think it was irresponsible that her douche of a boyfriend leapt to her defence by shaming women who don’t bounce back? Hell yes.
But its equally irresponsible to be shaming other women, even more so a new Mum.
Because it feels like everywhere I turn at the moment there are Mums posing with their post-natal bodies, with rounded stomachs and engorged breasts, wearing their stretch marks with ferocious pride, stating “This is what a real mum looks like.”
And I get what they’re trying to achieve, I really do. But at the same time, if I don’t look that way after having my children, am I not a real Mum??
Just because I didn’t have a bump in the same way as others, or because my body sprang back before I’d even left the hospital, doesnt mean that I deprived my body of nutrition for nine months, or that I was slogging it out in the gym every hour god sends. Just because I’m not carrying a few extra pounds, or that I don’t have battle scars to show for it, doesn’t mean that my scars don’t run a little deeper in ways you can’t see.
Just because I may not look like someone who has given birth doesn’t mean that I didn’t push five children out of my vagina.
And maybe, in the same way that others feel the need to stand up for those who struggle to lose their baby weight, who face a backlash on the opposite scale, I want to stand up for those ladies who do bounce back.
Maybe I know that just because you haven’t piled on the pregnancy weight, or even made it out of your regular size 8 jeans, doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not eating double cheeseburgers three times a day, or lying on the couch for nine months watch re-runs of Friends.
Maybe I know that some women struggle very much with pregnancy, feeling out of control with the changes happening to their bodies. Maybe I know that some women are still lifting weights and running marathons at thirty weeks pregnant, passing up pizza for protein shakes and lounging for lunging.
Maybe I know that some women are just made that way, that bodies can just spring back, that, due to genetics, good luck or something else entirely, you can have a baby and miraculously look like it never happened.
I know, because that was me.
And whilst I admire those women who are taking a stand, baring their sanitary clad big knickers and posting selfies with their Mum tums, I think there are better ways to make those who don’t bounce back feel better about themselves than by shaming those who do. It’s so important to realise that a statement said, even with the best intentions of empowering others, can actually cause a huge percentage of women to feel incredibly isolated.
I think as women, as Mums, it would be far more empowering to say hey, guess what, it doesn’t matter how big your bump is, how flat your tummy is, how many stretch marks you have, if you’re in sweats or skinny jeans, a size 8 or an 18……..we are all of us amazing!
We grew a bloody human for Christ’s sake!!
Because whilst it’s easy to slate these celebrities, to make bitchy comments about the new mum at school or an old friend on Facebook, you really have no idea what they have been through, or are still going through.
You don’t know that the new Mum posing in her underwear doesn’t have low self esteem and simply needs reaffirmation that she still looks good at a time when she feels her worst.
You don’t know that the Mum with a full face of make up, fresh highlights and a French manicure isn’t struggling with post natal depression, and simply needs a boost to get through the day.
You don’t know that the Mum who has left her newborn to slog it out in the gym for an hour hasn’t been up all night, losing the will to live, focusing on getting as mentally and physically strong as possible to get through another week.
You don’t know that the size 8 Mum with abs of steel isn’t just extremely lucky to have bounced back or actually, and here’s food for thought, just wanted to get her figure back, make an effort to look nice, and feel half human after nine months of feeling like crap!
There really should be no shame in that.
But can we just stop with all the talk of real women, real mums, what’s normal and what’s not.
We are all real women.
And real women support each other. Surely that’s the point right there.