This week a pic showed up on my newsfeed of South African born supermodel Candice Swanepoel one year after giving birth. She’s doing her thaing in a thong, as she does, strutting her bad-self on the catwalk and she looks ah-mazing! See for yourself.
The pic was met with a few comments, mostly positive, but I knew that behind the scenes, a thousand and one negative thoughts were flying. I’ve heard enough of this rhetoric over the years to recognise the territory. I’ve had a few of those friendly-fire moments myself when encountering a similar image: The post-birth where-on-earth-did-you-keep-the-baby? photo.
The fact is images like this are a trigger for many women. Right or wrong, it’s a double-edged sword because while we watch these celebrity types in awe, we often unfairly compare ourselves to them in the privacy of our bathroom mirrors.
I look at the Kate Middletons of the world and go ‘How does she still look so slim?’ often followed up in hot pursuit with ‘…and how did I end up this beached whale!?’ OK, that’s a bit harsh. I elaborate for effect. But the truth is that these images affect us.
I’m all for being healthy and listening to what one’s body needs. Mostly it needs an apple, not a doughnut, and I know I need to learn to listen to the right voice when it comes to making consistent healthy choices. But I also struggle SO MUCH to stay away from pink bubbles, cheese and marzipan. (Only a billion calories a bite! What could go wrong?)
For the most part, my day-to-day internal monologue is one of trying to find a happy balance. However, when I see these kinds of pictures and the comments that accompany them, something in the back of my head prickles furiously.
Becuase the rest of us really don’t have to beat ourselves up for not looking like a Victoria Secret model 6 months, 12 months or 2 and a half years after giving birth. And why do we put all this pressure on ourselves? Nothing happens without focused dedication, and nothing comes without a price. Besides the simple starting fact that being in tip-top supermodel shape before baby will help to bounce back and stay in similar shape after baby, not all women respond in the same way to the physical battlefield that is motherhood.
“Anyone in the public eye, we have all the help we could ever need to be able to shed everything…We have nutritionists, we have dietitians, we have trainers, we have our own schedules, we have nannies. We have people who make it possible for us to get back into shape. But nobody should feel like that’s normal, or like that’s realistic.” – Chrissy Teigen
Becoming a mother changes priorities for a lot of women. It certainly changes what we can afford to spend our energies on! While I would LOVE to have my pre-baby body back, I simply don’t have the time (or support/babysitter) to get back to my pre-baby exercise regime at the moment. I keep telling myself that one day I’ll get trim again. But till then there’s no point in hating the vessel that grew, housed and birthed the most amazing, energetic, healthy boy and continues to be his favourite jungle gym, place of comfort, protector and provider. I may as well enjoy it for what it is now: a squishy, happy place where wine and cheese are as welcome as a Crossfit session used to be…and I’ll be damned if I have to apologise for that.
Candice shouldn’t have to apologise either. She works hard to have the body she does. It’s her source of income after all – it would be irresponsible for her to not work on it – and as the photo shows, her form is both muscular and lithe. Something that doesn’t come from starving oneself or sitting around on a couch crying into a tube of Emmental Pringles, wishing for the former glory days. I bet she spends a good deal of time sweating it out at the gym (or whatever her preferred form of exercise is) every single day to look like that and I applaud her for such dedication! It sure is paying off.
What I keep trying to remind myself is that each day, each choice has long-term effects. And each decision one way means sacrifice another way. We don’t know what the yummy mummy has to give up to fit a certain mould, and is it really any of our business anyway? All I know is what is true and right for my child and me in our life right now. My choices and sacrifices have consequences too, but I’m happy to exchange a few hard abs for the past 2-and-a-bit, joined-at-the-umbilical-chord special years my son and I have shared.
I may never strut down a catwalk in Victoria Secret wings and pin-point stilettos, but I have a photo I am as proud of as Candice can be of her post-baby modelling debut. I love it so much I had it printed on canvas, and it’s hung up on the wall. The look captured in this photo – love and adoration between mother and son – is worth far more to me than toned thighs and a belly that doesn’t resemble a pre-historic swamp walrus.
My belly fat can be burned away later (soon) when I have time to hit the weights section again, but my baby years will be gone quicker than I can say ‘Come and give mommy a kiss’. And that’s something no photo of me in a bikini and a pair of angel wings can ever replace.