Mollie McGuigan, 33, journalist and mother to Sonny, 11 months
I’m conflicted about my body: on the one hand it’s an incredible feat of design, conceiving easily, seeing me through a manageable pregnancy and coping well with a long, induced labour. It’s wobblier and wider than pre-Sonny but I was – and still am – so in awe of how the female body nurtures life and adapts to the challenges of pregnancy and labour.
But I also feel sadness when I think about my body because I feel it let me down after I gave birth. Breastfeeding was unexpectedly difficult – Sonny didn’t latch on properly and it was incredibly painful. The kind of ongoing pain that had me crying and biting pillows and flinching when people hugged me too close. Moving to formula was a revelation: I became so much happier and felt a love for Sonny that I had been quite worried was lacking in those early weeks.
During the early days, I was drowning in information and advice on Sonny’s wellbeing and ignored my own. My idea of dinner was a couple of pitta breads and a Tesco Tex Mex dip selection. With Sonny’s feeding on track, I focused on looking after myself and being kind to my body. Common sense stuff like making smoothies and juices, taking vitamins, doing exercise.
The constant commentary about my small bump was bloody annoying and sometimes made me anxious. Sonny was actually a big baby, but that’s not the point
I joined a gym and started doing small runs when Sonny was three months. I’ve been running for years but stopped when I was pregnant because I felt too tired. Building it back up since Sonny’s arrival has been such a positive experience – it makes me feel happy and courageous. I recently finished a (very slow) half marathon. I felt so proud of myself, I had an embarrassing cry on the finish line.
I’ve always found conception and pregnancy fascinating so I enjoyed the changes in my body and it was a happy reminder I was pregnant. That said, I preferred my body the further along I got – in the early months I just looked podgy. One complaint: the constant commentary about my small bump was bloody annoying and sometimes made me quite anxious. Sonny was actually a big baby – 9lb 12oz – but that’s not the point. People: talk to the woman not the bump. It’s weird and intrusive and sometimes just a bit creepy.
The same body-shaming and body ideals placed on non-pregnant women apply to pregnant women and mothers, too. And just as it’s bullshit when you’re not pregnant, it’s bullshit when you are – except it’s worse because you’re tired, emotional and terrified that your life as you know it is about to leap off a cliff and be replaced by a squashed, howling potato.