Body battles as a new mum and The Birth of Venus

A week and 3 days ago, I gave birth to my second child. My son’s birth-weight was slightly above average (7p 8oz or 3.42kg) and much heavier than my daughter who weighed in at a slight 6p 4oz or 2.9kg when she graced the world with her presence. The first time around, my preggie-belly snapped back to almost pre-pregnancy shape within 24 hours. Nursing staff and my OB were astounded and made jokes about me never having been pregnant at all. This time, it was a different story. Instead of shrinking back, I’ve been left with a pouch-like protrusion with the consistency of sponge-cake.

I feel ashamed admitting that my appearance was/is even a concern so close to giving birth to my son. After all, he’s healthy, gorgeous and I love him to bits despite the cracked, bleeding nipples, lack of pelvic floor control and constant sleep interruptions. But the sad reality is, I don’t like looking or feeling like a squishy, bloated version of my former self. I could hardly eat anything during third trimester due to my stomach residing somewhere up in my chest cavity, and it seems unfair that I look like I’ve been on a nine month binge now that my son has evacuated the premises.

While in this state of mind, I was idling googling to stay awake during a 4am breast feeding session, and came across this article: Botticelli Painted Modern Beauties – in 1400s http://reut.rs/1JJlRjE. The article discusses an upcoming exhibition of the 15th century artist’s work and proposes that “Botticelli in a way set the 20th-century ideal of beauty.”

The exhibition will showcase Pallas and the Centaur but not the quintessential Birth of Venus. Venus is considered by Mark Evans, senior curator as the “definitive, ideal woman”. With this in mind, I had to Google her so see what I’m supposed to look like as an “ideal woman”. This is Venus:

 

 

I was pleasantly surprised to find I’m not that far off. Like me, Venus has legs that don’t look like they’ve seen a Pump class in a while, and (gasp) no thigh gap! While she’s slim, she’s got padding and her tummy also looks a little pouchy. She’s round and soft and motherly, just like I am right now.

It got me thinking about the pressure we put on ourselves to fit an ideal image. It’s always been there, but today there’s the extra pressure of social media, celebrities who can afford all the hired help in the world to get back their pre-pregnancy bods, Instagram with its multitude of flattering filters – it goes on. We’re bombarded with unrealistic images and expectations of how our bodies should look, even after something as monumental as childbirth. Sad, and yet so easy to buy into.

For more discussion on the celebrity pressure factor, see http://dailym.ai/1g3gT8E.

I guess, for me, it comes down to this: I’m a sensible woman, I know that if I eat well and get some exercise, eventually the weight will come off. Maybe I’ll never be quite what I was before I had children, but look at what I have got: two incredible, beautiful little miracles whom I wouldn’t trade for all the abs in Hollywood.

And besides, if anyone wants to tell me I’m unattractive, I’ll point them in the direction of Botticelli’s Venus.

*Image courtesy of Wikipedia