There are several social fights that I watch and sometimes participate in. Here’s a handful:
1. Breastfeeding. The Western World has two messages about breastfeeding. The first is that if you don’t breastfeed, you’re a bad mum. It’s not quite true, but breastfeeding IS great for about a billion reasons (for mum and for baby) if the mum is able to do it. Unfortunately, the second message is: Ew! Don’t breastfeed where anyone can see you!
For me, that second message is so overwhelmingly loud that breastfeeding was incredibly traumatic. I was lucky because my body gave me an out: It didn’t produce enough milk for either child, so I had to immediately supplement feeds with bottles. My kids were both kind enough to quickly grow to despise breastfeeding and therefore set me free from any further obligation.
There are two fights going on breastfeeding-wise – the physical one, because breastfeeding is extremely difficult and painful, especially at first (for some women – myself included – even normal, long-term breastfeeding involves daily pain due to the process of milk production; for others there are major health issues such as infections). The second fight is the social one.
Personally, although this is worth fighting for, I find myself too weak/traumatised to fight. . . except for a token foray into no-man’s-land, like this article. For the record, babies need to eat – whenever, wherever – full stop. Some babies can handle being covered and some really just can’t. Mothers deserve to keep their already-limited ability to leave the house – whenever, wherever – full stop.
Mums lie – celebrities in particular. “Everything’s okay.” “The baby weight just vanished!” “My kids are always well-behaved.”
This is a fight I can handle! As you can tell by the things I write about pregnancy and about my own mental illness, I don’t mind sharing when things are very, very bad. I don’t tend to bad-mouth my kids or husband online (even with the bare facts of how annoying they are), but my real-life friends hear a lot of gory details, and the internet hears a fair bit. Nobody could mistake me for someone who has it all together, although I’m also free to admit that my life IS pretty fantastic at the moment, and between bouts of kid crying I really do feel like I have it together. For now.
Yesterday a specialist who works with pregnant women before and after their birth saw me and said, “Weren’t you getting induced?” Ouch. I’ve been getting congratulations for my pregnancy since I was an 18-year old virgin in the healthy weight range, and the frequency has upped to an average once a month since my first child was born (very often from people who really should know better). I shudder to think how often I’ll get that shit nowadays. Most of the extra pregnancy-time fluid has flushed out of my system, but I still have plenty of fat to lose (which I know from experience will need to be lost VERY gradually or I’ll gain extra – I gained 20 kilos between pregnancies, mainly due to a combination of buying a house and backfiring diets. The diets were healthy and mild, but with baby-induced broken sleep my body simply couldn’t handle it). Even then, however, I have loads of spare belly skin (yes, ew) that won’t go away without surgery, and will always make me look like I’m in second trimester. I’m deliberately wearing tight dresses at the moment so people can see how huge I am in the belly post-TJ and hopefully take note for the future. So I’m fighting the good fight (not that I have a choice) in educating people about what some women look like after a baby. . . but I’m giving in big-time because I fully plan to investigate surgical means of recovery after I’ve reached the healthy weight range (and still look pregnant). I don’t mind stretch marks, I can live with weirdly distended breasts, and I’m pleasantly surprised that I still have a waist underneath the fat (I remember seeing it post-Louisette, so I choose to believe it’s still there). . . but the constant congratulations are more than I’m willing to take. I attend church irregularly because of health issues, but I really did stop attending for a while because I just couldn’t hack all the well-wishing. Hopefully regular attendance from now on will shield me, since I should be getting smaller instead of bigger this time.
The other side of this fight is photos. So, so many women hide from cameras “until they get their body back”, which turns out to be never in many cases. Then they grieve because there are no photos of them with their children. THAT is a fight I’m fighting nobly – giant belly, double chin, new weird pregnancy moles and all. I do make CJ take about 20 pics so I can pick the least offensive one or two to keep. . . but the important thing is that I’m there in the pictorial story of my kids’ lives. Just scroll down through the photos and you’ll see several of me that I genuinely like.
And of course this social fight has a physical side too – to get healthy. I’ve been in pain more often than not since Louisette was conceived, and I know that if I damage my hips or back again that’s another period of months when I can’t exercise. So this time, I’m being SO careful not to over-extend myself. I hope that in five years, I’ll be able to walk twenty minutes without it being a big deal (prolapsed uterus has been a big problem for walking), and that by then I’ll be in the healthy weight range to stay. Having gestational diabetes adds a threat of doom if I don’t win this fight – for myself AND for TJ, who is also at risk.
So that’s two out of three battles with which I’m fully engaged.
The pic of me was taken today – a week and a half after giving birth. When I say I look pregnant, I’m not kidding.