The myth of the “pre-baby body”

Jack

Two weeks before having my son

After having my baby something I heard a lot of the time, apart from “is he sleeping?”, was “oh my god, you look great!” or “wow, I can’t believe you just had a baby!”. While it is nice to be told you look great, it felt like what the surprise in those comments was really saying was “I expected you to look not great.” That having a baby would ravage my body, that it would make me a lesser version of myself. It often came from other mothers who would then tell me how terrible they thought they looked after having babies.

Society is obsessed with this idea of a “pre-baby body”. A quick glance at any pregnancy or parenting magazine will tell you how important it is to lose the baby weight, how to gain “just enough weight” while pregnant, what super foods to eat, and how to feel sexy again (by losing weight). The celebrity gossip magazines almost always have a story about some star returning to their “pre-baby body” with a step-by-step guide on how you can do it too by exercising 6 hours a day and eating nothing but kale protein smoothies. But surprise! there is no returning to your “pre-baby body” – because you had a baby. Your body has changed in an irrevocable way. You grew an actual human inside you. Why is this something to be ashamed of? I am what society would call “lucky.” Without doing much of anything, my body, when in clothes, resembles mostly what it looked like before I fell pregnant. Take those clothes off though, and my breasts hang loose with stretch marks, my tummy is dark with lines and the incision scar from my emergency caesarean looks like a smile under a pouch of soft skin. My back aches more easily, I bear scratches on my chest and arms from baby newborn talons, and my feet are sore in anything that doesn’t have an insole. My eyes are dark from 6 months of sleep deprivation, my hair is in a perpetual state of mess and my face breaks out constantly from forgetting to eat or eating poorly.

Jack

Eye bags for days…

Other markers I bear of motherhood are strong arms from rocking and nursing, an ability to open almost anything one-handed, a clear voice from constantly singing lullabies, a soft and squishy body which my son loves to grab in great fistfuls and my cat loves to knead, bruised knees from rolling around playing games on the floor, and a heart filled with joy. Whilst I sometimes look wistfully at old photos of myself (being a burlesque performer I’m in the unique position of having many semi-naked photos of myself) I wouldn’t want to return to that body. I am grateful for my body with it’s many bumps and lumps. It’s like a constantly evolving map of my life: here is that scar when I fell off my bed as a kid, here are the lines from many laughs and smiles, here is the incision that my baby was born through.

Jack

Bath time is the best time

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to feel good and healthy in your body, and maybe for some people that means losing some weight, or hitting the gym, or wearing makeup, or wearing suck-me-in undies. What is wrong is when we expect all these things of women, and especially when we expect mothers to “bounce back”  straight away. Bounce back to what? I think most mothers would never want to bounce back to their life without kids (although it is nice to visit every so often).

So, next time you see a new mother feel free to tell her she looks great because she’s a mother and not in spite of being a mother. And whatever you do, don’t ask her if the baby is sleeping at night.

Standing on the precipice

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It’s been about six months since I checked in, and that’s because I have been crazy busy with working on my solo show Adult-ish and several other projects during Adelaide Fringe. Then, immediately following the end of Fringe my husband and I moved house and we’re still spending time each spare moment setting it up, buying new furniture, and cursing the inordinate amount of Ikea packaging sitting under our garage. But the biggest distraction for me is the imminent arrival of our first kid, due in the middle of August.

If you’ve seen my show, you’ll know that I’ve always wanted to have a baby. I hit puberty and my body started sending out maternal urges! It’s taken quite a bit longer to get there than my younger self thought (I was sure I’d be married to a rich lawyer with three kids by now), but it has been the best journey. I couldn’t imagine doing it any other way and with anyone other than my husband. I’m glad I’ve had a number of awesome experiences over the years that would have been difficult with a baby. That’s not to say I think my life will be over when I have a kid, but just that I really have no idea what life is going to be like. I’m trying to have as few expectations as possible because I’m sure that no matter what I predict it’s going to be completely different. Sure, I’ve tried to get a sense of what my new life will be like – I’ve read books, I’ve watched films and documentaries, and I’ve been listening to the entire back catalogue of The Longest Shortest Time (which I highly recommend, by the way), but all I can really picture right now is standing on the edge of a precipice. It’s foggy and I can’t see what’s on the ground below, but I know soon I’ll be leaping off the edge. It’s a terrifying image in many ways – I have so many new worries and fears, and my anxiety keeps surfacing in dreams about the baby coming too soon, not being a good Mum, and the good old I’ve lost something/I’m running late/I didn’t do the thing I was supposed to do dreams. But it’s also exhilarating. I truly am leaping into the unknown and the future is full of so many possibilities – about who I will be as a parent, who my child will be, how my marriage will change. I already feel so much love for this kid (even when he kicks me in the bladder) and I’m so excited to meet him and get to know him. Right now though I’m trying to enjoy the time when I still have two feet on the ground, before I take the jump into who-knows-what.

Check out my new website!

Hello everybody!

I have a brand new website dedicated to my performances and classes, and you can check it out here. It also has a blog attached to it, so that is where I will be blogging all about the professional stuff. Random bits of thought and nonsense will still remain over here as they arise. Like this:

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Chat soon!

xx

Adjustments and new things

Hello everyone,

I just saw that it has been two months since my last post. Woah! It’s kind of crazy how quickly time runs away. There’s been a fair amount going on in that time, but also – not a hell of a lot. It’s been one crazy adjustment from the busyness that was working at Peaches ‘n’ Gin. I’ve been spending a lot more time with my family, which has been wonderful. And I actually get to go to things I am invited to by friends! Excuse my excitement – it’s been about 4 years since I’ve really had time to do that a lot. I’m thrilled that they still want to invite me stuff and haven’t left me for dead. I won’t lie – there have been times where I’ve been feeling…not bored per se, maybe just antsy. So I’ve tried to fill that time with trying new things and revisiting old hobbies that fell along the wayside.

I recently signed up for a belly dance class, and while I have unfortunately missed 2 from having the flu, I have been really enjoying it. I hadn’t realised how much I had forgotten and it’s been so nice to wake my body up and say “Hey! Remember this?” I did feel a little anxiety going in because when I left the scene it seemed to me to be incredibly hostile, and if you went to one school you weren’t welcome at another and there was all this in-fighting going on. But the class is lovely and everyone has been very friendly and welcoming. I’ve even seen some faces from the old days!

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My wonderful husband Jarryd outdid himself and bought me an adorable vintage style, incredibly hipster bike for my birthday and I love it so much! I’ve been riding it everywhere and it’s so invigorating and uplifting to be outside. I live near the Torrens bike path so it’s a really nice ride almost anywhere. It’s incredible what moving about and being in the sunshine can do for you. It really pulled me out of a blue spot when I was feeling a bit lost.

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The one thing I love having time for again is reading. I used to be an avid reader (especially when I caught public transport a lot more) but over the last few years I haven’t read many new books and it has taken me ages to get through them. I’ve been enjoying the time I have and reading a lot more, as well as listening to audiobooks. Some great ones I have read recently include The Rosie Project by Graeme Simpson (I highly recommend the audiobook – the narration is great!), The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (heartbreakingly beautiful), Yes Please by Amy Poehler (again – the audiobook is hilarious as Poehler narrates it herself with a ton of special guests), and I’m currently re-reading one of my all-time favourites, The Gnole by Alan Aldridge. What are you guys reading at the moment? I’d love to hear your recommendations!

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What kinds of hobbies do you guys fill your time with?

Philosophising…

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Today I wrote a list of all the things I need to do this weekend:

  • The dreaded T-word……..TAX
  • Chuck out the gross food in the bottom of my fridge
  • Properly file away the 629 icons on my laptop desktop
  • Sort through a box of miscellaneous crap under my desk
  • Clean the hair out of my bath drain – makes me want to cut all my hair off again
  • Put all the DVDs back in their correct cases
  • Clear out the props from Adultish out of the back of my car….yep they’re still there.

Nothing in that list particularly inspires me. So here’s the list of things I want to do:

  • Play my ukulele
  • Flip through my fancy cookbooks whilst stuffing takeout in my face
  • Paint
  • Go to brunch and observe the local hipsters
  • Do something exciting and scary, like busking or an improv class
  • Dance
  • Pick out a quilting pattern – my Nanna is going to help me make my first one!
  • Kiss my husband and hug my friends

These are the things I NEED to do, because these are the things that make a life. I also need to add “write philosophical crap” to the list.

The worst thing about being grown up.

I think the worst thing about being an adult is having to make decisions. Life is so much easier when you’re a kid – all of the major decisions are made for you! The biggest thing I had to worry about was what I was going to buy at the school canteen with my pocket money. The jam tart or the sausage roll? But when you’re grown up, the decisions are bigger and there is no one to make those decisions for you but yourself. And that SUCKS!

Mini me!

Mini me!

I recently realised that I was actually quite unhappy. I felt overworked (and of course, as an artist, underpaid) and had no passion left for what I was doing. Overall I loved the work, but I think I loved the idea of it more. I never really realised that I was unhappy because I was so busy and there always another project to focus on. But when I really thought about it, I saw that I was down more than up. So I decided that I had to make some major changes.

Sapphire and I in our very first photo shoot! OMG we were such babies!

Sapphire and I in our very first photo shoot! OMG we were such babies!

The decision to downsize my business (The Swing Sesh), and leave the partnership I had been in since 2009 (Peaches n Gin Burlesque) was the hardest decision I think I’ve ever had to make. I felt like I was letting everybody down and that people would be angry with me. I really struggle with letting negative judgement get to me. I was also terrified that I would regret it, that I could never go back, and that I would miss out on a lot of opportunities. I agonised over it, but when I said to myself “I’m doing this”, I instantly felt like it was the right decision. The hardest thing was telling people I cared about – especially the teachers at The Swing Sesh who I was essentially letting go, and Sapphire.

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Now that I’m a few weeks out of letting everyone know, I have a much clearer head. I still feel bad that my decision has, in some cases, had a negative impact on people, but I also know that if I hadn’t made it I would have burnt myself into the ground with the same result (except I’d be ashes!). I think Peaches ‘n’ Gin will run a lot smoother and more efficiently now that there is one person at the head, and I will still be involved and doing the things that I love, like teaching and performing. With regards to The Swing Sesh, I’m excited about having more time to focus on planning awesome classes and events – I can feel the fire start to burn in me already without the burden of running a large school. I’m confident my classes are going to be much better with more time to dedicate to them.

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Decisions really do suck. But sometimes you have to make them even when they don’t please everybody. If you don’t look out for you, who will? I am so happy that I get to spend time with family and friends now, and still have time for burlesque and swing dancing. As a friend aptly put it, I’m “right-sizing” not “down-sizing”. I think I’m done for major decision making for a while though now, so if anyone needs me I’ll be on the playground. 😀