This question has been playing on my mind a lot lately. Does it end when we have our 6 week check? When baby has been out longer than they were in? Or does it never end?
Of course, I don’t have a scientific answer to this – is there even a scientific answer? But I think it’s an important question that acts as part of a wider discussion around motherhood.
A lot of people (including healthcare professionals) talk about feeling ‘normal’ again after having a baby. What an annoyingly awkward phrase. Just think, right now, about how you would define ‘normal’. You can’t can you?
I remember sitting with my health visitor (who is a LOVELY lady – those people do an incredible job) and her saying ‘You’ll probably begin to feel normal around 9 months after having the baby’. I just sat there and thought…but I feel normal now? Right now is MY normal. For me, this kind of ‘talk’ just highlights the bounce back culture we live in. Comparing how we feel ‘now’ to how we felt ‘then’ and how we will feel ‘soon’.
As a society we need to focus more on being present, on embracing the ‘now’ and taking that as our current ‘normal’. If we are constantly comparing how we feel or look to how we used to feel/look, we are stealing the joy of the current moment without even realising it.
Postpartum essentially means ‘after baby’. So in my opinion postpartum doesn’t end, but evolves. I will always be living ‘after’ I gave birth to Arlo (unless someone invents a time machine…which would be quite exciting). I am constantly changing, healing, growing but I am always postpartum.
Along with how we ‘feel’ as mothers, comes an important discussion around how we ‘look’ as mothers. With the phrase ‘your tummy will shrink back to its normal size’ or ‘your stretch marks will fade and begin to look like normal skin soon’ being thrown around all too regularly, women are experiencing a tidal wave of emotion around what ‘normal’ really means.
Let me set this straight. You were normal two months ago, you are normal right now and you will be normal in two months time. Your postpartum tummy was normal 2 minuets after birth, it is normal right now and it will be normal in two months time. Growing your confidence is about defining your own ‘normal’ and living by it.
Postpartum isn’t a mere fleeting 6 week time period, it is a completely new chapter that is now your own individual ‘normal’.
Before becoming pregnant, I’d never seen birth. In actual fact I’d never ever talked about birth, I suppose it has been a bit of a ‘Taboo’ topic. Images of birth are often censored, many parents don’t discuss birth with their children and the representation of it in the media is awful.
I knew I had to do something about this…I was about to experience one of life’s most intense moments and yet I had never been exposed to it in any capacity.
I took to Instagram and searched “labour” in the hashtag section. All of a sudden millions of images of women in labour, all around the globe, appeared. I was amazed at the rawness and emotion filled images I was seeing, thousands of women in the throws of such a powerful experience. But not only that, I was amazed at the amount of different births I was seeing. Water births, home births, c-section births…the list could go on.
From here I began to uncover the pages of lots of astounding Birth Photographers. I filled my feed with all these images. I was exposing myself to the raw realities of a diversity of births every single day. It was this gradual but consistent exposure to birth that I believe helped me exponentially during labour and postpartum.
I was able to have trust in my body, to know that all births are wildly different but equally beautiful. In addition, I was able to process my birth with much more clarity afterwards.
We need to work towards a society where these images are not censored, and are more widely seen. Where birth is an open discussion. Not only for women to feel more power in their experience and confidence in their bodies, but for the rest of society to be able to support women.
I know that birth will be an open and encouraged discussion within my family, and if I go on to have another child I would want Arlo to be included in the experience of birth. Exposure is key to understanding.
Among some of the photographers I found was Lacey. Lacey Barratt is a pioneer in the birth industry, paving the way for a more inclusive, dynamic, and unapologetically raw content through visual arts. As a doula, she pushes the boundaries of what women think they are capable of; helping them to break free of any societal norms or standards by understanding they are their own individual with individual needs. Lacey makes sure that her imagery is nothing less than artful and educational, striving to help women gain knowledge through her images.
Here are Lacey’s thoughts on why birth photography is important.
When I had my first baby seven years ago my mum asked if my husband was going to take any pictures. Actually, I was mortified by the thought of looking back at them. I also thought she was being selfish because she was in the states and that was her way of being invasive without being *invasive*. Man, the regret I felt 12 months later….We all know good ole Facebook. Reminding you of the things you did on this day twelve months ago. Timehop. Yep….facebook’s Timehop had me crippled on his one-year-old birthday. I was already emotional and then add on top of it that I had three photos from the day of his birth and I was devastated. It shook me to my core so much so that I started offering birth photography as a service to my clients.
I never wanted anyone else to feel the regret that I felt that day. Or any family to experience that type of void. I now see all the ways that birth photography benefits families. I see that my mum was not actually being selfish. Or invasive. Or passive aggressive. It was for both of us.
I wondered if I had that birth face that you see in all these stunning birth images. I wondered what my husband looked like when he had skin to skin. I wondered if he touched me during labour more than I remembered. All of these questions will be there forever. I’ll never actually know the answer to any of them.
I can say that my subsequent babies had birth photographers.
I have this theory that documenting your birth extends the high of a good birth and helps heal a bad birth
No, my images won’t magically take away the pain of a traumatic birth. But with 100 time-stamped images it can help you process what happened in a chronological order better than your memories can.
When you are in labour we naturally (if left unhindered) go into what is called labour land. This is a place where all of your hormones are making a concoction potion, so to speak. Oxytocin, testosterone, adrenaline, progesterone….and heaps more to get you out of your logical brain. So you don’t have to think…you just do what feels good in that moment. This enables you to go deep inside of yourself and focus on your body and your baby. Making you less aware of the things that are going on around you. This is why we forget. We are biologically programmed to not remember. Not to protect us from the physical pain as mainstream society would say. But to help you birth your baby. This is the fight side of the fight or flight phenomenon.
After our baby is born, if things don’t go exactly to plan we have the ability to process exactly what has happened to us. Births, where we felt empowered, enables us to relive that feeling of being empowered. Hormonally, we are getting boosts of oxytocin over and over and over every time we look at our images….meaning our high lasts longer.
Why do you want to relive this experience ESPECIALLY if it was traumatic? This seems like it would be a trick question. But it isn’t. It is because after we experience our power being taken away, the only power that we have left is the power over our emotions. When our bodily autonomy isn’t respected our emotional autonomy is OURS. Forever and ever amen. Once you have your images, with the time they were taken and an unbiased documentation of your birth story, it is then that you are able to look at them and decide how you want to feel and own that in whatever capacity you want to. It’s a way to take your power back, if not with your body, with your emotions. That in itself is incredibly empowering.
Without realising it, our birth experiences shape us. Scientifically, with the bonding of our babies, how we respond to touch, how we process feelings and it spills into our everyday lives…even if we don’t realise it.
This is why I regret not documenting my first birth. I’ll never have that physical evidence of my power, of my vulnerabilities or my trauma to process.
Now I will start this one with a bit of a disclaimer; I very strongly dislike clothes shopping and so am most definitely not about to give you tips on fashion. Partly because I know nothing about it… and secondly because I don’t like the idea of things being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of fashion. I will wear what I want when I want thank you very much.
So you have this new body. It has bumps, marks and everything else all in places they weren’t before. Nothing you used to wear fits or looks right… and the idea of going shopping to find new clothes is not something that sounds fun. Sound familiar?
don’t attempt to try on old clothes/buy new ones the second that baby pops out.
Your body changes most rapidly in the few weeks after birth, so spend as much
time as you can in those comfy maternity leggings and oversized t shirts. Enjoy
not giving a shit about what you put on in the morning for a while.
Then, when the speed at which everything is changing slows down (that will be a different time for everyone I might add) start thinking about updating your wardrobe. After all, you’ve most likely just spend 9 months in boring maternity clothes so you deserve it.
I treated myself to some new sports clothes at first… they’re comfy and will still fit me if I change size. Reebok is one of my favourite brands. I waited until about 11 weeks postpartum to go ‘normal’ clothes shopping.
The first mistake I made was shopping for my so called ‘old body’. I picked out a load of clothes that I would have worn a year ago… only one size above my old size and went to try them on. I probably don’t need to say it, but nothing fitted and anything that did fit was the complete wrong shape/style. Not my most ‘body confident’ moment to say the least (and to add to it… changing room lighting is often awful)
I put everything back, left the shop and we went for a coffee. I definitely needed a breather after that experience. A bit of a pep talk from Kieran in the coffee shop (which I might add he is particularly good at, that man can read my mind without a word coming out my mouth) and we went to try shop number two… with a much better mindset.
Zara is a shop I have always loved, especially during summer, so we went there. I picked up lots of different style clothes (some I would have never worn a year ago) in LOTS of different sizes and went to try them on. I’m not too bothered about the number on the hanger… I know full well that clothes look better and make me feel better when they fit. Small, large or otherwise. Low and behold… I LOVED some of the things I tried on. And I really mean loved. I think I even stood in the changing room grinning like a Cheshire cat at a couple of the items – things I would have never liked the look of on me before, suddenly looked great. Shop the jumpsuit here, and the shirt here.
Que the love and respect I have for my body shooting through the roof in this moment. Success.
After this we went to a few other shops and picked up some more bits;
So in summary, pick things up you would never have worn before and in LOTS of different sizes. You’re new shape/size body is just as amazing as the ‘old’ one… but most likely suits different clothes. And most definitely don’t give shit about the number on the hanger… I can wear an 8 in one shop and a 16 in the next, so it’s all bollocks anyway.
Before I fell pregnant I was, I would say, a fairly average teenage girl. I was unsure in myself and in what I wanted to do with my life, I struggled with my body image and confidence and was just starting the path to really learning about myself.
I had a place at University to study Medical Biochemistry. A subject I had chosen (after lots of discussions with different people) due to being convinced that it would be a waste of my intelligence to study anything that wasn’t highly academic with professional, well paid job prospects.
I placed a lot of emphasis on valuing myself based on other peoples standards, I would put what other people thought of me above what I thought of myself.
I was allowing difficult relationships to take up space in my life, which consequently were affecting my mental health. This was also something that heavily affected me during pregnancy.
And then I gave birth to my son.
I’ve heard the phrase ‘with Birth, the woman is born too’ a few times, and I very much believe that holds a lot of truth. Becoming a mother has changed me in so many ways.
I have completely disregarded anyone else’s opinion on what route I should take my life down and as a result am now holding a place to study Sport and Exercise Science. My true passion. Becoming a mother has given me unrecognisable confidence in myself to do what I want to do, this is my life and my life only.
I now only place value in my own opinion of myself. Being a young mother you have to face a lot of negativity; people thinking you are less capable than someone older or people thinking you’ve somehow messed up your life. I am incredibly proud of myself, of what I have done and what I am doing. Me, and my family, have an amazing life ahead of us.
Becoming a mother has given me clarity in what I want to do and who I want to be. It has given me the space to flourish as a woman and grow confidence I never thought I could have. I have gained unconditional love and respect for my body, something I had been working very hard on for the last few years.
A lot of people want to tell you all the negative sides to becoming a parent, about how you’ll loose your own identity and it will test your relationship. Something that is emphasised when you’re younger, as you can add ruining your career prospects etc into the mix. But personally, I have found non of those things to be true. Mindset makes a lot of difference to your experiences in my opinion.
Arlo has taught me so much, bringing so much love and happiness with him. He has brought me and Kieran so much closer and not only helped us grow in ourselves but as a couple. Seeing Kieran be a better Dad than I could ever have asked for will always make me happy.
The first twelve weeks of pregnancy seem to flash by without you even realising, and those early weeks hold very different things for every woman. Some may not find out they’re pregnant until they’re a few months gone, some may be filled with anxiety waiting for the first scan, some may be full of fear of miscarriage and some (like me) may be facing the huge decision of if they want to seek a termination or not.
All these things are so impactful on a woman’s life, emotionally and physically, yet society swears us to secrecy. Most women wait until their 12 week scan to announce their pregnancy – as the chance of miscarriage decreases after this week. But why is this? Should we really be doing this when what a woman needs most in this time is support?
When you unexpectedly discover that you’re pregnant it’s often difficult to decide who to confide in, if anyone.
When I discovered I was pregnant I was around 4 days late on my cycle. I remember taking the test at 5:30am and when I saw those two pink lines appear I instantly felt like was holding a big secret.
Me and Kieran spent the next few days discussing what we wanted to do, but came no closer to a decision. (Thank god for living by the sea and having the beach to escape to) We started the process of seeking a termination as I knew it was a lengthy process and the further through your pregnancy you are the higher the risks of complications. Me and Kieran spent the next few weeks sneaking off to termination assessments and having phone calls to different clinics. We were holding such a huge weight on our shoulders but were made to feel as though we couldn’t let anyone know. For some reason society makes things like terminations and teenage pregnancy seem shameful, which is more than wrong. What me and Kieran needed most was support and people to talk to outside of each other.
I will also note here…that attending your 18th birthday party…and trying to secretly not drink when you’re supposed to be getting absolutely plastered is interesting to say the least.
I was quite sick during 6-12 weeks, had a fair few incidences of running to the toilet to throw up…and trust me doing that without anyone noticing is quite a challenge. Sometimes I wonder how i managed it. Life would have been a hell of a lot easier if it was socially acceptable to be open about early pregnancy. Especially considering I was at school and sitting my A-level exams…that was interesting to say the least. I have distinct memories of walking around Tesco at 7am trying to find something I could stomach to eat before my exam…but retching at the sight of almost everything.
Eventually Kieran confided in his parents and I confided in one of my closest friends. It was so hard to tell people, but the second you share something as big as that with someone you trust it feels like a little bit of the weight is lifted. Even though me and Kieran were the only people who could make the decision on what to do, having people to talk things through with was a life line.
We are indirectly creating a culture in which women feel the need to hide early pregnancy, and this is contributing to the suppression of women. By not openly discussing these topics, we are reinforcing the idea that they are not worthy of thought and women should deal with them alone.
So after getting through the first 12 weeks you then face the question of how to announce your pregnancy…and who to tell first?
Once we had decided to continue with the pregnancy, we were of course very excited about it all. Yes we had big changes to make to our future, and some things about having a child so young were daunting…but not once were we ashamed of our decision or worried about being able to make it work. But I can say, it’s extremely hard to maintain that positive mentality when people react to your news negatively…or instantly start asking you lots of intrusive questions about money, housing, education etc.
Pregnancy is a fact of life – it’s how we’re all here after all. Yet we still hold a huge stigma around things such as termination, miscarriage and teenage pregnancy. If women felt able to talk openly about the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, maybe we would be able to get the support we need…whether that’s being able to run to the toilet to throw up without the added pressure of trying to hide it, having people to discuss your options with or those who experience a miscarriage having people around them to help them through it.
I know I will be raising my children talking openly about my experience, and I hope that the future holds a society in which these things are not stigmatised.
Lots of women talk about feeling that ‘instant bond’ to their baby right from when those two pink lines appear on the pregnancy test. About how they feel this unconditional and fierce love for their unborn child, and the moment that baby is placed on their chest they feel eternally bonded. For some, this may be very true. But are some of us saying this in fear of judgement for not ‘instantly’ loving and bonding to our babies?
With the rise of social media, we are all constantly comparing ourselves in all aspects of life…and that definitely does not exclude motherhood. Mum shaming is everywhere…and with that comes guilt for our personal choices and emotions in parenting.
I most certainly did not feel that instant bond when I found out I was pregnant…nor did I strongly feel it during pregnancy…or when I first met my baby. Does that make me a bad mother? Absolutely not. Am I ashamed to say that? Not in the slightest.
I am a very logical person, and very scientifically minded. A ‘see it to believe it’ kind of person. I found pregnancy hard to comprehend. The idea that this growing bump and the fluttering kicks were from an actual human being that we had created was foreign. Don’t get me wrong, I felt fiercely protective and definitely had very strong maternal instincts but I just couldn’t ‘love’ someone that I didn’t know.
All in all, I didn’t feel hugely connected to my baby or the experience of pregnancy. This, I think, was mostly down to it being unexpected and me and Kieran not having our own house and stability. The difficult relationships I have with my family didn’t help either – just goes to show that the external circumstances hugely affect how we feel about our experiences. Now that I have my boy with me, I can look back on my pregnancy very differently. Knowing that it was Arlo kicking around inside me, makes it feel all the more magical. That’s what makes me feel eternally bonded to my baby, knowing that for 9 months my body sustained his life.
I feel that a lot of mothers are being denied the space to feel this way about pregnancy…as it’s considered ‘wrong’ to voice anything but overwhelming love for your child…born or not.
After an intense and physically draining labour (what labour isn’t!), a baby was placed on my chest. I can say that at this moment I felt a strong responsibility for the safety and welfare of him, but I didn’t ‘know’ him like I know all the other people that I love. I think that as a society we need to be allowing mothers to freely express how they feel without fear of judgement. After all, how can we support each other if we don’t feel able to talk openly?
Here I am, 10 weeks in to having Arlo with me and getting to know him, and I love him more than I ever thought was possible. It feels as though each day my love for him grows, and I am loving being his mamma more than anything.
As i learn more about Arlo and he learns more about me, our bond strengthens. I definitely have that ‘I miss him when he’s asleep’ kind of feeling now.
The way i feel about my pregnancy and birth has also changed with getting to know my little boy. All the kicks, scans, contractions – all suddenly have meaning. My respect for my body and the process of creating life has grown exponentially, with that comes the beginnings of unconditional love for my body and my experiences.
Not feeling instantly bonded with your baby does not make you any less of a mother, and not having the ‘magical’ pregnancy experience doesn’t either. Perspective changes with time.
There are so many options when it comes to baby purchases, at many different price points. It can be a bit of a minefield to work out which items will actually be useful and which are a waste of money. I’ve teamed up with the lovely Beth (@happycornishmama) to give you our top items for both baby and mamma!
The Johnson’s bath range
I’m sure we are all aware that Johnson’s is a household name when it comes to baby products, but with so much more choice on the market now it’s hard to know what’s best for your baby. (it’s mostly trial and error as every baby is so different). Me and Kieran both have sensitive skin, so we wanted to choose the most simple skin products possible. Arlo hasn’t had any negative reaction to these, and they smell so lovely! My good friend Phoebe (Arlo’s unofficial auntie) gifted some of the Johnson’s bath range to us as Arlo’s Birth present – possibly the most useful present we have received! Click here to shop the range.
The White Company sleeping bag
Now this is possibly one of the most used items in our baby collection. As babies need an extra layer or two to stay warm its often difficult to know what to put them to bed in as temperature can fluctuate overnight. It’s also dangerous to leave a baby with lots of blankets unless they’re secure due to suffocation risk. The sleeping bag solves all of those problems instantly, not to mention the fact that it looks super cute! It also means you can leave the baby in it while you feed them at night in order to have minimal handling so that they go back to sleep easily. (every parent knows the struggle of trying to delicately place a baby down without waking them up!) I don’t think they sell this print anymore, but click here to look at some other gorgeous prints.
A baby wrap and carrier
Having a pram is great, as you can put the baby down, but so many places are not pram friendly – here’s where being able to carry your baby is very useful. Me and Kieran often like to go out on walks or do trips to places like London etc, and having a carrier has been amazing! While Arlo is still little we’ve found this baby wrap to be the best option, as it keeps him well supported and all snuggled up! As he gets a bit bigger we will start using the Integra Baby carrier that is more durable and Kieran can wear too, which was kindly gifted to us by my lovely cousin as she recommended it.
The White Company Fleece Romper
This little bear suit is possibly the softest thing ever to exist, it’s so cosy that I wish they made them for big humans! This is perfect for taking Arlo out and about in, we always put him in it when he’s in the pram to save us faffing with lots of blankets when we’re out if it’s chilly. And of course it just looks bloody adorable!
Gap maternity sports leggings
As I am a powerlifter, I go to the gym 3-5 times a week and do very high intensity training (which I kept up throughout my pregnancy). It’s also a 2 mile walk to and from my gym…so I am always on the hunt for durable sports wear, and when I fell pregnant I thought it might be difficult to find good maternity sport clothes. But these from Gap were amazing, I pretty much wore them everyday for 9 months…and boy did I put them through some intense workouts.
All these products have been used endlessly in our first 10 weeks with little Arlo, I couldn’t recommend them more!
Beth and Freddie!
Hi there! My names Beth and I’m a first time Mum to Freddie. We’re winging our way through life and motherhood, fuelled by caffeine and hidden behind concealer. We live in the beautiful county of Cornwall and love nothing more than exploring the world around us!
When you have a baby, you are faced with so many options. Do you breast feed or bottle feed? Do you co sleep or use a Moses basket? Do you stay at home or go back to work? It’s no different when it comes to buying products for your little one. There are hundreds of companies attempting to entice you in with their product, claiming it’s the best of the bunch.
Here are my top 5. We have been gifted some of these brilliant products, however I would happily purchase them as I’ve found them fantastic! All products that have been gifted have been stated in my posts.
1) Love nest ergonomic baby pillow from @babymoov_uk. The pillow is designed with a special incline to distribute the weight of the babies head evenly across the back of the head. Suitable for up until 4 months or when baby can roll over. Freddie has quite a flat head on one side and as we are seeing a physiotherapist to help treat it, I am making a conscious effort to use his pillow more and more and I think it’s really helping Freddie! – Gifted.
2) Gummee Teething Purple Heart shaped silicone teething ring. This teething ring has been an absolute god send. It’s so light and easy for Freddie to hold, he absolutely loves it. I pack it in our bag and take it out with us wherever we go. It’s suitable for babies aged 3 months+, also at £4.99 it’s really affordable. – Gifted.
3) Giraffe comforter. We were given this comforter as a gift from a relative and it’s Freddie’s favourite. He had lots of different comforters of all shapes and sizes, different in price but he absolutely loves this one. It’s from Primark and retails at £3. An absolute bargain, so much so I’ve bought 3 more in case we loose any! It’s super soft and snuggly.
4) Little Tikes suction toy. Whenever any person see’s me and Freddie with this toy I rave about it. It’s AMAZING. It has a suction pad that sticks to a highchair tray perfectly, meaning it can’t be continuously dropped on the floor (isn’t that the most annoying thing!?). Freddie thinks it’s the best thing since sliced bread, it has a little mirror and spins around too.
5) JoJo Maman Bébé changing travel wallet. I managed to get this in the sale a couple of months ago for only a fiver, it was originally £12 which I would also happily pay as it’s fab. The wallet has a zip at the front where you can put nappies, on the inside there is a zip section to store nappy bags and a pouch to keep wipes. It folds out to reveal a portable changing matt which is really handy for changing baby on the go, especially as some baby changing facilities aren’t always super clean or comfy!
I highly recommend all of these products and I don’t know what I’d of done for the past 5 months without them!