By Jo Cresdee
This week Beyoncé has taken the media by storm again with photographs of her cradling her new-born twins:
There are copious Facebook spoof posts with mothers of twins recreating the image but adding the “reality” and the judgement verbalised in the article published by the Daily Mail (I only read it to research this article – honest) is pretty shocking.
It’s true the image of Beyoncé is not our everyday picture of motherhood. She has had a team of make-up artists working on her face, her hair is perfectly coiffured, her Mummy-tummy is non-existent or more likely airbrushed. I am sure that some women look at this picture of Beyoncé and aspire to look the same but I think there are more that are laughing at the fact that her image is so unrealistic and actually we are all standing in judgement of this woman who has recently given birth and for one reason or another has felt the need to create a heavily edited picture depicting an image that we all know is fake.
So there are two burning points here in my mind – the first is that our image of female beauty is skewed, unreal, for most un-achievable. The second is that we all place importance on that unrealistic image and fail to see what is really beautiful or important.
So what is really important in the first weeks after birth?
We refer to the immediate post-natal period as The Fourth Trimester. A further 13 – 14 weeks of time when your baby is outside the uterus but actually just craves the same conditions that they experienced when they were inside your body. This is the baby-moon period of life when you should forget about getting “back to normal” and focus on wrapping yourself and your baby up in a lovely milky bubble of contentment. In some cultures women return to live with their own mothers or mother in laws, who care for their other children, cook for them and provide daily massages (I love the sound of this) but in the western world we are obsessed with the baby not changing us and are totally driven into getting that baby into a routine of some kind so life can carry on as clockwork.
This is unlikely to happen as the biological needs of the new-born 4th Trimester baby require near constant body contact with Mummy (or Daddy). This regulates a baby’s breathing, heartbeat, hormone production, digestive processes as well as body temperature and many of the primitive reflexes that a baby is born with (reflexes that ensured our survival a million years ago). Young babies are also going to want to feed a lot – not every four hours, but a lot of the time and our obsession with scheduled routines is one of the reasons that it can be so hard to establish breast feeding – the concept of routine and the breast fed baby are almost impossible to reconcile.
So what is happening to Mummy’s body while it is providing this womb outside a uterus to calm and soothe a new-born? Loads of things: our metabolism changes and we lay down more in terms of fat reserves – logical, as if there was a famine we would want the breast feeding mums or the mums of young children to survive. You are most likely sleeping in short spells rather than 8 hours overnight – this also affects the way that your body burns calories and you will crave sugar or carbohydrate rich foods. Your body is slowly recovering from 9 months of pregnancy where you actually made a new human being, the human being that you are now nurturing 24 hours a day 7 days a week without a moment to yourself. Quite frankly it’s a miracle that Mums in the first 14 weeks leave the house fully dressed (I am five years post-natal – I did the school run with my shirt inside out last week.) I would argue that it is totally imperative that at this point of your post-natal journey you are not thinking about restricting your calorie intake or embarking on an intense exercise routine – a lot of people view the six week check as point that marks recovery from birth but in fact it is only the beginning – a watershed that allows you to start investigating the right options for you. Once you have been signed off by your doctor you need the right professionals and the right advice and we will list some of those that we would recommend at the end of this article.
So what is it with our view of female beauty – we all point fingers at the media and say that the photographs that we see all over the internet and in the newspapers and magazines dictate our ideas about beauty but should it not start a little closer to home? I’m running a long way this week and that gives me time to mull these things over. I posted a picture of me on Facebook on Sunday – here I am running in a relay race in Woodbridge:
I looked at that picture and thought it was a great image of me running – I have really good postural alignment, my footstrike is so much better than it was this time last year (I used to land on my heels and here I am on my toes, this is more efficient and decreases your risk of injury) my stride is not too long – it’s a good action running shot!
When I posted it on Facebook there were lots of comments about me looking strong which I liked but there were also a number about how “thin” I was, these mostly came from women. I was touched that people had given me what they classed to be a compliment but to me it was missing the point. I don’t run to be thin, I run to celebrate what my body can do and to feel a sense of pride. For me it is not about obtaining a picture perfect honed tummy – it is about achieving a goal, about finding my way, but ultimately about confidence.
That is the key for me – we can’t blame the media for the unrealistic view of female beauty we have to look to ourselves. I think it was Aristotle who said that the family was the basic unit of society. This is where all our cultural beliefs begin. If we as women can stand proud as who we are and what our bodies can achieve then our children will place more importance on that, than airbrushed images of a singer who lives on another continent. Put your shorts on and reveal your legs, wear your bikini (I do and I don’t have a washboard stomach), show your kids what a real woman looks like. They will remember the Mummy who wrapped them up in a milky bubble and went on to wipe their scraped knees and held them when they were crying over an adolescent nightmare. That is a real vision of beauty and the image that should be passed to the next generation.
Are you a 4th Trimester Mummy looking to be nurtured – join Suffolk Babies for a Munchkins class – more information here:
If you would like advice about post-natal exercise or rehabilitation please see
If you are a woman who wants to start running, no matter what your shape, size or experience
Emma Talbot – I can Run Club
If you have a sports injury or want general advice on pain management
Mark Newman – Physiotherapist
John Reynolds – Soft Tissue Expert, Coach, Biomechanics, Massage Therapist (amongst other things)