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And obviously, I was quite smug and happy with my response, yes… thanks for asking.
But it bitches at me in the most unpleasant way that, for every response such as mine, and for every twenty other people who received this email, rolled their eyes and moved on… there is probably at least one woman who didn’t.
At least one woman who didn’t dismiss it and return to thinking about more important things than looking ‘hot’ or ‘sexy’ or ‘reclaiming a pre–pregnancy figure!’.
For every one of us who hears sentiments like those and feels a bit disgusted, a bit cheated out of the ripeness that should be a feminine birth right; there is at least one new mum who feels fat and inadequate.
For every grown woman who views her body as a soft place, a miracle, a playground; there is a teenage girl who’s convinced, positive, that her bum is huge and life would be better if she were just that bit prettier, if her hair was that bit longer.
For every handful of us who find ourselves angry at such irresponsible, un-sisterly bullsh*t; there is at least one media outlet– social or mainstream– who has taken this PR approach on, who is promoting it, who is saying it’s a good idea to fill the heads of a million impressionable minds- male and female- with this crap. At least one publication who’s allowing this kind of unhealthy, detrimental pressure and focus to continue to seep into the spot where women are most vulnerable, where insecurities lay stagnant in dark crevices of the soul.
And I know (thanks, those in the peanut gallery– shut up already, this is my show), that by addressing it here I’m quite possibly giving it a voice, giving this platform attention it certainly doesn’t warrant.
But if I have a voice here, the let me use it. And if for nothing else, then let it be to ensure, every now and then, that things like this don’t seep into the female psyche so… quietly.
If this idea is to be presented to us as valid, then let there at least be a voice that speaks otherwise.
And so, to every woman reading this, to the mothers who are and who will be, to the grandmothers, aunts, best friends and cheer squads, to the millions of my sisters around me who bear the weight of being female, who feel all the weight of the immortal responsibilities of reproducing, nourishing and rearing, to you; let me say this…
Eat… gloriously. In health, and good fortune, in company and pleasure. For sustenance and growth, for love and pleasure.
There is no hunger that compares to the famishment of a new mother, her body shell-shocked, tired arms cradling a baby freshly birthed. All energy has been spent, used, burnt– labour, birth, the body pulsing and recovering, retaining shape slowly like strong tempered rubber, producing food perfectly weighted and optimally nutritious. There is no meal that tastes as good as the first you eat following childbirth, no hunger that could possibly be so demanding nor so satisfying when satiated.
Babies eat and suck and chew calories from their mothers, swallow kilojoules in slurping breaths, literally and figuratively sucking your life away. Mother’s milk, enough to sustain life. Compound the exhaustion of constant waking, continual watching, always worrying. Then babies grow to toddlers and they move, fast and unpredictable, with you the only one to catch them and still their tiny feet. You the only one who’s energy is eaten and resources drained by the constant thought processes, the constant re-prioritizing that’s required to keep up with hundreds of questions, the mental fog of attempting to stay one step ahead and quench that frantic curiosity, that intense drive of seeing, doing, thinking, being; a constant sponging of information from the world.
And toddlers, eventually, they become children. And still it’s hard work, still it’s constant. Playing, running, making, hugging, cleaning, building, doing. It feels as though it’s been five years since I sat down, relaxed and put my feet up… maybe it has been.
Being a mum– being a woman, in general, I believe– it requires energy untold. I’m always tired, always slightly shabby. My body always feels as though it needs that little bit extra nourishment, something that bit more to get me through. As though it needs a big cuddle and warm blanket, a bad rom-com on DVD and a big plate of soft lasagna, with hot chocolate and marshmallows to follow.
There is, so they say, three guaranteed pleasures in the human existence– sex, sleep and food. Primal, tribal, biological…. urges that cannot be ignored.
So I say, mothers, ladies of all ages and denominations… let us eat. Let us eat breakfasts and brunches, lunches and suppers, dinners and teas and snacks and midnight feasts by fridge light. Let us eat food real and rich, cooked and raw, prepared or thrown together, freshly cooked or lukewarm and waiting for hours. Munch, nibble, graze, chew, masticate, relish, swallow and suckle; dine, pig, nourish, gorge, pick, fuss and tuck in. Eat real food, and enjoy every mouthful. Taint it not, for today, for right now, with weight and calories and peer pressure and pairs of size-eight jeans.
Just eat, the way you did as a child– ripe peaches held with both hands over a scratched stainless steel sink, flesh stuck between teeth and juice flowing down china, streaking the backs of forearms and pooling tangy iridescent on elbows. Sticks of fairy floss bigger than your head that leave sticky pink spiderwebs strung between your fingers. Mangoes eaten in bathtubs filled with tepid water at the humid height of a bushfire summer.
If you are, or plan to, or have been providing with every piece of yourself in order to nourish a new life on this planet; recognize the divine in that, and worship that divinity with the pleasure of food, eaten messily and hungrily and without care of who’s watching on, in the sunshine of the altar of life.
No mother needs to ‘look hot after birth’. Especially not by starving herself, by punishing herself with exercise that’s excessive to the detriment of herself and her child.
Nurture yourselves, ourselves.
Be kind to ourselves, and one another.
Being ‘hot’ is such a relative concept. As is being ‘healthy’.
But beauty comes from within.
And so I say- ladies, women, sisters… eat.