As I write this blog I’m sitting on a train, making the last leg of my journey home after a night and day in Copenhagen for work. My left breast (Lionel) is engorged and ridiculously painful, my right (Richie) is about half the size of its buddy.
I went back to work after six months with both my babies. Emotionally it was – and continues to be – hard, but I am well supported through the inevitable raft of working mum issues. The physical impact of returning to work has been less supported. Yes, there are plenty of laws that give mummies rights at work but they’re hard to apply when you’re out at a meeting in an open plan office and are trying to play the Miss Big Bollocks but desperately need to express (and have regard for the food hygiene issues around producing baby milk in the crapper). Or you’ve gone to Copenhagen overnight and your expressing machine won’t work…
Breastfeeding after work
My working mumbod is pure function. I no longer feel tiredness or pain in the same way (I can hold a wee through a two hour meeting whilst barely registering the discomfort) and any worries I had about my mummy tummy in formal work wear were long ago overtaken by those of leaking breasts and sneezing with a weakened pelvic floor. Thankfully I no longer leave great lumps of hair everywhere I go but I still look like a Palaeolithic fertility symbol with bags under my eyes and grey hairs that have reproduced in direct correlation with the number of hours I’ve not slept.
And yet I love my working mumbod. It is a machine that can carry two children up a steep hill at the same time; it has a touch that instantly soothes my babies’ ills; it has learned to provide food for my little girl only when she is near and it has my greatest story written all over it.
Me and the girl
Clearly, it is in my nature to overshare and doing so has normalised my experience – particularly by bringing out the stories, sympathy and strategies from fellow parents. I’ve learned how to get the milk stains out of clothes; that my baby won’t starve if I don’t express; that oxytocin keeps me functioning on only two hours of sleep and that those kegels really do work if you do them properly.
I’m now 14 months postpartum and just starting to find time to put eyeliner on in the mornings. Lionel and Richie will never quite be the same again but it’s ok. In discovering the range of my body’s function I’m learning to be kinder about its form.
Asleep for 5 minutes
HuffPost UK Parents has launched ‘Mumbod’, a new section to empower mums and mums-to-be to feel confident about their bodies pre- and post-baby. We’d also love to hear your stories. To blog for Mumbod, email firstname.lastname@example.org. To keep up to date with features, blogs and videos on the topic, follow the hashtag #MyMumbod.