Mushroom, like most babies, likes skin-to-skin contact. Specifically, he likes cheek to soft squishable (if he can get it) skin contact.
Mushroom is a very active, energetic child. He rarely shows outward signs of tiredness until he’s exhausted. So it’s the little things I’ve learnt to look out for. One tantrum too many before 9am means he got up too early and will need a morning nap. Maniacal laughter at nothing in particular around 6pm means he might need an early night. The seeking out of skin usually means he’s ready to go to sleep. Soon.
He prefers my skin but he’s not that fussed. If we’re on a playdate he might rest his cheek on his unsuspecting friend’s leg. Or arm. Or any exposed skin. If he can’t find any he might go in for a hug to get that cheek to cheek contact. Not all of his friends are keen on this but he’s not fazed. If I’m busy he’ll seek out the friend’s Mum. He’s not as huggy with Dads – I guess he knows that Mums’ skin is usually softer.
If I’m doing something that means I have my back to him, he’ll toddle over (or crawl if he’s really tired), lift up my top and rest his face on my back. If I’m sitting down he’ll crawl into my lap, lift up my top (it doesn’t matter whether we’re at home on the sofa, at someone else’s house or sitting in a crowded park. He’s happy to expose me anywhere) and lie down on my belly. This is also his preferred position for going to sleep.
He’ll often give my belly a good squeeze – as though it’s a pillow that needs fluffing up – before getting himself comfortable and he’ll alternately stroke and squeeze my hips as he drifts off to sleep.
If you’d have told me two years ago that I would find this belly-squishing love adorable and not upsetting or mortifying, I wouldn’t have believed you. I had just lost three stone and was finally happy with my body.
When I say ‘just’ lost don’t let me mislead you. It took two years and a complete lifestyle overhaul to achieve this. I swapped fizzy drinks for water, exchanged my mid morning sandwich for fruit, made junk food an occasional treat and not an everyday occurrence and I exercised. A lot. I ran 3 – 5k on the treadmill twice a week and did either yoga or pilates every weekend. Basically, I ate less and moved more. I got used to my new body and healthy lifestyle.
I got married in a slinky dress. I wore a bikini on my honeymoon. Then I got pregnant. Morning sickness meant I lost more weight even though I did less exercise – although I did do some kind of exercise right up to the day before Mushroom appeared. I enjoyed my second trimester and even though I was uncomfortable for most of the third, I was grateful that I stayed reasonably fit and the birth wasn’t too bad. Comparatively speaking. It was no walk in the park.
Post baby, my body has changed again. I lost my pregnancy weight almost immediately thanks to breastfeeding but my boobs will never be the same again. They’re a little smaller and no longer pass the ‘pencil test,’ but they’re ok. My belly went back to pre Mushroom size and then even flatter as he had growth spurt after growth spurt and I had little time for eating most days. I loved that my body had bounced back so well.
Over time, however, I have put a little weight back on – I am not much over my pre Mushroom weight now but my belly has become squishier than it was before. I keep thinking I should do something about it and then... My healthy eating regime has... Well, let’s just say I need to work on it.
And as for exercise, well. Aside from running around after an energetic toddler, I don’t really have time. I do miss running though, and especially the yoga. I keep saying I’ll start my daily practice again but still haven’t got round to it. Of course, thinking about these things doesn’t make my belly any less squidgy. And you know what I realised today? It’s ok. It really is.
I love that my body grew and nourished Mushroom throughout pregnancy and beyond, and I’m grateful that it got through several weeks of postnatal preeclampsia without shutting down on me. To be honest, although I don’t exactly miss breastfeeding, I like that Mushroom now finds similar comfort in my squishable belly. This desire to be physically close to me won’t last forever.
So how do I feel about my Mum-body today? It’s not perfect – and never was – but the difference is that now I am ok with that. I’ve learned to love my body the way I love Mushroom. Unconditionally, and with real pride at what it has achieved.
About Love Mum-Body
On story of mum, we’re sharing photos of how our bodies have changed since we became mums and grandmums. You can photograph your actual body, or you can shape your body in plasticine. We don’t mind how you share it, as long as you do your very best to love it.
For some more inspiration, check out the guest posts we’ve had so far: