Despite breastfeeding and 'running around after the kids' like the Duchess of Cambridge, Emma Bartley is finding it near impossible to lose the baby weight after her second child - and it's causing an identity crisis
I should have known better than to click on it. But the story about how the Duchess of Cambridge is thin because “I’m running after my kids” was irresistible, for two months after having my second baby I am actually getting heavier.
How can this have happened? It seems to be against nature, against logic, against justice itself that my tummy is protruding more every day and not less. After all, I’m breastfeeding. Do you think I would have consented to have my tits chewed up all over again if I’d known I was going to pork up anyway? Say what you want about antibodies and optimal nutrition, but the supposed 500 calories a day it burns up are THE reason I signed up a second time.
After my first baby I was eating cake for breakfast, cake for lunch and of course snacking on more cake. I rarely made it to the gym but the weight just seemed to melt away and after six months I found I actually fitted the size 12 jeans I’d been wearing my whole adult life. (Like a friend of mine who’s decided to “stick” at the age of 35, I refuse to concede being any bigger than a 12, however uncomfortable it may become to breathe.) Getting out from behind a desk had helped, I decided,
plus breastfeeding was clearly magic.
So what’s gone wrong this time? A couple of things are different, I guess. I probably got going on the cake a bit early, when the baby was tiny and not actually taking that much milk (peak weight loss is apparently 3-6 months, a statistic upon which all my hopes are now pinned). And I’m not expressing hundreds of millilitres of milk to put in the freezer like last time because I now realise that THAT WAS INSANE. I do have a toddler to run after, but the reality is that if we go anywhere I have to go there at toddler speed, and it’s hard to get your heart rate up when you’ve got to stop to admire every twig on the floor. I'm also a few years older, a fact that whattoexpect.com - yes, I’ve googled “weight loss after birth when” - cheerfully informs me means my metabolism will have slowed (it goes down 2% every decade after 25).
It shouldn't matter, but it does. I don't feel fit or strong but tired and flabby. My tummy still sticks out in the memory of a bump; my lardy arse makes my jeans fit awkwardly; my arms look like iberico hams. I won't say that I hate my body because it has, twice now, produced a beautiful baby. I’m just conscious that all this extra padding means I’ve been terribly indisciplined, cramming hot cross buns into my mouth after nights of disrupted sleep, and sitting about watching Netflix instead of doing exercise.
In the Facebook mums’ group I’m part of, about one third agreed with K Middy that motherhood is very slimming (several of these women mentioned getting straight back into their size 8 jeans, a size I probably last fitted when I was 8). Another third were at least as fat as before having kids (these commenters were more likely to note that it’s probably a bit easier to get to Pilates when you’ve got a couple of nannies). And one third pointed out that this conversation really wasn’t the reason our feminist foremothers burnt their bras.
They’re right, of course, but it’s not just about the objectification of women - it’s about identity. We still recognise the mothers who, like the Duchess, look as if they’d never had a baby. The ones who look as if they’re still pregnant, possibly with twins, maybe even triplets - these women have visibly changed. And that for me is the real issue, because at a time when your life’s all about somebody else you want to at least be able to recognise yourself in the mirror.
So I’ve done a couple of things this week in the hope of turning the tide. I’ve dug out my copy of Project Me and started springing cayenne pepper and chia seeds on everything. I’m trying to be more carb-aware (there’s still some cake in the mix but it’s cauliflower rice for dinner rather than white pasta). And - drumroll - I’ve been out for a 20-minute run. Those 20 minutes all to myself were better than any cake. Now I just need to train one of my kids to run in front of me so that when I get thin I can claim I wasn’t even trying.