Body Image After Pregnancy And A Stoma

by Michelle Williams

Michelle Body Image

Body image issues are a hot topic these days thanks to social media, but even 10 years ago it was pretty hard. Back then, I had a double whammy to contend with; the same year that I had ileostomy surgery, I’d also given birth to my son, Callum.

Why is the impact pregnancy has on our bodies such a big secret?

Pregnancy; it’s something millions of women go through each year yet, for some reason, I found the toll it took on my body to be quite a secretive ‘process’. Yes, we shared our growing bumps, baby scans and the sex of the child, but no one was sharing their tiger-scratch stretch marks or discussing how our ankles were so big that the bone had disappeared from sight.

No-one told me to expect a saggy beer belly or Womble-nose boobs!

I distinctly remember the lack of warning that my belly wouldn’t immediately deflate after I had my beautiful Callum. No one told me to expect a saggy beer belly – the Kardashians definitely aren’t advertising that truth!

“Breast is best” is shouted from the rooftops and rammed down new Mums’ throats at every opportunity, but there was definitely no warning that I’d be left with boobs resembling a Womble's nose (Google ‘Wombles’ if you’re too young to know what I’m referring too, it’ll give you a giggle).   

Once my body had shrunk back to ‘normal’ pre-pregnancy shape, I was pleased to get back into my size 8 jeans. But I can remember standing in a changing room, looking in the full- length mirror and thinking, “Is this one of those funfair mirrors? Because that’s definitely my head, but my body is all over the place!”

So I went to Marks & Spencers (you can always trust M&S, right?) and looked into their changing room mirror… turns out my body HAD changed. I asked my friends that already had children and they were just like, “Oh yeah, did we not mention that this happens?”

It was at that point I stopped looking in the mirror when I was undressed.

Then I got my ileostomy and my body changed again.

In the lead up to stoma surgery, my body grew huge from the steroids; I was bigger than I ever was when pregnant. Stretch marks appeared in places I didn’t think they could.

The obvious change, of course, was the bag attached to the front of my stomach but of all my body image issues, the bag has actually been the easiest to accept.

After surgery, Inflammatory bowel disease no longer stopped me from gaining weight, so it was obvious that I’d start putting the pounds back on. Unfortunately, this also coincided with the slowing down of my metabolism. It’s been gradual but that weight was so hard to shift once it piled on.

This month’s blog came about after a full and frank discussion with my BFF, Eleanor. 

We talked about how it seems that no matter how well we eat, no matter how much we exercise, our efforts makes no difference. And how much time we wasted feeling fat and hating the way we looked in our twenties when actually we had never looked better!

We talked about the way some women our age seem to ooze confidence, happiness and appear so comfortable in their own skin. We didn’t come up with the answer to how we can achieve this too…but we did enjoy cocktails and Italian food while discussing our own body images!

The picture that accompanies this post is of me in a Christmas dress that I bought a size too small so that I could work towards the goal of fitting into it for the festive celebrations. As you can see from my expression (despite the slight grimace, as I hate having my photo taken!), I’m chuffed it fit! 

About the author

My name is Michelle; I live in Kent with my husband and son. I have a permanent ileostomy as a result of Ulcerative Colitis. You can follow me on twitter.

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