Wednesday, 30 July 2014

My Stomach & The #RealMumsAllBran Challenge

Sometimes, thanks to this blog, an opportunity will come my way and I'll take it. And most recently it was to partake in the #RealMumsAllBran Challenge, where bloggers were challenged to eat All Bran for breakfast, for five days straight and blog their experiences, noting how is made their tummies feel from the inside, all-the-while accepting our tummies, post-baby from the outside.

I was curious. I didn't choose to get involved because I wanted weight loss results. But I liked the idea of adopting a new healthy breakfast choices - I've long been feasting on cereal bars and fruit - and seeing if it did make me feel any better.

And while, I'm going to talk taste and results, I'm also going to be very honest about that stomach of mine.

So, firstly the flavours:

Golden Crunch 

My favourite of the bunch. I loved the mild sweetness and crunch that this had, and I liked that I could add my own berries to this if I wanted, or keep it plainer too. I can't always stomach a flavour-packed breakfast, especially on a work-day, so I really enjoyed finishing these off!

Berry Crunch 

My second-favourite. I liked these for the berry pop, and I'll always marvel at how dried fruit rehydrates in milk. I know it's a simple thing, but I loved the little fruity morsels I'd find. Mark also preferred this one and probably had more than I did in the end.

Chocolate Wheats 

While I liked these, I'm just not sure I could get past having chocolate for breakfast! They're hardly bad for you, but they are the naughtiest of the bunch and I did find myself developing a craving for chocolate at times, after eating them, which, when you're trying to make better food choices, is not good! That said, as a treat, with a toddler next to you looking for a second breakfast, these are a fab choice.

How did I feel?

I felt great actually. I certainly felt full and it was nice to sit down and take five minutes, while I checked my morning emails to eat a proper breakfast. And since then I've broken my cereal bar habit. As for how my tummy felt? I did get a little bloating to begin with - as I was upping my bran intake, but I certainly adjusted quickly and never felt the need to snack or nibble.

But what about how I feel about my stomach?

I will never forget the moment I saw my reflection for the first time after having my son. I hobbled to the bathroom of my birthing room and I remember shaking with adrenalin as I tried to remove the gown I gave birth in. I gingerly managed to scale the bath and turn on the overhead shower and I stood while I could for a a few minutes, until I sank down and leant against the side of the bath and felt the hot water rain down on my exhausted body.

It was only when I heard my son cry from the other room, that I stood up and tried to wash myself. And it was then, after sluicing the water of my face, that I noticed the mirror opposite me. The ill-fated mirror, right opposite the bath, in the bathroom of a labour ward. Luckily the shower meant that my tears left no trace, as I placed my hands on the sagging piece of skin that, hours before, house my baby.

In my new-mum state, I wasn't to know that it would soon retract, and quite quickly, and I would soon come to dismiss my stomach by tucking it in to leggings and hiding my expanding figure in loose clothing.

But somewhere along the line, I wanted better for myself. I didn't want to use the excuse of motherhood to explain the reason why I was large and my stomach bulged. I had a son that was 18 months-old. I had stopped breastfeeding.

I've since lost over two stone.

And I'm proud of myself, but my stomach is still my nemesis.

It's still the one part of my body that causes my cheeks to flare with shame. And it's still the first place my arms will go when I'm nervous. I still, even now, feel like I need to apologise to Mark for being less than perfect. But he's not at all repulsed by me, and I'm more likely to get kisses and raspberries blown on my stomach than a grimace of disgust.

My stomach is probably smaller than before. And I've become skilled at hiding this flaw of mine away. But I can't escape it when I'm alone and I have no one to suck-in for. And a reflection lures my glance, out of sheer old-practice. But still, I'm trying.

My weight loss has highlighted my loose skin and the leftover fat. My muscles, I believe, are in good shape - I have no muscle separation and I've always had a strong core, but I can't shift this pouch of damaged skin and flesh.

My stretchmarks are thick, deep gouges, and I sometimes wonder how anyone can see past them to see me. They're hypnotically ugly. I find myself tracing their scares and wincing at the way I must appear to others.

But, sitting here, and having to write about this through this challenge, has made me realise that, yes, I've achieved a lot, but I'm not just a stomach. And I don't think I'll ever have abs to be proud of in the physically-beautiful sense, but those abs, that stomach, they held in a little boy and they did a pretty good job.

I'm not my flaws.

I'm a mother. And that very role is beautiful enough.

This post is an entry for the Real Mums of All-Bran Linky Challenge, sponsored by Kelloggs” and link to

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Park Life

When I was a little girl, I loved a trip to the park.

There are a few in Poynton, or at least, there was, but there was always one part that I loved more than the rest.

And that was 'the one near the fire station'. Even to this day I don't know the park's full name. But now it is also the park that is just a couple of minutes walk down my road. We live on the quietest street in our village. And the safest too, I imagine, with the fire station and their new neighbours - the police - and that.

I used to push open the heavy metal gates and hear that familiar creak. And then I would pelt off, full force, towards the green.

So you can imagine, aged 26, and a mother to a two year-old blonde-haired little boy, that I have a great sense of deja vu and reminiscent satisfaction in sharing this park with my son.

Little Charlotte took those same steps as he did. She climbed the exact same climbing frame. She flew down that exact same slide. She hung on the bars that Big Charlotte smiles at, because the red paint she remembers is showing through the green of her son's time.

Most nights, after work, or after a busy weekend day of chores of catching-up, we'll walk there together. We always say hello to the ornamental bunny in a neighbour's front garden as we walk in the late-evening sun.

We often take an animal or two with us. As is the standard for my son.

And he runs off, like a freed animal and shouts over his shoulder: "You no catch me Mama!"

Oh but little boy I can. He stumbles and falls over his little feet in excitement and whoops and shouts: "I'm flying! I'm flying!" And I run after him and scoop him up in my arms and tickle his tummy.

He shows me how he can climb. With no fear whatsoever. "I did it Mama!" And I applaud him. And smile up at him. And try and capture the love I feel with a lens.

Watching your child grow up, as he retraces steps you once took, should, I suppose, be reflectively painful. Slow down little guy. Slow down. But really, I feel my lung fill with fresh air and my heart beat with excitement for him.

As a baby, he may have stayed closer. Needing me to survive. But as a boy he chooses to call me his best friend. He chooses my hand to hold. And no matter how fast he runs away, he's always turning back to see that I'm right behind him.

And as he spins on the very old, and very unusual roundabout that used to be green, red and blue, but is now only red and black, I smile. I sit opposite him, balancing with one hand on the bar, one foot pushing us off, a camera in my other hand, with one eye focusing on that view-finder and the other focusing on him. I try my best to let him lose himself in a dizzy delight. Watching the world blur as he goes faster and faster and grins into the breeze that hits his little face.

I realise that, while I may be bigger, I can no longer stand to live life so fast. And so I climb off.

And let him keep swirling. Faster and faster.

In the only way you can when you're two.

When you're a child.

When you're growing up.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Chameleon Mum

Do you ever feel like you need to be different things for different people?

I've always been an adapter of sorts. Like those special plugs you get so things still work in a different country. I'm good at making things work. And making people work. 

I want to be that person that walks into a room and people want to talk to her. That confident girl with swishy hair and brilliant banter. And I'm still trying - trust me I am. And I want to have interesting things to say about life and politics. I want to know the good jokes and have that witty sarcasm that speaks of an intelligent mind. 

But really I'm last year's knock-knock joke. I used to have a joke that was about artichokes being two for a pound. I used to tell it for years, until I realised that I was lacking in delivery and that, actually, it really wasn't that funny. And for those reasons, I won't take that any further.

I want to be a head-turner. I do. Yes. I want people to look at me and go: "Gosh, doesn't she look nice?" Because that has not happened to me before. I've always be the woman who has been head-down, toe-focused, and hidden in clothes that may deceptively cloak a wobbly bit or two. Even now, I can't follow fashion, because fashion doesn't fit my body all that well. You will never see me bearing my midriff with a floral crown. Because my midriff probably wobbles a bit when I walk, and looks like it's been attacked by one of my cats. And a floral crown will make me look like an 80's bridesmaid, despite looking good on everyone else.

I want to fit in around the Northern Quarter. But the fact of the matter is - I quite like Primark (because I can't afford to buy something suitably vintage), I don't mind bringing in my own lunch, and I don't want to pay a tenner for a coffee and a 'panini', which I'm not entirely sure isn't a squashed baguette that is hot and cheesy. And don't get me wrong, I love the cocktails. And I love the way everyone is so understatedly cool and...there's another reason. I say 'cool' like a mum. Because I am a mum. Go figure.

I used to think that I had to play down my son to non-parents. I used to think that I had to know who was in the top 40 and give a shit. And I used to think that I had to say things like: "GOD YOUR NON-PARENT LIFE IS AWESOME." But, actually, as awesome as it may be, I actually adore my son and now talk about him non-stop. Because I really do feel that people should hear the story about how he woke me up by knocking on my bedroom door, wearing absolutely nothing and carrying a basket full of toy animals. 

And sometimes, I feel like, hang on, oh shit, I'm a mum. I must not contribute much to society. I must have pushed my brain out of my vagina when I had a child. And no, I can only count to ten, but we are toying with the early teens now and again, but numbers are SO HARD. When really. I'm clever. I have a degree and plenty of experience. And I can write. And I can make things happen and I am ferocious, I know what day is bin day, I can cook a variety of dishes, and my spelling is pretty impeccable when not incensed with wine and over-keyboard-tapping-enthusiasm. And I can change a fuse wire, with my teeth*. 

And sometimes I am so happy and I woke up on the right side of the bed, so much so that the sun is practically shining out of my arse. And then I run into someone who doesn't only wish that I came with a dimmer switch, but who also just wants to use me as a punch bag because I'm "too nice". 

And I'm really good at cooking (bragging rights - I can't run for shit) but sometimes I feel like I have to photograph pictures of me eating beans on toast, which I wholly support as a staple meal, just because I don't want other mums to think I'm perfect or a food snob. And I really, genuinely get giddy off crafting and upcycling furniture because I want to be a Kirstie Allsopp, but not, but better. And I have two rooms in my house that are suitable for photographing in, because the other rooms look like I'm bringing my child up in a derelict house which is a) not on, b) a bit dangerous and c) do you think my Instagram followers know anyone in social services? When really, I'm trying really hard to do my house up so I have at least three rooms to photograph in. You know, for variety. 

And my son sometimes has a snotty nose. Because he just seems to breed colonies of the stuff in his little nose. And sometimes I let him wander around in a nappy and nothing else, because he's like me and likes to feel airy and free**. And sometimes he eats an easy, bung-it meal, when I'm having a steak. Because he would waste the nice steak and I would have less steak and I like steak. So, he can have fish fingers. I'll make him a butternut squash and goats cheese risotto for tea tomorrow, don't worry. 

And I have never co-slept. I have got my breasts back now after 18 months of breastfeeding, and I kind of pushed us to end, because I felt like his...well, his mammary slave. I don't believe in rushing to his side when he falls over because he's a crafty monkey sometimes and will do, as all children do, a little sneaky look at me to gauge my reaction and then decides on: "Oh Mama. Hurt head." And so I kiss it better and we run around and then I fall over and he does the same for me. 

And oddly enough, this sounds ranty, but it's not. It's just - I've learnt recently, that people prefer me just as I am. 

Maybe not as many people prefer me. But I'm pretty much done trying to please those out there who think breastfeeding is weird or that William looks a bit cray in the neon lime shorts that my dad got him. Or that I take too many selfies because, again, bragging rights, I've lost over two stone and used to look like I was eyeing my small child up as a snack. 


So of course I celebrate myself and the person I am and the way I am. 

I'm exactly who I'm supposed to be. 

And I'm no chameleon. The only time I change colour is when I've had a bit of sun or I've done the fake tan dance the night before. I'm not "just a mum", nor am I just a single one, or a working one, or a still-a-bit-chubby girl, or a brunette at 5"6. 

I mean - who am I pretending for? 


**Note: Do not wear nappies.
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