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:
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!
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.
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 bit.ly/TIKI3u.