One of the things that motherhood has changed about me, which I no longer think about much, is how I feel about my body.
When I was a teenager at boarding school, we had communal showers and bathrooms. To anyone who had any hang-ups about their body, saying it was a bit grim would be an understatement. Parenting manuals are quick to point out the need for privacy for your adolescent. Well boarding schools, although acting in loco parentis, clearly hadn’t read a parenting manual. Of any sort. And particularly not one about the need for some privacy, somewhere, anywhere, during the school term. Shared dormitories, shared bathrooms, shared teaching, dining and TV rooms meant that solitary time, indeed any sort of quiet time, was approximately nil.
As a quiet, homebody, happy-with-my-own-company sort of person I did find this quite hard. But I’m not a recluse so it was only a minor gripe and things like midnight feasts and all the fun myths that go with boarding school sort of made up for it. But the lack of privacy for bathing at a time when many girls are becoming self-conscious about their bodies was a shame. I became expert at quick showering with minimum exposure to those waiting in line.
I can only imagine what sort of pornographic hits I am going to get now. Naked schoolgirl showering! Shared bathing pictures! (try the rugby team websites for that one, guys and gals).
When I think back now to the lengths I went to not to have to be naked, I laugh, because labour and childbirth have stripped away any remaining dignity I might have had. When you’ve had twelve or thirteen different midwives or (mostly male) consultants ‘measuring’ your cervix, when more people have looked at your ‘betweens’ during labour than I’ve had hot dinners (or so it seemed), when you’ve pooped on the delivery table (sorry people, but it does happen you know, at least it does in the UK where enemas are not routinely given), when you’ve been so badly sewn up after delivery that you feel the need for plastic surgery, when you’ve whipped your boobs out time and again in public to shut a screaming baby up (discreetly of course, except when said baby grabs nursing bra in desperation, revealing a vast expanse of breast), when you’ve leaked milk onto your t-shirt because your baby cried in another room, well, there doesn’t seem much point in being embarrassed anymore. About anything. Least of all what my body looks like.
And if I’d known what my body would look like after children I would have done SO much more streaking when I was younger.