In part five of our series, mum of three Becky Dickinson decides to tackle the issue of the baby bulge.
Newborn has reached the ripe old age of seven months. This means that technically speaking, and contrary to what my midriff may suggest, she is no longer a newborn at all.
The days of sending her to sleep in front of the washing machine have been replaced with purée splattered walls and two sharp teeth, as my anxious areolae can testify.
It also means, technically speaking, that I am just two months away from regaining my pre-pregnancy body. They say it takes nine months to grow a baby and nine months to lose the weight afterwards. Clearly this doesn’t apply to pop stars, royalty, minor celebrities – or anyone else in possession of a team of personal trainers, nutritionists, cosmetic surgeons and a contract with Hello magazine.
But apparently the rest of us have just 40 weeks to shed the flab and prance around like we’d never popped a baby out at all. Well, whoever they are clearly didn’t have a genetic predisposition for KitKat Chunkies and Merlot – possibly, but not necessarily, together. They probably didn’t have three children either.
And they clearly weren’t lactating, as that requires calories, preferably in the form of chocolate.
Let’s be clear here. Even before babies, I didn’t have a figure like Kate Middleton, so I’m not expecting to have one afterwards. Especially third time round. But it would be nice to ditch the maternity wear before Newborn starts school. Or possibly, at this rate, university. At seven months post-natal, my skinny jeans are still smirking at the back of the wardrobe and I have a selection of elasticated waist bands that are woefully beyond their use by date. Where are Trinny and Susannah when you need them? Come to think of it, where have they been for the last five years?
There’s no point blaming an absence of TV gurus. I know what I should be doing – eating rice cakes and signing up to Zumba classes. But I’m too busy whizzing up nutritious, organic purées for Newborn, to exercise. And rice cakes are fine if you’re a coeliac, or a vegan, or just pleasure-intolerant. The kind of person who goes to a party, drinks sparkling water and avoids the canapés. Not that I go to parties these days – unless you count the ones that involve 30 children trampling over each other in a so-called ‘soft play’ area. Anyway, life is so much more enjoyable with taste buds. Surely lugging car seats and changing bags around must count as some kind of exercise? A quick glance in the mirror suggests otherwise.
‘Why don’t you join a gym?’ suggests Unhusband. We both know he’s being facetious. I barely have time to go the supermarket these days. Though fortunately the Avocado Man, as J calls him, saves me this pleasure. Funny how the vans are all named after one-of-five-a- day, ‘Today I’ll be driving the Apple van.’ So far, the subliminal health messages haven’t actually reached my waistline.
What I need is an exercise DVD. That way I can make a tit out of myself in the mess of my own home and tone up at the same time. I wait until the children are in bed, and after a quick rummage through their snack supply, turn to Google. The choice is baffling – there is the red wine diet (I’m tempted, but not that stupid) and the ‘drop 5 stone in 40 days plan’ (surely, even Jesus didn’t lose that much?). In the end I opt for a Pilates workout – it looks gentle but effective. It arrives a little sooner than I would have liked which means I can’t make excuses any longer.
‘I’m going to do it every day,’ I tell Unhusband. He looks at me like I’ve just told him I’m going to take up ironing or making cake pops, activities we both know won’t be happening this side of the menopause. But I’m determined to prove him wrong about my new health regime. The following morning, after being rudely awakened by Newborn at her usual irksome hour, I take us both downstairs and switch on the DVD player.
An abnormally flawless woman glides onto the screen and tells me to locate my transverse abdominals, as if they’re a pair of shoes. I can’t quite remember what I did with them, so I stick the DVD on pause and have a good prod of my abdomen. All I can locate is a kind of hole where I think there may once have been muscle. ‘This is all your fault,’ I tell Newborn, who’s happily kicking the battery-life out of her baby gym. If only I had that much energy in the morning.
Pilates Woman is lying gracefully on the floor, wafting a sculpted leg in the air. It’s a good thing she can’t see me. I’m wearing a pink dressing gown with a snail on the back (it was a Christmas present), a pair of boxer shorts, and a night-bra, which smells faintly yoghurty. The dressing gown keeps getting in the way of my leg raises, or whatever they are.
Five minutes later D comes down, dragging her doll.
‘Why are you lying on the floor?’ she yawns.
‘I’m doing some exercises,’ I exhale. ‘Why don’t you join in?’
My three year old daughter flops on the floor right in front of the screen, so that I no longer have to look at Pilates Woman.
‘It’s boring. I want Peppa Pig,’ she demands.
‘It’s not on yet,’ I lie, knowing she can work the remote control better than I can.
Then J emerges, demanding Pokémon and Cheerios.
‘Peppa Pig. I said Peppa Pig first,’ argues D. And so the day begins, as they argue over whose turn it is to decide what to watch on TV. D wins because she was down first. And for the fiftieth time this month we watch the one where Daddy Pig accidentally-on-purpose slips a chocolate cake into the shopping trolley.
To be honest, I think I’d rather watch an anthropomorphic pig making everyone laugh, than listen to a woman with a concave stomach, telling me to pull in parts of my body that were probably left in the delivery suite. Plus, all that chocolate cake is making me hungry.
‘Let’s have something nice for breakfast,’ I say. Pigs are history as they race to the fridge to see what’s on offer.
I’ve got precisely two more months to regain my pre-pregnancy physique. I have to admit the odds aren’t looking too favourable. But one day my babies won’t need me to make them breakfast, or help them get dressed. They won’t want to bake cakes with me and smother them in way too much icing. They’ll read their own stories and watch telly with their friends. And they’ll all be at school. The skinny jeans can wait.