Am I a bad feminist for having a ‘Mummy Makeover’?
Updated: Dec 1, 2022
A few months ago, I had a ‘Mummy Makeover’. That’s the cutesy name given to a not at all minor operation where I was quite literally cut in half, had 60 stitches down the muscles of my abdominal wall, a huge section of loose, stretch-marked skin removed from my lower abdomen requiring an excision from hip to hip, and a breast reduction that both repositioned my nipples and removed excess skin and breast tissue leaving me with a very tidy C cup. Two perfect, perky handfuls, thank you very much.
You would think that all the cutting and suturing would be quite painful, and I’m sure it was. But it paled in comparison to the pain of the abdominal muscle repair. That part was to fix a two-centimeter separation in my abdominal wall caused by pregnancy. With that gaping chasm in my mid-section, I had no hope of ever doing a sit up again, and a lovely umbilical hernia to top it off.
That is all to say that as well as having obvious cosmetic benefits, the procedure also has functional benefits that will help me live life more fully, and with less neck and back pain, both of which I suffer from chronically.
Now, back to the bit where I tell you just how uncomfortable the recovery was.
Every single move you make uses your abs, and having 60 stitches through those suckers really lets you know you’re alive. Whatever you do, don’t laugh or cough for at least 4-6 weeks. And for the love of all things holy, DO NOT SNEEZE. On a scale of 1 – 10, that pain is a solid 15.
I’ve pushed an entire human out of my vagina without so much as a Panadol, and I’d rather do that any day over sneezing with a tummy full of sutures.
So why put myself through it?
I consider myself a body-positive feminist who embraces all kinds of beauty in others, and I’m proud of what my body has done for me.
So far, it’s carried me through (almost) 42 years of life, while sometimes being treated very poorly (I’m talking to you, early 30s party-girl), and produced two fully formed, incredible humans.
Was having this operation a case of “my body, my choice”, or was my choice informed by decades of patriarchal social conditioning and diet culture? A little from column A, and a lot from column B.
I tell my kids I love their beautiful, round bellies, their freckles, and their dimply bums. And I really bloody do! So, when do these attributes stop being adorable childhood traits and turn into flaws we need to either fix or fixate upon? I hope, for the sake of my daughters, not until they’re much, much older.
I’ve had a complicated relationship with my body my entire life. I was always a bit of a chunky kid. Chunky and hungry. Chungry, if you will.
Let’s just say that the thighs in my family meet all the way from the knees to the nether regions.
I’ve already had to explain to my eldest what chafe is and how to manage it. That’s just how we’re built. I won’t have a thigh gap until I’ve been dead and decomposing for a few months, and that’s ok with me. Now.
But diet culture got its mitts on me good and early thanks to *society, including my parents who’d also been raised in its grips.
My Mum used to tell us with pride how, when she met my Dad, she subsisted on a natural yoghurt and an apple all day while working full-time.
She was 19, beautiful, and thin, with long, silken hair all the way down to her bum. But when my Dad picked her up from work each evening she was in tears at how starving she was. What a shitty way to live.
My Dad was in the Army for decades, and either by virtue of his job or personality, has always stayed very fit. Both he and Mum grew up in the generation where it seemed the worst thing you could be was fat, and that was certainly the message I internalised from a young age.
I was even enrolled in Weight Watchers at the ripe old age of 12. TWELVE!
I probably had 4 or 5 kilos of ‘puppy fat’ on me, but off I went to count points and weigh in weekly, along with a dozen or so middle-aged women on the lifelong merry-go-round of managing our midriffs.
I’m not mad about it, just sad about it. I’ve spent way too many hours, weeks, years on this diet and that. Counting calories and starving myself. Only to continue hating my body then look back on it, years later in photos, wishing “if only I was that thin again”.
Now, seeing as we’re the generation of cycle-breakers, I plan to do things very differently with my girls.
I don’t let my kids see me weigh myself. We don’t talk about weight or diets in front of them. And whenever that bitchy voice in my brain critiques a woman on TV, I make sure I say something complimentary about her out loud to my girls. Of course, I’m modelling behaviour to them, but I’m also attempting to re-program myself.
Thankfully, the body positive movement is here, and I truly believe things will be different as my babies mature.
Incidentally, I happen to have two very tall kids. I’m talking ‘a-whole-head-above-their-peers tall’. I’m mindful of how we’ll need to navigate and celebrate their beautiful bodies for everything they can do as they grow.
So, what will I tell them about the time I had major surgery to drastically change my body? I suppose I’ll tell them that I loved my body before because it gave me them. For now, I’ve told them it was to help Mummy be strong so she can look after them well.
When they’re older, I’ll tell them the whole truth. That I’d loved and hated (mostly hated) my body for decades, that it was really fucked up, and that I don’t want them wasting their beautiful brains on thoughts of calories or kilos when there’s so much more incredible stuff they can do with them.
I’ll tell them I had the second half of my life ahead of me, and I wanted to live it to its fullest with them, pain free. That I wanted to be fully present in all their beautiful childhood memories, in my bikini having fun with them at the beach, not hiding off to the side in my muumuu taking the photos.