Images taken by Trevor Stuurman

“I celebrate my shifting form, grateful to be free, temporarily, from the feeling that any increase in my size is betrayal, horror or a source of shame.”

This being my third pregnancy, I have come to fully embrace (finally!!!) the fullness of woman that I am – unapologetically. I have come to own my femininity and it has been the most liberating journey. I have also been policed… A lot! In many ways!

 

In my recent maternity shoot with a friend and brother of mine, internationally acclaimed photographer Trevor Stuurman, I wanted this to resonate right through the images and to be depicted as beautifully as possible and he sure did pull through on that. I loved the images and felt they represented the phase I am in and the transitions that motherhood takes you through. It is liberating – and as I quoted in one of my captions:

“I celebrate my shifting form, grateful to be free, temporarily, from the feeling that any increase in my size is betrayal, horror or a source of shame.”

You have no idea, until you are pregnant, what that feeling is like in pregnancy; to finally breath out and not have to tuck in your bulge or worry about whether the rolls protrude through the dress I am wearing. The thoughts come up of course – heck, my hips are wider, my face looks like I’ve stuffed one muffin too many into the sides of my cheeks (granted I do have a few blueberry muffins every now then J), my legs look like sausage dogs, but I’m free from judging myself (never mind the fear of judgement). I feel free from hating my new form – I’m creating something magical, a whole new human!

And I spend a little more time in front of the mirror and in the bathroom, locking it in case someone barges in and catches me marvelling at all this splendour happening within and outside of. This size 28’s thighs actually touch now. Her face is round and the 32A bra size has upgraded to B-cup. All this for a growing human.

I then drifted into thought about when did the body consciousness start and how did it start? I literally sat and wondered when was my first realization that I am being looked at. Scrutinised. Not in the sense of being looked at in marvel, but I was being sexualized, therefore I need to be aware.

And the thought took me back to school.

No more than 4 fingers above the knee.

No spaghetti straps.

No waist showing.

Top must cover breasts completely – no visible cleavage.

No G-Strings – boy-leg and full underwear only

I remember once raising my hand during a boarding house meeting in school and asking the house matron why we weren’t allowed to wear spaghetti strap tops. Her response was that it arouses the boys. I took it for what it was and did not question it at the time. I didn’t want any boy being aroused because of me and then doing something he would regret. Shame poor boy.

 

But whilst pregnant I have been shocked at how much unsolicited advice I will receive about what I and my baby must consume and how much coffee is too much – or to avoid it if I can. How much sugar is too much… oh and how much and how often to eat. Do I exercise? Because jeeeez, I don’t look like I’ve even gained a grain of rice on any side of my body (this coming from someone who has followed me for all of two days on Instagram). How can I forget the feeling of a ping pong ball when asked what you opted for in your previous births and explaining that it wasn’t really a choice, the C-Section was pretty much my only option. And then being judged for not standing your ground or perhaps even being judged for thinking you could have a 3,4kg baby with the tiny frame you have – how would that baby have fitted through your vagina! Its sole purpose is sex (and sometimes birthing) … imagine your husband dealing with a stretched vagina, Olwethu! Goodness!

 

Growing up I only knew of gynaecologist being female doctors. Midwives were folktale women, who came in to birth a baby when it was time and then left in haste (that was how it was depicted in movies). It was primitive. Unsophisticated. They just really sang you kumbaya, told you to breath, push and pop and voila there’s a baby!

So, I obviously never bothered myself with a midwife with my first baby. Gynae all the way. A C-section was the only way a young lady was going to have her baby.

Dr: “You’re far too young to ruin your lady bits. Any history of C-Sections in your family?”

Me: “Yes, my mom had 3.”

Dr: “Chances are that you may also end up with a C-Section either way. Your pelvic bones won’t open up. We’ll make the scar nice, neat and small. You won’t even notice it’s there.”

I didn’t really have a choice now did I? This is someone who’s birthed many babies. Who am I to argue?

18 months later and heavily pregnant with my second child – my employer at the time felt it apt to voice his ‘concern’ at me being so young with my second baby on the way. The rebel in me showed him how young moms do it by wearing my cute little figure hugging dresses for a few days after. He was visibly annoyed – I enjoyed it, I won’t lie. But I then wore something that was a bit more tolerable in days that followed, because I didn’t want to upset him or create sexual misrepresentation towards pregnancy in the office. Now I wonder for whom and why would that have even crossed my mind?!

 

Fast-forward to breastfeeding and doing it appropriately. Breast feeding at church, pumping milk at work, breastfeeding in restaurants – being stared at in disgust by someone with a spaghetti noodle straddling between their lips. You can’t help but wonder…Perhaps it is my duty, as a sexual object, to do everything in my power to shield everyone from the distraction that is my physical body – my breasts.

Is this not the exact same logic and thinking that contributes to rape culture and victim blaming. That I should take responsibility for that which is given to me by God is something else, but being responsible for someone else’s reaction to my being, I know God did not give us his only begotten some for that. I know that for sure.

 

When a girl is wearing a mini shirt and gets cat-called on the street, what exactly did she expect, wearing something like that?

When a woman gets called out or looked at in disgust whilst breastfeeding, what did she expect, with her breasts all out for the world to see?

Oh, and when Olwethu posts her maternity shoot on Instagram wearing her breast as she would whilst feeding her baby, men will lust and thirst for more. Some will have the audacity to wonder and ask her,

“What of your husband? What’s then left for him? What of your children? Your body surely belongs to them…”

Not me you say? My body does not belong to me?

Is this not then the manifestation of rape culture? Is this not then the hyper sexualisation of women’s bodies?

Breasts are defined as one of two prominences located on the upper ventral region of the torso of primates. In females, it serves as the mammary gland, which produces and secretes milk and feeds infants. Both females and males develop breasts from the same embryological tissues.

So… The true biological importance of women’s breasts is to feed human babies. When it comes to breastfeeding a child, there’s absolutely nothing sexual about that. Do you see something sexual about that? Well, predators do. So why must I be discreet?

What message do we send to young women and young mothers when we tell them to be discreet in the natural things?

(Don’t get me started on menstruation!)

Our children, boys and girls, need role models that they grow up around and see breastfeed their babies at shopping malls, at restaurants, on an aeroplane. This is futuristic mothering. We must break this cycle of sexualisation of something that is so natural. Why must our children especially boys grow up thinking breasts are for them to enjoy and play with as adults? Why must our girls hand their breasts over to boys for validation and satisfaction of another?

I am not going to be policed. And neither should our young women. I am going to enjoy this journey of being divinely feminine. I will be proud, as should you, of my body and what it can do.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion – but keep make an informed one. Ignorance in this case is certainly not bliss.

When a girl is wearing a mini shirt and gets cat-called on the street, what exactly did she expect, wearing something like that? When a woman gets called out or looked at in disgust whilst breastfeeding, what did she expect, with her breasts all out for the world to see? Oh, and when Olwethu posts her maternity shoot on Instagram wearing her breast as she would whilst feeding her baby, men will lust and thirst for more. Some will have the audacity to wonder and ask her, “What of your husband? What’s then left for him? What of your children? Your body surely belongs to them…” Not me you say? My body does not belong to me?
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About The Author

Entrepreneur, mom and wife. Superwoman.

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