Mummies with tummies

Mummies with tummies

A baby bump need not signal a growing foetus within.

Addressing rumours that she was pregnant with her fourth child, American actress Jennifer Garner said recently on The Ellen DeGeneres Show: "I am not pregnant, but I've had three kids and there is a bump. From now on, I will have a bump and it will be my baby bump and let's just all settle in and get used to it. It's not going anywhere."

She won praise simply for admitting the existence of the mummy tummy - the looser, bulging tum that often follows childbirth, even after the baby weight is lost. It is the result of the stretching of muscle and tissue to accommodate the pregnancy.

Garner's views, rarely expressed in public by celebrities, struck a chord with mothers in Singapore.

Citing her comments as an example of straight talk about motherhood, Mrs Carol Gockel, 37, who has two children under the age of three, says: "I accept that I may just have to deal with having stretch marks and a baby bump as evidence that my body carried two babies. I'm taking it in my stride."

"I was relatively active prior to becoming pregnant. Now I'm trying to get back in shape by walking and going to the gym. The pressure from images and stories of celebrities returning to their pre-pregnancy shape so quickly doesn't help one bit," she says.

Mrs Gockel, like other mums interviewed by SundayLife!, notes that celebrities have an entourage to help them regain their pre-baby appearance.

"Celebrities depend on their looks. It's their livelihood; millions of dollars are at stake here. They have loads of help. They also exercise and diet hard to get back to their figure," she says, adding that some picture-perfect celebrities may have eating disorders or emotional issues.

Nonetheless, she feels the pressure to get back into shape again.

"From time to time, I am discouraged, but I'm more angry at myself for not being able to manage my time better to exercise, rather than at the images of celebrities," says Mrs Gockel, a Singaporean stay-at-home mum, who also runs a business as an image coach and personal stylist.

Associate Professor Tan Thiam Chye, of KK Women's and Children's Hospital, says it is possible for women to regain their pre-pregnancy appearance.

The "massive bodily changes experienced during pregnancy", including hips that have widened and a reduction in muscle tone, "will resume to the pre-pregnancy state, as long as the mother persists with an exercise regimen, breastfeeds and has a good balanced diet," says Prof Tan, head and senior consultant at the inpatient service division of obstetrics and gynaecology.

"Generally six weeks after delivery, mothers can expect to lose about half of their gestational weight gain. After which, they will see a slow weight loss during the first six months after delivery."

The reality is that regaining one's pre-pregnancy appearance and losing weight has to be scheduled around the intensive demands of caring for newborns and infants.

Housewife Kelly Leong, 40, founder of an online business selling wellness products, Singapore Yummy Mummy, finds post-natal celebrity images "inspiring" and returned to her pre-pregnancy shape within half a year after each of her three sons, aged two to six years old, was born.

It was "pretty manageable", she said. Breastfeeding, doing housework and chasing the children when they were running around helped her to regain her figure, she says, adding that she did not experience a loss in muscle tone.

Ms Leong does Zumba, jogs, reduces her food intake and takes antioxidant-rich smoothies, but mostly on weekends, when her engineer husband can take care of the children.

They do not have a domestic helper. On the other hand, business development manager Melissa Teoh, 34, found it challenging to make time to exercise after the birth of her children.

"You need so much time to exercise. In the first month, it was so chaotic, I couldn't even find the time to sleep," says Ms Teoh, who has a five-year-old daughter and two-year-old son.

"Still, I find it very important also to try and get back in shape. It's healthier too."

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