The Yummy Mummy Manifesto

The Yummy Mummy Manifesto

by Anna Johnson



Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812975826
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/20/2008
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.90(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Yummy Mummy Manifesto Baby, Beauty, Balance, and Bliss
By Anna Johnson
Ballantine Books Copyright © 2008 Anna Johnson
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780812975826

Part 1  

The Goddess Expecting    

1. Morning Sick in Manolos  

Finding Your Feet and Holding Your Ground  

Standing on an Upper Manhattan sidewalk in early spring, I saw a pregnant woman bounding toward me in three-inch heels. At first I was appalled, thinking immediately of her spine, the stress on her lower back and hips. But my knee-jerk shock swiftly melted into a smile. The lady was zigzagging through a traffic jam in that madly determined way that only New Yorkers know. She looked like a missile with a bump. On the very same day in the West Village, I crossed a woman on the street who was cradling her swollen belly with two splayed hands, her eyes half shut and her mouth half open. It was as if she had begun to yawn, or sigh, or moan, and simply left her mouth ajar, ready for the next wave of awesome emotion to engulf her face. She looked almost as if she were in early labor. She might have been. To the naked eye, she was uncouth, so openly vulnerable and unwieldy in a city that jealously guards its space and conceals its frailties.  

If you don't have a child, it is all too easy to make snap judgments about the way a pregnant woman should be. In public. In private. In bed. At the office. Overdressed, underdressed, lethargic, overweight, or ungroomed. Fashion and society at large have applied static standardsof style, diet, and deportment to the gravid woman, as if there is a tidy, correct, or polite way to be pregnant! The social neurosis about the aesthetics of pregnancy manifests most clearly in the coverage of celebrities. The movie star who carries her twins in overalls is branded "lazy," the rock star who wears a message T-shirt and a mini with her bundle is "tacky," and those who gain too much weight (and don't shed it fast enough afterward) are simply "out of control." The constant policing of the fashion choices and weight fluctuations of the famous might seem like harmless fun in the context of a gossip magazine, but the ramifications for all mothers run deeper. If we're willing to judge the heavy pregnant body of a movie star mum so damningly or to celebrate her radical (and probably unnatural and unhealthy) postpartum weight loss, then how are we looking at ourselves?  

The words pregnancy style too often contradict the very personal style of each woman's pregnancy. Mainstream fashions are repeatedly grafted onto very different bodies in very different contexts. In the corporate world, it is common practice for an employee to conceal her pregnancy for up to four months (as much for office politics as for health and discretion) and then to continue her term dressing as if in deeply conservative denial. In offices we are praised for carrying small, carrying neat, and, implicitly, performing with the same vigor as nonpregnant coworkers. Never mind that we might want to slam the door shut and lie down on the floor, or wear desert boots instead of pumps that pinch a swollen foot. When I look at career gear in maternity stores, it always strikes me as a uniform of dreary concealment with a heavy emphasis on business shirts. Worn, one presumes, to assert the fact that a woman loaded up with hormones can still mean business. It's not easy to fit in with a structure of manic efficiency when you are carrying a child, since work, by its very nature, is an environment of criticism, competition, and scrutiny. To survive the gap that grows between the private journey of your body and the grind of your public duties, I suggest work clothes that feel like shelter: soft shawls, wraps, and shrugs that make you feel cozy and protected under the glare of office lights. Generous, flattering swing jackets, karate-style pants, 1960s A-line trapeze dresses, a bright trench coat in the best fabric you can afford, and boots in a soft, stretchy suede that expand with you. Competence comes with confidence, so planning a strong work wardrobe for your entire term is not a matter of whim. On really tough days, you might just need the armor of a little black dress that is not so little.  

The trick with feeling solid and proud in all your changes is to see yourself as growing, not merely getting bigger. In a world that fears and loathes fat, the expanding belly and natural abundance of flesh that comes with the territory fly in the face of chic. How many women truly revel in their fecund forms for the whole nine yards and almost ten months? How many cases of postpartum depression are anxiously wed to body issues and not to hormones at all? The pressure to fit in confronts the pregnant woman at every turn. Yet this ought to be the one moment in life when you can truly be outrageously, unapologetically, perhaps shockingly yourself. I love to imagine that the gusto, sensuality, abundance, and unpredictable volatility of being pregnant alters a woman and stays with her forever.  

I couldn't wear anything terribly trendy when I carried my son. Tight jeans, zip-up knee-high boots, short skirts, and anything bare or backless was off-limits, and yet it was my sexiest style experience to date. In the place of explicit clothes, I found pieces rich in sensuality. I was and will probably remain the plus-size sex kitten, and no one will make me trade these breasts for a narrow set of hips and knobby set of knees. If my body can't conform to the straight lines of pencil skirts, cinch-waist belts, and tight tailored sleeves, then my hands and feet can still face Madison Avenue. I was one of those fashion-damaged pregnant chicks with a thing for accessories. I was morning sick in Manolos. But when my body bloomed and stayed blossomed a full three dress sizes larger, I didn't freak. I migrated.  

Forced into a tight corner by a body that had been Botticelli and was now speeding toward Rubens, I took to theatrics: a fabulous skirt from Rajasthan worn low on the hip with a lime green camisole, a shrunken denim jacket and many bracelets, capelets and crocheted shawls to lend height, and a total banishment of anything resembling a trouser leg. Trawling eBay for any $20 velvet dress that could be cut in half or handkerchief skirts that be could transformed with a grosgrain ribbon waistband, I became crafty about my maternity groove.  

The relief that came with adapting these curious vintage pieces and finding flattering shapes that actually felt pretty was my first revelation in yummy motherhood. For every problem that pops up, or out, there is a creative solution. Despite the tempting idea that maternity style can be bought in a box with an A-line frock and neat little black leggings to help you cakewalk through it, the truth is that bodies, lives, and personal vanities are far more diverse than that. If a girl hates leggings in civilian life, why should she suddenly assume some Marcel Marceau identity at eighteen weeks? I never imagined that I could look better and revel in dressing up as an urban belly dancer/Storyville Madam/Grecian naiad when I was pregnant, but it happened. My maternity gave some of the best style ideas and jiggle-proof solutions I've ever had, and two more amusing assets besides.  

I will tell anyone in the first year of mothering to hang on to her pregnancy rights (the cravings, the emotions, the attitude, and, yes, even those ten pounds) and to fixate less on going back to what she was before. Once you're a mother, it's all about more. You can't be less now; you have come through your fertility rites, and, frankly, size 6 holds little substance. It isn't easy to be expansive in a culture that is constantly urging women to contract, shrink, and diet to the point of disappearance, but that is probably the greatest challenge of Yummy Motherhood: to feel delicious every step of the way. Proudly so. Pregnancy is the milestone we carry up front. This is the most glorious moment to be all of your many selves. Never will you occupy so many variations of one body in such a short space of time. And, hopefully, never will you feel so free, in high heels, in overalls, or in nothing at all.    

2. The Body Blossomed  

Seven Yummy Self-image Secrets  

People tell you that carrying a baby is sexy, liberating even, and it is hard to believe them. The physical inconvenience and the inflated scale are not images we associate freely with pleasure. But pregnancy is hot, as well as heavy.  

For me, the first inkling of the rampant sensuality to come arrived while watching the Oscars on TV in 2004. Uma Thurman held the red carpet for ransom in a black evening dress that was almost all bustline. Her ivory bosom was of the quivering, milky caliber that could reduce the entire Italian national soccer team to prayer.  

Cleavage as silencer. It was not a thought I had entertained since Lady Diana Spencer all but fell out of her black taffeta corset dress getting out of a Rolls-Royce on her first evening debut with Charles. Big, deliberately exposed boobs are such a taboo in so many contexts, especially for the career girl; yet on a pregnant woman, magnificent breasts take on a mythical resonance that transcends social mores or private inhibitions. They are not the distorted, cartoonlike, massive silicone orbs on a rail-thin body: the Hollywood norm. They are not prurient, comical, or simply decorative. Maternal breasts are vital function wed to divine form. Organic to the whole body in full bloom, they exist in proportion to a gorgeous swell that rises like a prelude at the clavicle and explodes into a full rapturous overture at the belly. I wanted them. The fleshy ankles could be dealt with.  

It wasn't until I occupied a completely barrel-shaped body that I got to enjoy total freedom from scathing self-criticism for the first time in my adult life. Usually the mirror is a minefield where faults are cataloged in running order. When pregnant, I saw my looking glass as an unfolding memoir of gestation. I was way too busy gently caressing my sculptural orbs and shiny, remarkable bulge to let the eye drift down to the outrageous deposits of fat on my derriere and thighs. When I did catch a fleeting eyeful lumbering out of the bath or struggling to wriggle into a slipper, I'd greet the fecund blubber as future food. Baby food, that is. "Ahhh, milk for little Marcellino" is a lovely thought to have when confronted with a sea of dimpled skin. That's how I saw it and how I still see it. Pregnancy ought to dilute every woman's unrealistic body image or tendency to mentally self-mutilate, forever. For the first time, perhaps one feels the power of occupying the body from the inside out and not in that anxious state of being on the outside looking in.  

The sheer primal force of creating life out of flesh is too profound to squander on anxiety about bulk or even on the constantly shifting caprices of fashion itself. When you are pregnant, it doesn't really matter what is "in" that season. You can adapt, ignore, or totally reinvent style, and it's the best time to do so. To truly enjoy every month and every moment of your term in style takes certain basic pieces. More important yet is a philosophy of pleasure and acceptance that will carry you through your best and worst moments. It is highly probable that others will foil your joy with fleeting remarks, silly pet names, or irrational fears. When my mother first saw me showing, she called me a fat teenager. Nice. One well-meaning coworker exclaimed in front of an entire office, "Oh but you're huuuuggge!" And husbands can't help but be occasionally awful. Lump. That was my name for the last ten weeks of my term. "Lump!" he exclaimed with vigor, slapping me on the rump and observing that I did not simply have a visible panty line but, in fact, four bottoms dissected by a pair of bikini briefs stretched to the limit.  

Secretly, I think people (men especially) are confronted by the potent power of pregnancy, and they deflect their awe with deprecation. But one can only pity those who fail to marvel at this brief journey of transformation. It's an adventure so much deeper than sheer size, and the beauty of it dwells in the physical intimacy between you, your skin, and your child.  

Nine Yummy Self-image Secrets  

1. Dress for your dreams. Fantasy and romance are rarely terms we associate with maternity style, but this is the moment to dress like a Charlotte Brontë heroine, a Greek goddess, or a saucy Shakespearean wench. Even if only on Saturday nights. Let's face it, you have the rest of your life to wear the classic patent leather pumps, little black dress, and pearls.  

2. Balance basics with small luxuries. Like shopping for "normal" fashion, it pays to balance designer items against less expensive basics. Get your denim Capris at good old Gap and splurge on a ruche-fronted poplin shirt and a keyhole peasant blouse from a designer you adore. Try to know the difference between a disposable necessity and a piece that can live on for another year or three. Well-made stretch fabric pieces in silk, lace, and cotton that button or unzip in front are your friends.  

3. Tend to the details. Grooming is a mood booster and a body smoother. Control your hair, and you can control the world. View pampering as a pleasure with great cumulative benefits for your skin, hair, and nails. Once the baby arrives, your makeup bag might gather cobwebs, so now is the time to preen mindlessly.  

4. Change your icons. Create a collage of positive pregnant images and put them in dime-store frames around the house. It sounds almost childish, but every time you see these Gustav Klimt earth goddesses and rosy baroque nymphs, you'll get that extra reinforcement of how precious and brief pregnancy is.  

5. Build a strong foundation. The day you find a bra and panties that don't laugh at you is the day you can truly revel in a pregnant body. Avoid colors that look elderly or surgical. Add your own lace if you have to and wear underwire on special occasions when the monobreasted look becomes stale. Pumpkin Wentzel, the designer behind the label Pumpkin Maternity, told me about the importance of good underwear during your gestation. "If you are wearing pretty and supportive undergarments, it makes dressing more of a joy. I became a fan of the thong during my first pregnancy, but I can also understand women loving those baggy 'granny' knickers at full term." A mother of two, Pumpkin says the best thing about pregnant style is actually overcoming niggling body issues in favor of the big picture. "Having your body change in ways you can't control allows a woman to let go of a lot of self-obsession. This selflessness is the first step to becoming a parent." Amen!  


Excerpted from The Yummy Mummy Manifesto by Anna Johnson Copyright © 2008 by Anna Johnson. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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The Yummy Mummy Manifesto 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Elise on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When it comes to mothering, at least in this culture, there's a lot of pressure to do it all. Be a combination of Martha Stewart, Marmee from Little Women, June Cleaver, and - oh yeah - make sure you're still dynamic and sexually attractive. For god's sake don't lose your style!! Because, you know, we aren't under enough stress as it is, juggling the kid(s) and the career(s) and the relationships and the housework and all. So when I see the term "yummy mummy" it tends to set my teeth on edge - I associate it with a very judgmental perspective on being a mama. But I have to say, Anna Johnson's The Yummy Mummy Manifesto does a really nice job of reclaiming the term for what it really should be all about: loving yourself and finding a way to be a whole, passionate, vibrant personality, even while you're caring for a small person who regularly coats you in their bodily fluids. Here's a representative quote: "I will tell anyone in the first year of mothering to hang on to her pregnancy rights (the cravings, the emotions, the attitude, and, yes, even those ten pounds) and to fixate less on going back to what she was before. Once you're a mother, it's all about more. ... It isn't easy to be expansive in a culture that is constantly urging women to contract, shrink, and diet to the point of disappearance, but that is probably the greatest challenge of Yummy Motherhood: to feel delicious every step of the way. Proudly so. Pregnancy is the milestone we carry up front. This is the most glorious moment to be all of your many selves. Never will you occupy so many variations of one body in such a short space of time. And, hopefully, never will you feel so free, in high heels, in overalls, or in nothing at all."Johnson's free-ranging tome covers everything from pregnancy style (key message: embrace the flamboyant), to sex, to fighting fair, to throwing a yummy birthday party. It's not a radical book - the underlying assumption is that the reader is a heterosexual woman who finds makeup and fashion at least a little bit fun - but Johnson has a fundamentally kind and caring approach. This is not a book that will harangue you into exercising and getting that baby weight off (thank god). This is a book that will encourage you to find a way to move your body with joy, and eat things you love, and wear clothes that are both comfortable and beautiful, and damn the torpedoes. There are lots of handy links to web resources for SAHMs and WAHMs (stay-at-home and work-away from-home moms), along with recipes, craft projects, and ideas on how to be more of an eco-mom. But I have to be honest - I think my favorite part of the book is the design. The pages are lushly illustrated, in rich colors with botanical motifs - the whole visual experience of the book exactly reflects the "yumminess" the author is promoting. Does The Yummy Mummy Manifesto offer any amazing new insights into modern motherhood? Nah. But it's a loving reminder that life is more fun when you approach it with humor and zaniness and passion, and that - as Martha would say - is A Good Thing.