Two years post partum

Post partum body image  |  nextlifechapter.com

Photo by Tammy Bradshaw Photography | May 2013

I don’t love my post-baby body. While I’m basically my pre-baby weight, I don’t have my pre-baby body. Not to say that my body was ideal prior to baby. I’ve never had six-pack abs, and always looked to my mid section as my “problem area.” However, at nearly six feet tall, it used to be fairly easy to disguise my imperfections with the right clothes and proper fit. Post baby body means my mid section imperfections are magnified, and I’m not happy about it.

I saw a group photo of me several months ago that nearly brought me to tears (not the photo above). It’s that same, “oh my God” punch-in-the-gut feeling I got a few years ago when a friend tagged me in some of her beach photos on Facebook. I didn’t have a bikini body then either, and I hated that images of me and the least favorite parts of me were exposed to the world. I felt so exposed, and just sick to my stomach. I untagged myself on the photos and politely asked my friend to remove a couple of the most revealing images. I told her that although I may appear to be confident in myself and my outward appearance, I in fact was not — at least not in the vulnerability produced from those nearly nude images.

I recently came across this article by Kate Spencer in the Huffington Post, “Exclusive: There Is More To Motherhood Than A Post-Baby Bod.”

Spencer talks about our obsession with celebrity culture and how we seem to look to public figures for instructions on how to live our lives. We see over and over again that getting skinny after the baby is born is the most important thing (Kim Kardashian, Jessica Simpson etc…). She goes on to say:

And that’s it. There’s no talk of the hard decisions and challenges that arise when bringing another human in the world: coping emotionally, miscarriages and health risks throughout the pregnancy, emotions that range from excitement to loss, how the partner is coping, decisions surrounding the birth, doulas, home birth, hospital birth, breastfeeding, milk supply, c-section recovery, vaginal recovery, colic, sleep, schedules, being tired all the time, depression, regret, fear, hiding in the bathroom crying. Agonizing decisions about work, caregivers and new priorities. Maternity leave. Paid time off. Unpaid time off. Pumping at work. Making time for your partner. Making time for yourself. A body that has changed but can also do incredible things.

Spencer says that the real conversations about motherhood are about all of the above challenges, but celebrity-driven media is only focused on our bodies. I know the shape of my body is only one aspect of being a mom. I want to be fit and healthy for my family, but it’s important to remember that it’s only one portion of the larger picture.

Last year Babble.com posted “What Women’s Post-Baby Bodies Really Look Like” by Stefanie Wilder-Taylor. The A Beautiful Body book project by photographer Jade Beall also celebrates the real bodies of mothers.

Then, just a few weeks ago the 4th Trimester Bodies Project by Ashlee Wells Jackson went viral. The project encourages mothers (and the rest of the world) to reconsider their expectations and embrace the notion to love our post-baby bodies, to love ourselves.

Our body-obsessed culture won’t change overnight, but it’s nice to see these projects getting some press. Seeing these images in the media will hopefully start new conversations and begin to sink into our minds, one mother at a time.

 

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  1. Helen’s avatar

    I hear you. Both my sisters bounced right back to their tiny, tight little bellies, and it’s hard not to feel envious. Then I remind myself:

    1) One of the most important thing I can do for my daughters’ long term happiness is model a healthy relationship with my body.
    2) Being with them is far more important to me than how I look. If I really care, I can get toned in a decade when they’re off with their friends and don’t have time for dear old mom anymore.
    3) Spanx are always around for that event when you’ll obsess about your appearance. (Also, wearing them for said event this weekend was a good way to remind myself that I actually don’t put that high a priority on my looks — nothing like being squeezed for several hours to remind yourself that feeling good and looking good are not the same thing, and I’d rather feel good.)

    Reply

    1. nextlifechapter’s avatar

      These are all so true! I often thing about #1. I want to set a good example.

      Reply

    2. Noelle (@singerinkitchen)’s avatar

      Love this post. I learned I have to let go until I can. God has given me this time for my family and girls.

      Reply

      1. nextlifechapter’s avatar

        Thanks! Learning to let go is always difficult.

        Reply

      2. Heather’s avatar

        I feel the same sentiments as you expressed in this post. 2 babies later with a third on the way, I find myself feeling much more self conscious about the odd areas of skin that I just can’t explain anymore.

        Reply

        1. nextlifechapter’s avatar

          Yes, it’s very strange. In some ways I am so much less self conscious now that I have a child. But still, sometimes I’ll catch myself (especially my naked self) in the mirror and be like…what? Is that me?

          Reply

        2. Kristi’s avatar

          I’ve always been fascinated by body image and society’s influence. I even wrote my senior thesis on it.

          For all the mothers—remember, even the women that haven’t given birth are still critical about their appearance. No one is perfect. Not even the airbrushed celebrities!

          Reply

          1. nextlifechapter’s avatar

            Thanks, Kristi. I know body issues hit everyone (even men). It’s too bad those airbrushed images have warped our minds!

            Reply

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