The Mothers Speak series is a compilation of various women from all different backgrounds and varying outlooks on motherhood who have agreed to share their experience on a certain subject. We will tackle sensitive subject matter as well as some joyful and fun topics one experiences as a mother. Sometimes it's just nice to see others who have been through similar struggles, joys, or outlook. The hope is to empower women by showing that there is not one way or a right or wrong way to parent. That our feelings are valid and that we all share those feelings of joy, sadness, and frustration from time to time.
A Reflection on Self-Image and Postpartum Changes
I'd say I have been able to have a healthy self-image of myself for the majority of my life. That being said, I have somewhat struggled with aspects of my body after baring children. Before having children the thought of trying to loose weight after pregnancy scared me because, I admit, I am quite lazy when it comes to fitness. I'm naturally slender and have definitely taken advantage of that. So when I made it to 37 weeks into my first pregnancy with no stretch marks in sight I was ecstatic and thought I was definitely in the clear. Then 38 weeks came and my body exploded with all kinds of lovely stretch marks. I'm not going to lie, it was very upsetting and frustrating at the time. And let's talk about the loose skin afterwards. Wow, all that weird loose skin! I had no idea about the loose skin! I lost the weight with what seemed like very little effort from breastfeeding exclusively and I looked great... with clothes on. But behind the clothes the loose elastic skin with purple and silver stretch marks remained. It's still there, plus another pregnancy worth of stretching, though much milder than the first. Does it bother me? Sure, sometimes it does. Most of the time I am comfortable in my body. Sometimes I just want to know that my other mom friends look like me. It's nice when my mom friends and I can talk openly about our bodies after having children. It really helps!
Here are some of your stories and experiences from real moms just like you:
"Ugh. I wish the body went back to things the way they were on its own. It's so hard! It's hard to feel confident about myself again. I know that I've had two babies grow inside me but the fact that I'll never look the same, well, it's not that easy to overcome. The stretch marks don't bother me and my c section scar doesn't bother me, I know they're there for 2 great reasons! But for right now, I'm focusing on being the best mom I can be so I try really hard to not let my looks make me less of a mommy to my kids." - Anonymous, Yuma AZ
"My 4th trimester body was my best body ever. I had boob's that set up and not hit the ground. I didn't enjoy the pumping and pain from my C-section. Future moms accept all the help family/friends want to give." - Jessy, Pittsburgh PA
"My body will never recover. During my first pregnancy, my body stretched from a comfortable 180 lbs to 260 lbs. I had preeclampsia due to unknown and untreated thyroid disease. Within two weeks of delivery I lost 40lbs of water, but a roadmap of stretch marks wrapping around my knees, armpits and ripping up my abdomen was left. To make matters worse, I now had a permanent “fatty apron” draped across my lap. Breasts… “perfect” 36C, was now a 38DD – on ONE side – a D on the other. I’m now a nursing veteran but am absolutely lopsided. Six years after a vaginal delivery, I still leak when I sneeze or jump and my vagina feels as wide as a hallway. The WORST part (for me) was the hormonal changes, but – and here comes the part you’re expecting – it really is worth it. In exchange for giving up what our culture perceives as beauty (and a hefty side of sanity), I have a son who loves me and my amazing body; seeking out my squishy tummy for comfort. He has a passion and excitement for life that is unrivaled and I wouldn’t trade his sweet spirit for anything. Not even my worldly body." - Lindsay, Oregon City OR
"I have had 6 babies in the last 12 years, and while I only weigh about 10-15 more lbs than when I started, it has definitely been an experience in adapting to a 'new' body. Baby number one brought me almost forty pounds of weight that was pretty much all melted away in just 5 weeks. The next time I only gained 30, but I worked very hard exercising, and in 6 weeks the weight was gone. With number three I never lost the last ten and number four took me a year and a half to get another ten and be back to where I was after number three. Even after my first, though, my clothes fit very differently and my body was not the same. I had never been a bikini girl, but was still concerned about being healthy and so I have definitely tried very hard to at least walk and exercise most of the time through pregnancy and after. But, I will tell you, that over the years over birthing six children I came to see the incredible blessing that my body is in holding and bearing these babies. I began to see myself more as who I am then what my body shape or type is. I started to be more concerned with health than pant size or scales. And I am pretty darn grateful for a body that can do what mine has. I really feel so much of our body image is based on how we truly see ourselves, and since I value motherhood very highly, I rarely ever complain about my weight or size anymore because whether I gained from childbearing or from child chasing it has been incredibly worth it." - Jamie, Panaca NV
"My 4th trimester body was empty because my arms were full. I remember rubbing my postpartum belly out of habit and remembering, somewhat embarrassingly, that there's no baby in there anymore. It was hard to adjust from such a positive round, bold shape to a somewhat deflated new shape. I was so busy with my tiny foreign dictator that I forgot to take care of myself by eating and showering, and I wish I had practiced self-care more often at the beginning of the 4th trimester." - Audrey, Pittsburgh PA
"My 4th trimester body felt foreign. I missed my baby being safe in my belly. My breasts were huge and painful, and my belly was still so big and squishy. I didn't care about any of it though. I didn't have time at first. I couldn't take my eyes off that baby, I couldn't stop holding him and nursing him. I was constantly worrying about caring for him, doing everything right, enjoying every moment and my milk supply that it took some time before I remembered to care for myself. Our bodies go through so much during pregnancy, labor and delivery that we forget that post-partum 4th trimester and how much change and healing that is going on. Our bodies are amazing, but don't forget to care for yourself as well!" - Natalie, Pittsburgh PA