By: Kelly Sutton
Pants. Shirt. Bras. Underwear.
ALL WON’T FIT!
Take this off, put that on… NOPE! Take that off, now put this on… still, NOPE! The struggle for learning how to dress my Post Baby Body is real. I thought it was difficult to dress my pregnant body, but for me, it’s more emotionally draining to dress my postpartum body.
Every body type is beautiful and this blog post doesn’t glorify one shape or size. This blog is to acknowledge that childbirth/having children is beautiful BUT also takes us physically and emotionally adjusting to the changes our bodies undergo.
There’s no doubt that confidence in my body image has been an issue since… FOREVER! I have detailed memories of asking my parents, friends, and family members, “How do I look?!” I have countless memories of looking in the mirror, examining every inch of my body and criticizing how I looked before the public eye could get a chance to judge me.
Ironically, as an adult and now mother of two children, I still look in the mirror and do the same thing: I judge myself before the world does! BUT now I look at my naked, uniquely sculpted body differently.
After having my first child, I actually was the healthiest I ever was in my adult life. I was working full time, working out (occasionally lol), and breastfeeding my son. Ironically, my post baby body didn’t affect me the same way with the first child as it did with the second child! Maybe I was over exhausted?! I just remember my life being on repeat: rise, grind, eat, feed, grind again (grade and plan for teaching), possibly sneak in some adult time, and pass out co-sleeping/nipple feeding!
The truth is, even though I know I was working my tail off AND I was healthier than I was before my son was born, I still had negative AND positive thoughts of surrounding my body image.
My new tiger stripes, discolored stomach, and sagging breasts had its good days and bad ones too. Days the differences didn’t bother me and days I cried because my naked, uniquely sculpted body was different.
Even with the time period we are living in, self image is constantly in our face because the increased screen time and social media. The resistance to compare ourselves and judge one another based on what we see is so difficult, due to a society-created standard of how things should look because the standard is always getting reinvented and going viral.
According to the article, Women and Weight: A Normative Discontent , from the 2017 American Psychological Association, “It is argued that women’s preoccupation with their appearance comes out of shame and social pressure and leads to psychological consequences such as decreased self-esteem, distorted body image, and feelings of helplessness and frustration in response to unsuccessful dieting efforts.”
I have not come across one human woman who is not in some way preoccupied with her appearance whether it’s from personal shame or social pressure.
Personally, I did not experience true decreased self-esteem until after I birthed my second child. My distorted body image really did bring me feelings of helplessness. I cannot sew together my stretch marks or magically, exponentially make my excess stomach flab go away, nor can I make my discolored skin return to it’s previous color. My breasts are saggier than the first time and weird things like my leg and armpit hair grow back even faster now.
My husband is so amazing. He genuinely looks at my body and admires it in awe. He exclaims how beautiful I am and how my stretch marks and surgery scars are my most beautiful assets. Why? Because OUR children were formed, grew in, and were bore out of my naked, uniquely sculpted body.
Beauty could not get more beautiful.
That’s how my helplessness and frustration begins to melt away – remembering why my body changed – for my two miracle babies.
In practical ways, I try to make sure my clothes actually fit. The mistake many woman (and people for that matter) make is wearing clothes that are too big or too small. Also making sure that the style of clothes are complimentary to your body type and personality. If you don’t feel comfortable in your clothes, chances are you probably look uncomfortable too.
Secondly, I dress to make myself happy, not others (no comparing myself). Some people aren’t fashion junkies; I happen to fall right in the middle – not too outdated, nor updated. I also have a baseline rule about leaving the house. The three mandatory things that have to be done are – (teeth) BRUSHED, BRA (on), & (eye)BROWS. I noticed that if any one of those three things are missing, my self-esteem does not start off where it needs to be. I’d say a few days out of the week I even through on a natural look with makeup; for me, it helps.
Third, I dress for being a mom. As long as I am functional – able to run and breastfeed – I am good to go lol! Most of the time I can make those two functions fashionable, but some times I look/feel like a hot mess and those times are perfectly fine too. I don’t feel the need to look like the model mom, which is an important value of Northwest Mamahood – to not judge one another and support each other because there is not one way to parent.
But let me keep it real, when I look at my naked body, I am relearning to love it. Most days, I still look like I’m 20 weeks pregnant. I even tried wearing a waist trainer and those things are uncomfortable – the opposite of functional for my momfit. So the waist trainer went out of the window.
When I think of exercising, I actually feel like eating instead, probably to replace nutrients drained from breastfeeding and tending to a toddler all day.
The great commonality about motherhood is that we are not alone, especially if we can just be real with each other. Was it embarrassing to post a picture of my postpartum stomach? Yes, at first, but not after I practiced what I preach. Dispelling the snapback mom standard starts with ourselves. I’m pretty sure I won’t always look 20 weeks pregnant postpartum, but that’s up to me to change for myself, not up to me trying to meet the standard of snapping back to appease to the model mom image.
*My personal opinion* Diets don’t work because they are temporary. Excluding certain foods, like carbs, don’t work either because we end up craving and binge eating them anyway. Counting calories doesn’t work because I don’t have time to track my food as a mom – nor do I care lol! Plus, I’m not interested in a special program with it’s own dietary food/beverages because I’m on a budget.
What do I do? Portion control. I try not to overeat and I eat often. I build my metabolism with consistent intake of nutritional foods or just food period.
Even if I keep my round belly, again, I am relearning to love it. I would never trade my babies for the “perfect” body. Some moms have both fitness and babies – it’s up to you and what you want for yourself.
For now, I’m choosing to love the season I’m in with my body. One day that may change and I’ll incorporate some intentional exercise into my schedule, but the need for change will be against my own standard of health and not from the societal shame mothers go through for having stretch marks, larger body figures, and other postpartum related changes.
So mamas, BE YOU, post baby body and all. If you are seeking a different body figure, examine your purpose. The perfect body is the one you already have. Internal health is a major positive reason for change, but remember it’s personal. Too many times us humans project what works for us individually onto a masses of people when we are all different and desire/require different things.
Look in the mirror, maybe even naked, and say I LOVE MYSELF – Post Baby Body and all!