If you don’t know me or haven’t read my blog entries before…let me catch you up. I am the proud mom to three and a half year old twins. I went into labor at 36 weeks (waters breaking – so there was no stopping them from coming at that stage). Thankfully, they were both super healthy. They weighed in at 5 lbs 9 oz and 6 lbs 1 oz. So…over 11 pounds of baby plus all the other good stuff that comes along with babies, placentas, etc. all tucked into my 5 foot 4 in. frame was a lot. There were times during my pregnancy that I truly thought that my stomach was just going to fold over and fall onto my legs when I was walking.
My midwife has a lot to do with the size of those babies. Every time I saw her, she said “It is your job to get them as much protein as you can.” So, the vegetarian that I had been ended up becoming a meat eater again because meat sounded better during pregnancy than other protein sources. I had to work at gaining enough weight. I ate and ate and ate. I think that during my pregnancy I only gained about 40 pounds but it was almost ALL in my belly. I am glad that I put on weight to help my babies grow. It was my job and I was serious about what I put in my body to help those little twins get bigger.
I am a small person and my son decided to be in a breech ball out to my left side….my stomach went very far out and to the left. I think my daughter decided to take up all the rest of the room. She still loves to move around a lot in her sleep. I think my son thought…”umm…I’m curling up over here and staying away from my sister”. Needless to say…after pregnancy was over…my body looked like an alien creature to me. My abdominal muscles had separated and I could stick my fingers between them. It is a state called diastasis recti and can take a huge toll on a woman’s self-esteem after birth. Including my own.
I tell you this to say that I get it when women in my New Mom Groups or my mom friends say “I’m unhappy with my body after pregnancy.” Whether it is stretch marks or ripped apart abdominal muscles or a c-section scar that hasn’t healed the way she was hoping or breasts that have stopped being perky, etc….it can affect a woman’s self-esteem and the way she sees herself. We get to see all the celeb moms that bounce back after pregnancy. This is one of those myths that I have a mission to bring out into the open and talk about. Most women are NOT going to look like that after pregnancy. And really….instead of focusing on how great so and so looks 6 weeks after a baby is born, non-celeb moms (and celeb moms too if they want to be a healthy part of the mommy sisterhood) should revolt against those images and demand that motherhood and post-pregnancy bodies be celebrated and accepted as part of the journey of birth. That all starts with being honest about our own bodies. If you ask me about mine, I am not going to lie and pretend things are what they were like before I had children. I will tell you the truth. My hope is that more women will do the same….and will feel okay that their bodies aren’t the same. I just don’t see that happening with our focus being on a celebrity dropping 60 pounds a few weeks after having her baby. Good for her, and her highly paid doctors, trainer, chef, nutritionist, stylist, nanny, make up artist, air brush artist and manager. I don’t have any of that and the changes to my body would take a surgeon to correct. I’ve thought about going that route…but something about elective surgery and the risks stops me. I have no judgment for those that choose that path though because under the scrutiny of our society and focus on perfection…the pull to plastic surgery is so strong.
I know some women who have turned to surgery to correct parts of their bodies that they felt needed to be corrected. I know some women who have truly embraced their post pregnancy bodies and are able to view it all as battle scars from doing an amazing thing – giving birth to another human. I know some women whose sex lives and comfort with intimacy have been affected greatly due to their post-pregnancy bodies and yet other women think that their new curvy bodies are sexier now than they used to be.
Just as birth and parenting are full of personal choices, I think that dealing with your post-pregnancy body issues should be personal as well; whether that includes heading to the gym, embracing the beauty of what your body has accomplished or talking to a trainer/doctor. All of those choices are there for any of us to consider. I don’t think judgment from others should come into play with any of them. But in my ideal world all women would be able to feel beautiful, sexy and proud in their post pregnancy skin and society would embrace those bodies as well.
My only advice is this: If you are struggling with body image post pregnancy, I hope you will reach out and talk about it with friends, your partner, a therapist or your doctor. There is also a documentary called “BirthMarkings” that you may want to view. You can watch the 20 minute video here. It really made me think about my own body and it’s journey into motherhood.
Disclaimer: The purpose of this blog is to raise awareness of issues that face parents in pregnancy and parenthood. This blog is not meant to replace treatment by a licensed mental health professional. The content of this blog does not constitute mental health assessment, diagnosis, treatment, support or advice. Please consult a licensed mental health practitioner if you have concern about your mental health or in the case of an emergency, contact 911. Reading this blog does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Bronwyn Shroyer, Bronwyn Shroyer LLC or BloomingFamilies.