Stretch marks? Never got ’em. I carried big baby girl twins to full term. I remember the nurses even commenting on it during my C section. Wow! Even in the OR, full of drugs and anxiety and uncertainty, that’s a milestone I remember. My girls were born healthy, even during a pandemic. I’m so incredibly grateful. Still, at 18 months post-baby…I don’t feel “back” – in the postpartum body image department.
I wish I was one of those ethereal, wise, and ever-positive moms who feels forever changed by her pregnancy, but I still really care about the scale. Much to my own exasperation (I’m so intellectually ahead of this? Why do I still WANT to be thinner…?! I lament to my therapist often.)
Ugh. It’s…frustrating. Like many millennial women, raised on flat-stomached Britney Spears during the era of low-waisted jeans.
My generation didn’t have much of a chance. I am a short, mid-sized, curvy, and muscular middle daughter between two tall, athletic, sisters with majestic metabolisms.
Given those odds, I’ve had body image concerns since I was in the third grade. I started my first diet when I was 16. I picked up the Atkins Diet at a Border’s book store in the mall. Just to remind you of the decade I started my diet culture dalliance in.
Honestly, for someone who spent at least 15 years on some sort of diet or restriction regimen, I should have gotten it out of my system.
I’m actually impressed with how persistent and pernicious body size issues are.
No matter how intellectually far forward I am. No matter how much I talk to Dr. S about it, I still have body image battles, even postpartum.
I mean, I guess now that life is so sweet with a wonderful husband and gorgeous baby girls, I need some drama to contend with?
Ok, so I feel uncomfortable in this new mom bod
So my postpartum body image is at rock bottom. But to be fair, I felt uncomfortable in my pre-mom body too. I just thought I’d at least get back to my pre-baby, and sub-par body quicker.
But here I am. Still about 15 pounds above my pre-baby body. My pre-pregnancy clothes still hanging in my closet. A few times I’ve shimmied into my Citizen jeans, only to feel exhausted after a few hours of wearing them wondering why the waistband is SO brutal.
Positive feelings and negative feelings swing wildly when you’re a new parent. Some days it feels like I’ve never been happier and then two hours later I’m exhausted and in a terrible mood. Then add feeling uncomfortable in your own body to that mix of emotion, fatigue, and hormones – it’s an absolute dumpster fire mentally. Postpartum body image
How long does it take for your body to go back to normal after having a baby?
That’s how the journey post baby starts. Initially my body dropped about 50 of the 70 pounds I gained (I had twins! why am I explaining myself anyway?!)
To see my pregnancy weight gain diminish so fast was a thrill and I marveled at the human body’s capacity to lose weight. I thought…maybe my body has reset it self. Instead of a station wagon type of metabolism, that carries lots of cargo and moves slow and cautiously. Maybe my new post baby body has the metabolism of a Ferarri!
I deserve it after all these years working out hard, torturous eating disorders, Overeaters Anonymous, spiritual work, therapy, self love, body positivity. It’s finally my time to have the good metabolism.
Well…the rapid weight loss was short lived. Even with breastfeeding that was mostly pumping because I HAVE TWINS remember?! (again, why do I feel the need to defend the way I fed my babies mostly through pumping? The breastfeeding thing was a whole OTHER thing too).
But even with the breastfeeding, my weight loss stalled.
My body had hot flashes and things just felt..rearranged. I had hope though. I couldn’t wait to start working out after my C section healed.
The stages of postpartum body grief I’ve noticed (in no particular order)
Sometimes I feel insanely sad. it’s hard to be in this world and feel fat. This world, being the United States where a thin female body is revered. This country and society where a woman who bounces back is applauded. It’s an impossible battle and that makes me feel helpless and sad.
Helpless and hopeless
Speaking of helplessness. I am someone who as I mentioned has been on a diet or some sort of weight loss quest since forever. I don’t know if it’s my metabolism, or my inability to actually eat slowly and mindfully, self-sabotage – or what. But I STRUGGLE to lose weight. Like it’s damn near impossible.
So now, postpartum, after the babies I feel basically helpless. Sometimes hopeless. I think to myself. Man, I couldn’t lose weight before. Postpartum I’m doomed. So that helplessness is not great. It’s not energizing or motivating.
How can it be that I have done such a feat? I’ve put my entire life on hold, my health on the line, my time, my passions, my everything – it all comes second.
Yet I still face these horrible, depressing, disappointing emotions. I feel uncomfortable almost all of the time. Whether it’s because I feel uncertain about my choices as a mother, or whether I feel hot sweaty, ugly, and fat in this new motherhood body.
Sometimes I just feel intensely angry and exasperated about it.
You know those days where you’re clipping your baby into a car seat and you’ve done it a thousand times before? But today it’s just TOO hard, and you’re angry about it and angry about life and why it has to be so hard.
That’s a lot of what I feel especially when the postpartum body image stuff flares up.
How do I learn to love my postpartum body and fight negative body image?
It’s been tough but luckily I’m no stranger to bad body image days. There are many things that can bring me relief. The problem is, I usually forget to do these things. Or I stubbornly punish myself and stay in the bad body image mentality far too long.
Corrinne Crabtree has a wonderful podcast that is a nice mix of NO BS info on weight loss (aka it’s all about changing your mean inner monologue).
Podcasts not about weight or body at all. I can get deep and depressed and morose.
I’m a Scorpio. I need to add a lot of lightness and frivolity to my life otherwise I’ll stay in the darkness.
Pop culture podcasts help me there. The Ladygang, Juicy Scoop, Bitch Sesh. Anything about Bravo, The Real Housewives, and celebrity gossip. I’ve even started listening to Call Her Daddy which is a podcast for girls in their 20’s out around town learning about their sexuality. It’s pretty fun and thrilling even though I’m a mom now.
I know. Weird.
I’m not a wellness guru. In fact, I’ve ingested far too much fitness and health knowledge in my life. I think I could write a book about those topics.
Sometimes I just forget to stretch.
No, not yoga. No not calorie-burning stretching.
It’ helps the endorphins or something. It reminds me that my body is here. It’s on this earth. It’s mine.
And while my body feels far from good – in that moment, something about stretching reminds me that it’s going to maybe be ok.
Follow curvy, plus, and mid size influencers
This has been so wildly helpful. And fun.
Really I never understood truly HOW important the images that we’re fed by the media are to our psyche. I mean, I definitely championed less photoshop and more reality in magazines, commercials, TV, and online.
But my REAL experiment with this was mind-blowing. Before I got pregnant I was in the depths of a fertility journey (that was a whole other body image struggle).
I was just in such a place with my self-image, my weight, and my self-esteem. So I unfollowed almost everyone on Instagram. I then refollowed only accounts that were body positive, fat positive, curvy, plus size, and you get the vibe.
What a relief!
Finding fashion, shopping, and clothes to be fun again.
I finally started to see that bodies that aren’t size 5/6 can be cute. In fact, I realized my size 10 – 14 body (depending on the store and day) was just fine. Beautiful in fact.
Recently I stumbled upon this whole sub-genre on Instagram called mid-size and it’s a revelation. Mid-size is my zone! I can see what clothes look like on women that are in that mid-size 10, 11, 12, 13, 14 realms.
Seriously. Try this. Scrub your social feeds of any body types that don’t represent YOU. I promise it will give you a more positive body image.
Adjusting unrealistic expectations for my postpartum body
My therapist Dr. S likes to remind me that I have unrealistic expectations. I did just have twins less than two years ago. To expect baby weight to just melt off is kind of ridiculous.
I have almost zero time to myself. I’m a business owner (freelance writer, and coach for women wanting to freelance). I am a person who lives a very driven life with big ideas, visions, and unfortunately, that means I have outsized expectations for what my body will or even can look like. Plus, our physical bodies are meant to have these seasons. Ugh I know how self help-y that sounds, but it’s true. We’re not meant to be lean and perfect all the time. We’re meant to ebb and flow and cycle and be chubby and fluffy and thin and all that.
So can I ever have a healthy body image again?Can I feel beautiful again after having a baby?
Honestly, the intellectual part of me – the feminist part, the super-smart, progressive, side of me says yes.
The human sitting here today in a new body with weak pelvic floor muscles, two new baby (toddlers) – feeling the negative feelings like tidal waves every day.
This woman doesn’t necessarily feel confident that she’ll ever have a body image that feels ok. But writing this post is helping. Trying to put my voice out there for all the moms trying to “fit into their old jeans”.
Writing is the way I process. I will keep adding my thoughts here.