Where were we again? Ah yes… so I did what I always do, I reached out to a few women in my life for their opinion on the subject. I was hopeful that they would either pat me on the head and say, ‘there there – stop being such an idiot’ or maybe, just maybe, they would understand my struggles…
The question I posed to them was this, ‘how has becoming a mother changed the way you view your body?’ I’m not sure what type of responses I was expecting, but I was so moved by every single one of them. Most of the women I heard from echoed my own mental and emotional struggles they faced around their changing body. It was so reassuring to know that I was not alone and that, no matter how elated we were to be having our babes, those feelings were still very present and okay.
“Pregnancy brought up a whole bunch of body issues I honestly wasn’t fully aware I even had. Being very fit my whole life and never adding pounds other than muscle, it was very challenging for me to see myself gaining weight. Even though I knew it was for the health of my baby and a natural occurrence in pregnancy, it was still hard.”
“I remember being really nervous when I found out I was pregnant about what it was going to do to my body… I would see pictures with a cute cuddly baby with the saying “You may never wear a bikini again but I swear I am worth it” and I would cry.”
Though these thoughts legitimized my angst and helped to temper the guilt, the great comfort I took from them came in the words that followed – regarding the evolution that seemingly took place over the course of their pregnancies and into motherhood. These women captured that evolution in just a few sentences, but it was so clear and truly beautiful. The perception of their bodies was fearful in the beginning, just as mine had been; but as they spoke about their labors, their deliveries, their c-sections and the “post-baby bodies”, there was a clear sense of growth, maturity and strength.
Before we get into that, might I say that all of these women are fierce – like Beyonce level fierce. They are inspiring individuals and I could easily define them all as warrior mamas. I want you to think about something though – think about all the women in your life who are mothers – are they not fierce? Are they not strong? Are they not capable? That’s the thing about mothers – for the most part, they are all of those things and I would wager to say that they are the very definition of a protector. As I was reading through these responses, I couldn’t help but wonder if it’s motherhood that makes you that way, or is there something else? Could there be something to this process of pregnancy and the process of laboring life into the world (one way or another) that helps to create these mama bears? I don’t have the answer exactly, but these women made some very compelling arguments in favor of that theory:
“I have this layer of fat around my belly that just always seems to hang out… but it’s certainly not worse than my former flatter tummy. It doesn’t make me feel bad or sad. It reminds me of the time my baby was in my belly. It reminds of all of the worries I had about him. It reminds me that I fed him well when I fed myself well. It reminds me to continue to take care of myself, in hopes that it can be another home for another little miracle.”
“Since carrying and c-section birthing three beautiful babies, I can honestly say I am so proud of my body and more confident now than I was before. I’ve got more skin now, a bit of a muffin top that spills over my too tight jeans, my breast have deflated, my stomach is numb from my belly button down, I have a large scar that trails across my lower abdomen but, for some reason I walk a little taller. I now view my body as a piece of art that tells three beautiful stories. I know what my body had to endure to be blessed with my brood and I’m damn proud of it!”
“But there is something about that c-section scar…. I sometimes wonder why I am so attached to it. I guess it’s because it acts as a constant physical reminder of the most-selfless choices that we can make. Of the unwavering and deep, deep commitment that I have to ensuring my kids are safe, happy, and with me. Even in the earliest moments of their lives.”
As I said, fierce. Despite any initial worries about stretch marks, or concerns about weight gain, these women were able to reflect back and see the beauty in the sacrifices they made to bring their children into this world. I can honestly say that, though I am getting bigger and bigger by the day and though a nurse literally bugged her eyes out of her head when I got on the scale (yes, I gained 11 lbs in one month – so sue me!), I am getting more and more comfortable with the changes. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but I think it has a lot to do with this baby feeling more and more real every day. His kicks are getting stronger, I can literally feel when he has the hiccups and we just keep getting closer to the day that we get to meet. It’s hard not to stand in awe of this body when I remember that I have two hearts beating inside me. Or when I remember that my joints are sore because this little guy is taking his DHA needs straight from MY body. My back is sore because my pelvis is expanding to make room for my son (mind-blowing and totally emotional to write those words by the way – my son) to wiggle out into the world when he’s ready. My boobs are ginormous because my body is building a kitchen from which I will nourish my child for the better part of a year or more. It is freaking mind-blowing what this body is capable of and I think I’m starting to get comfortable with all that comes with it. There’s a reason why we call pregnancy and birth ‘the miracle of life’.
“I had no idea how amazing my body was until I became pregnant and gave birth. It was then that I discovered what my body was really capable of and it seemed like an absolute miracle. The most profound evidence of that, to me was breastfeeding. To think that my body could manufacture a substance that would not only feed my baby but protect her from diseases & infections. It’s mind boggling. I’m sure the swollen ankles bugged me at the time. And it probably irked me that it took several months to rid myself of the baby weight. But looking back at it now, those things all fade away with time and what’s left are the memories of the miracle moments”
This is not to say that I’m stoked about the prospect of stretch marks; but I think I am getting to a place where I can recognize that if I do get them, it’ll be okay. If you do some research on pregnancy related stretch marks, you’ll realize very quickly that there is not much you can do to control them. Though there are a billion different creams and oils on the market that claim to prevent or fade stretch marks, the research will tell you that your likelihood of getting stretch marks comes down to skin elasticity and genetics. In other words we don’t really have a choice when it comes to getting stretch marks, but we can choose how we see them. Pregnancy stretch marks come from a place and time in which your body is/was building, creating and sustaining life. Sure, we might indulge in the odd double scoop of ice cream or that extra piece of pizza from time to time; but make no mistake, pregnancy stretch marks can be just as beautiful a reminder of what your body is capable of, as your own living, breathing child – if you let them.
I think that this is a totally beautiful, healthy and realistic way to look at pregnancy. I suppose I just wish that the medical community could take a slightly more holistic approach instead of making you step on a scale at every appointment and ticking off a box of approved weight gain for your height and current weight. I know that they are just doing their best with the knowledge they have and I know that there are risks that come along with gaining too much or too little; but they have to know how these things affect us emotionally, during an already fragile and hormonal time. At some point a few years ago, I decided (wisely) that scales were the devil and I haven’t owned one since. I honestly attribute that to a big part of my success in overcoming many of the body challenges I faced in my youth. Now, after so many years, my doctor has me focused on a number instead of a feeling. Screw that. I feel awesome, my blood pressure is fine and my baby is doing great – that’s good enough for me.
So what else can I say, but bring it on! Bring on the stretch marks, the weight gain, the warbly postpartum tummy, the hair loss, the leaky boobs, the swollen fingers and ankles, the split abs, the pieced together lady bits and everything else in between. I’m not necessarily asking for ALL of it, but if it means that I get to welcome a healthy, happy baby into this world then so be it. If it means I get to wear these divinely inspired maternity pants and those awesome mesh undies that everyone keeps talking about, a little longer then dammit I will. I am a freaking warrior mama creating life and if I have to get a few battle scars along the way – I will wear them with pride.
love, lust and baby dust,
There are a ton of really incredible women out there who are doing their damndest to reshape the way we think about our pregnancy and post-baby bodies. I implore you to seek them out on social media to hear what they have to say. It is so refreshing and it’s about time that we give these women our attention, instead of celebrities who spend thousands to erase the signs of their miraculous body. Right now on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, whatever your chosen forum is, go check out these women and their accounts: Constance Hall (Aussie queen of mums and teller of hilariously brutal truths – brace yourself for her potty mouth), Myrah Penaloza and her #WombofMagic, @empoweredbirthproject (on Instagram), Sabrina Ewell (@sereneradianceyoga), Pink (friggin love this chick!), Jillian Harris (she posed in the freaking mesh undies for crying out loud!), Chrissy Teigen (posted a pic of her stretch marks with the caption “whatevs” and I love her for life) and Mia Redworth (single mother and positive body instagrammer) to name a very small few.
I promised them anonymity and that they shall receive, but I want to extend a heartfelt thanks to the beautiful women in my life who responded to my inquiry and contributed to this blog. My evolving perspective on this topic is owed, in great part, to you.