Babies and Body Anxiety

Recently, a fellow blogger wrote a post about how to feel better about your body post-baby. I agree with her, wearing clothes that fit make a huge difference. And yet, I just can’t get myself there.

Let’s go back. Growing up I was never skinny. I had large breasts and was overweight. Although, this never interfered with my confidence. I never lacked self esteem. I never deprived myself of food in an attempt to be “skinny.” Rather the opposite, I was quite confident in myself. After meeting Betsy, and after many years of neck and back pain, I decided to have breast reduction surgery. It was the best decision I ever made. Not only for my back but I felt like I was finally in MY body. I had been working out prior to surgery and not long after recovery I was 35 pounds lighter. I loved my size and worked hard to maintain a healthy weight.

When I got pregnant with Noa I was not overly concerned about the weight gain. I wasn’t going to binge during pregnancy because I knew how difficult it would be to lose the weight. So I ate like I did pre-pregnancy (except the daily chocolate milkshakes) and was fine. After Noa was born I lost 24 of the 28 pounds within the first two weeks. This was probably due to my severe postpartum OCD or it’s just easier to lose the weight after the first kid.

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34ish weeks pregnant with Noa

Nine short months into my motherhood journey I got pregnant with Atticus. I was slightly over my pre- Noa weight but still unconcerned. Atticus was born and again the weight came off rather easily. I was back to within 10 pounds of my pre-Noa weight within the first couple months.

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34ish weeks pregnant with Atticus.

And then came pregnancy number three. More weight gain and a higher starting point. By the time Cal was born I weighed more than I ever had. I was obsessed with every pound I gained past my heaviest weight. And although I have lost half of the weight I gained with him I cannot get past my daily anxiety of being this size.

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In labour with Cal. (Sorry, not a great picture.)

I was once this size and didn’t care. I looked in the mirror and thought, “damn you look good.” Until I was within normal weight. Now I feel uncomfortable in my own skin. “You birthed a human” can only get you so far. Not only that, I birthed THREE! humans in three and a half years. And still no change in how I see my body. Yeah, it’s strong, and grows babies, and beautifully birthed all three but those self-validations are still not enough to get me over my morning hump of anxiety-ridden outfit picking.

I want to add here that I don’t let Noa (or any of my kids) see how I feel. When I get on the scale and they are around we talk all about how strong our bodies are and all the cool things we can do with them. Noa sees me loving my body, even if it’s only on the outside.

And Betsy, oh how I love this woman. Three kids later and she loves me more everyday. She’s always validating my concerns and strongly encouraging of my gym attendance and healthy eating. The stretch marks and new shape don’t even cross her mind. You’re probably thinking, ‘Yes they do, she just doesn’t say anything’ but trust me, sleep and chicken safety are about the only things she thinks about when not attending to children.

Society tells us that we need to be skinny, while simultaneously encouraging us to rebel against that message. That we should love our postpartum body with the stretch marks and extra skin because ‘you grew a human and created life.’

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Three humans.

Which brings me to another point, it’s not just the weight. It’s that your body is a whole new shape. Even if you get back down to your pre-baby weight the shape just isn’t the same. It’s not the old you, it’s a whole new you. And it’s really hard to accept a new you when you can’t anticipate it.

And I have three kids. I don’t have the disposable income to remake a wardrobe. Or the emotional capacity to go shopping for one. For now, I’ll stick with the daily anxiety about what to wear (they make a pill for that.)

If you’re one of the many women in the postpartum phase and you’re not loving your body, you’re not alone. Even with a partner that thinks you’re the sexiest person alive, even with frequent self validation about the miraculous thing you just accomplished, even if you workout daily and eat healthily (or maybe not) accepting this new body is hard.

I’d like to offer some powerful words of wisdom like telling you that those women you see on Facebook are probably also struggling. Or the ones that lose the weight right away are rare and most of us don’t. Or you’re going to end up loving your new body. But I’m not sure any of those are true. What is true is that there is at least one other momma who also isn’t so sure how to accept this new body of hers, despite its amazingness.

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