In my last call to arms I asked you to take up charge in my Whatever Army and fight against expectations for perfection. I asked that you spend more time accepting each other rather than judging each other. Now, I am asking you to join me on another quest. This one won’t be so easy and it will require you to dig deep and sift through years of programming. Moms, I want you to accept yourselves. I don’t mean accept who you are. I want you to accept your “mom bod” just the way it is with scars and flaws and every inch of stretched out skin.
I feel like the pressure society puts on women to lose the baby weight is ridiculous. I had an emergency C-section after being induced with my first. I was considered high risk due to high blood pressure. We later found out the cord was around my daughter’s neck a few times. I chose a C-section for my second daughter and glad I did. When they delivered her the cord was also around her neck. I honestly go between being disgusted with my size, and feeling beautiful knowing my body was able to grow and nourish two perfect beautiful girls. –Carrie mother of two daughters ages 3.5 and 2
The term mom bod can have a negative connotation. It segregates us as something less than vs. more than. Bringing a child into this world requires we place ourselves closer to death. If only stretch marks and extra weight were the only tribulations we faced during pregnancy and labor. So many of us have experienced medical complications and traumatic births and survived. The truth is moms our bodies have power and we need to celebrate that!
Suddenly, you have a body that seems foreign to you. You don’t know how to dress it. You may find that the pounds don’t come off as easily; you may have the “mom pouch” and extra stretch marks. We might not see this reflected in the media, but our bodies have done something amazing–maybe more than once. While it’s hard to embrace something that society does not deem to be perfect, in reality it IS perfect because it’s ours. The people who love us will love us for who we are not for what size the tag on our clothing says or how many stretchmarks we have. –Gizella, mother of son age 6 and daughter age 4.
Every mother’s body has a story hidden just beneath the surface of our skin. Our skin becomes the book jacket to our stories. The stretchmarks, red lines and scars on our bodies read like paragraphs of secret language that only other mothers can understand. Every pound we gain during pregnancy tells the tale of how far our bodies will go to accommodate our baby’s safety. Every stretch of skin chronicles how week after week or bodies grow to build a safe home for our babies. And, (for some) sagging breasts illustrate our bodies ability to provide nourishment to our children.
As soon as I had my daughter 6 years ago, I thought about how I could get rid of the 50 pounds I put on. I want to have more children, but a cancer diagnosis soon after birth caused me to give up on that dream. There are days that I struggle and days that I’m OK. I’m proud of my body. It carried a kind, sweet soul in it for 10 months and I’m happy to see the changes in it. I struggled a lot more with the neck scar I have left from my cancer battle. It changes you. But, it strengthens you. Now, I wouldn’t give it up. –Liz, one daughter age 6.
(Liz was diagnosed with thyroid cancer only 4 months after giving birth. She cites it as the most common cancer diagnosed during pregnancy (second to breast cancer). Her doctors believe the hormones released during pregnancy caused the cancer to grow more rapidly.)
The reality is we willingly put our own lives in jeopardy so we can bring life into this world. Many of us do this more than once. By nature we have everything we need to create and sustain life inside our bodies. Yet somehow, leftover weight and sagging skin are perceived as horrible side effects that we must rid ourselves of. Instead I ask you to see the “side effects” of your pregnancy as beauty marks and medals of Honor. You would not have those marks without enduring pregnancy or child birth. Instead of viewing them as nagging reminders of the body you can no longer have, I hope you see them as souvenirs of the start of your amazing parenting journey.
Now that I’m a mom, I tend to feel invisible to the world. There’s a freedom there – the freedom to stop trying to look good, the freedom to wear yoga pants and a pony tail every day. I wouldn’t say I’m more secure in my body, I’ve been insecure about my body since I knew what the word meant. I’ve spent the last 40 years being annoyed with, ashamed of, critical of and generally hard on my body. I did suffer post-partum depression and anxiety with both of my babies. I was so hard on myself during that time and felt like a failure in so many ways because I was an imperfect mom. I feel like celebrating woman’s bodies in this way helps us all be easier on ourselves, even if just for a moment. –Katy mother of two ages 8 and 4.
Please stay tuned for Part II of Body Beautiful.
All images belong to Leyla Cadabal Photography http://leylacadabalphotography.com/. Any use of these photos without express written permission from the original photographer is prohibited.
The Whatever Mom is a twin mom learning to let go of perfection. She shares her real life struggles with parenting through her blog and contributes her time and talents as a writer to Hudson Valley Parent and Masshole Mommy. When she isn’t writing you can find her chugging coffee, folding laundry and not judging other parents. Don’t forget to subscribe via email so you never miss a blog post again! You can also find her work featured on Mamapedia and The Novice Mommy.