With all the talk about “losing the baby pounds," it’s no wonder new moms feel pressured to change themselves. The media is full of celebrity moms who, within minutes of shooting a baby out, have six-pack abs and smooth, cellulite-less thighs. There are no signs of broken veins, stretch marks, or, god forbid, fat.
More and more moms, however, are speaking up and baring it all (or most of it) to reclaim their postpartum bodies. And by postpartum, in some instances, we mean when their kids are six or eight years old. Their message is clear: they are not ashamed of the changes, sometimes permanent, that being a mom has brought to their bodies. They are comfortable - or working on being comfortable - with their mom bods.
The fact that our bodies can grow and accommodate full human beings inside them is amazing. And it’s no wonder that not everything goes back the way it was before after giving birth. Exercise has its place when and if a mom wants to do it, but let’s dispense with the body shaming and, instead, do some body celebrating. And, even if you can't manage to celebrate, maybe like some of the moms here, you can at least work on accepting it.
13 The Baby Bump Doesn't Always Disappear
Annette Palma was nervous about sharing photos of her body, just one week after having her third child, Nate, but she put aside her fears and shot some selfies in her undies anyway.
Annette said her third pregnancy was her healthiest one, but she still topped out at 214 pounds towards the end. And, after giving birth, she still had a very noticeable bump, as many moms do.
There's a myth floating around out there that the baby comes out and bam! you're back to your old body. But very, very many women still look pregnant for a few weeks afterward. Annette shared her photos to bring to light that, yes, a postpartum bump is normal, especially with baby number three.
12 Stretch Marks Can Appear Anywhere
Natalie Edmonds’s midwife said her stretch marks were the worst she’d ever seen. That’s saying a lot, coming from a midwife. The stretch marks had not-so-slowly crept up from below her belly button all the way to her chest.
“I noticed my first stretch mark at four months and after that a new one emerged virtually every week,” Natalie says.
She lost weight rapidly after giving birth to her son, Elliott, which caused stretch marks to also bloom on her breasts and arms. Natalie says she goes to spin class every so often, but as a new mom, she doesn’t have the time or energy for much else.
Natalie says,“My mother…spent decades dieting. She says my stretch marks are horrible, but I think they’re a mark of what I’ve been through.”
11 A Raw Runner Gets Real
Stephanie Rotstein Bruce is a professional runner, so we might expect her to bounce back into marathon shape in no time after giving birth. But…after two children, even her body isn’t the same.
Stephanie regularly shares on Instagram the real side of being a mom - photos of her thin, seriously saggy-skinned tummy - and she talks about the lesser-known “joys” of motherhood. “I can run 5:20 pace for a half marathon,” she says, “but I still pee my pants, have diatstasis recti, stretch marks and other postpartum issues.”
Stephanie talks about helping moms embrace the body they have. “When I look down I see stretch marks that are here to stay, ab muscles that need continued strengthening, legs that are powerful and feet that are ready to fly!”
10 Seriously Saggy Bosoms
Aimee Marshall says she didn’t put on much weight with her pregnancy, but don’t roll your eyes yet. She developed “strange moles and psoriasis” on her forehead and cheeks. After giving birth to her daughter, Eadie, via emergency C-section, Aimee was encouraged to express breastmilk for her premature baby.
“I ended up with excruciating mastitis. Both breasts tripled in size and developed a greenish hue,” Aimee says. They were so painful, she couldn’t sleep.
Aimee says her breasts eventually went down but she was devastated by their new, saggy-sack appearance. She was also self-conscious about her C-section scar. Aimee still struggles with self confidence and her body. She wants moms-to-be to be prepared for the very real possibility their bodies will never be the same.
9 When The Pounds Move To The Legs
Natalia Russell says, despite the actual baby being in her uterus, most of her pregnancy weight went to her tush and her legs. She says she started to notice as her belly went down after giving birth. Natalia, vowed to herself, however, that she would “enjoy spending time with Rian rather than put pressure on myself to go to the gym.”
Natalia did experiment with some expensive creams and a skin brush, but she says none of it has made any difference at all. And she now favors pants over skirts to hide her legs. “I’m proud of my body,” she says, in spite of her insecurities. “My body may be bigger than it used to be, but it’s given us our son.”
8 A Nutritionist’s Post-Baby Body
Despite her expert knowledge of food, blogger and nutritionist Julie Bhosale hasn’t achieved the socially acceptable post-baby body moms are expected to crave. And, her photo documentation of her body after birth went viral, proving that what moms out there do crave are real-ness and acceptance.
Julie used the hashtag, #takebackpostpartum as she charted the changes her postpartum body made after two children, revealing that, in the end, despite having lost the weight she had gained, her body still wasn’t the same as it was pre-baby. (Why would it be?)
Hats off to Julie for bravely taking the initiative to show moms of the world they don’t have to look like Barbie…or anyone else besides themselves.
7 A Different Way To Look At Tiger Stripes
Blogger Jessica Glaze has a different take on her post-babies body. She says she’s stopped apologizing to her loved ones for her belly flab and “tiger stripes,” (her word for serious stretch marks). But that doesn’t necessarily mean she loves them.
When her husband asked her, “Would you love me less if I had a giant scar across my face?” she realized how absurd it was. Her husband and the rest of her loved ones don’t care one bit about how her belly looks.
Jessica says, “You don’t have to love your body or embrace your imperfections, you do not have to pretend like it doesn’t bother you, but you also do not have to be ashamed of your body in front the people closest to you, the people who matter most.”
6 Three Kids = One Jiggly Tummy
Sometimes body positivity, or even body acceptance, doesn’t come so easily. Rachel Barker had her first child vaginally and the next two each by C-section. She says, after her second pregnancy, she wanted desperately to get back into her size-12 jeans. “I couldn’t bring myself to throw them out, so they stayed at the back of my wardrobe, upsetting me.”
After a difficult third pregnancy with complications, Rachel feels self-conscious about her C-section scar and her thighs but mostly her belly, which she calls “massive and flabby.”
She says she simultaneously feel more “womanly” because of the amazing feats her body has performed and less attractive. “I’ve accepted I’m going to remain this size, and I’m learning to live with it,” she says.
5 Bo-Po Models Struggle Too
Tess Holliday is a model who celebrates body positivity with all of her Instagram posts, but even she was susceptible to self-doubt when looking at her unfamiliar, post-baby body after giving birth to her son, Bowie.
Tess says, “I'm not used to looking in the mirror and feeling like I don't recognize myself.” Tess strives to find love and acceptance of her new body daily, though. She admits, “Each day feels like a battle to learn how to love my body postpartum…my stomach is lower, my breasts are a different shape, new stretch marks, and I feel like a stranger in my body.”
Tess says she was fat before being pregnant, and she’s fat now, and she’s always been fine with that, but the changes are what rock her. I guess no one is a perfect bastion of self-confidence; we all have to cultivate it.
4 Broken And Monstrous
One day, Ashlee Wells Jackson, photographer and mother of three, found herself sobbing in the shower. Looking at the wreckage of her scarred stomach, she felt broken and “monstrous.”
To help herself heal emotionally, she took a photo of herself, belly included, with her daughter, Nova. Then, she began asking other moms to join her. Ashlee and mom friend Laura Weetzie Wilson began working in earnest on “The Fourth Trimester Bodies Project.”
Ashlee wanted to “subvert the notion that mothers need to ‘fix' their bodies post-pregnancy.” The photo project showcases women and their post-baby bodies beautifully. "We need to address the fact that our bodies change when we carry a baby," says Ashlee, "Hips widen. Skin stretches. Things don't always go back to the way they were before."
3 Even Celebrities Have Mom Bodies
In 2015, Olivia Wilde did a profile for Self magazine, 11 months after giving birth to her son, Otis Alexander. Though no sag, wrinkles, stretch marks or bulges are noticeable in her photos, Olivia claimed, "I’m softer than I’ve ever been, including that unfortunate semester in high school when I simultaneously discovered Krispy Kreme and pot."
Olivia was refreshingly open in her Self profile: “You haven’t seen your vagina in months, even though it’s all her fault you’re in this situation,” she wrote. “Now that you can finally confirm that she is...still there, she isn’t the gal that you remember, and would rather you ...give her some space (and an ice diaper.)”
Olivia says she doesn't believe society should necessarily expect mothers to shed the evidence of birthing a child.
2 Letting Go Of (Body) Expectations
Joan Ceremy-St.Fleur views birth as a power within herself, as a woman. I'll go her one better and call it a "super power." She says the details of birth, the where and when, don't matter and that it's important to embrace what motherhood throws at us, moment by moment.
Most parents-to-be have expectations about mothering, how it will look and what it will feel like, but Joan says we need to let go of those expectations. Whether you're thinking about what foods your baby will eat, how you will potty train or how your body, as a mother, "ought" to look, if you let go of that and embrace what is, you find peace of mind.
1 A Mom Who Found Peace
Allison G., mother of three children under the age of five, says she used to be a very regimented person before she had kids. She was an avid gym-goer and was extremely hard on herself.
Three pregnancies later, Allison says she's easier on herself than she used to be and she's had to learn to be more flexible - roll with the punches a newborn baby can bring. Now, she's happy making her family the priority. She still gets in the occasional, 30-minute home workout, but she doesn't fret if she doesn't have time for it.
Allison said, "I have learned to be more forgiving of myself and embrace the unexpected turns of motherhood. I take it day by day. And, if things don't go according to plan, it is okay."
Sources: DailyMail.co.uk, kidspot.com.au, MindBodyGreen.com, CelebrityBabies.People.com, HealthyMummy.com, Glamour.com, ScaryMommy.com, Self.com