Here’s an idea… What if, instead of talking about “getting our bodies back” after childbirth, we started celebrating all the amazing things our bodies did to bring new life into the world? What if getting back in shape after childbirth was all about how we felt and how strong and capable we were rather than how flat our bellies should become?
And what if—I know this is a hard one—we all agreed that bearing children changes women’s bodies in permanent ways, and that no matter what we do, most of us are never going to look the way we did before we had children?
And what if that was okay? What if that was actually incredible and empowering?
Look, I know that body shame goes deep. It’s one thing to say all these things, but it’s another thing to actually believe them or embrace them. However, postpartum body positivity isn’t just about feeling good about your body. It’s about being realistic about the changes it goes through as you bear children, nurture them, and age.
It’s about time we lifted the veil on the postpartum body thing once and for all. So, here goes.
After you have a baby, you are likely to have a belly pooch for quite some time after the fact. Like, it can take months or a year for that thing to get even close to what it was before you had a baby. Or it might never go back to what it was before the baby, because guess what? You are not the same as before you had a baby.
You’re also likely to have stretched skin that isn’t going anywhere either. And stretch marks? Yeah, they fade, but they are there for the long haul as well.
And then—even if you work out, close your diastasis recti (separation of the ab muscles, which many of us have postpartum), and really tone your core—that loose skin, those stretch marks, that pouchy, doughiness…well, it’s all likely to stay put.
Pooches, even permanent ones, are part of the territory once you’ve had children.
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We stay quiet. No one tells us about the changes that take place after we have babies. We only see the “bounce back” adorned on the cover of the magazine as we wait to buy our groceries. We stay quiet. We stand in that grocery line unloading our produce onto the conveyor belt and think to ourselves, “I wonder if that Tummy Tea would help?” “I should have used that stretch mark cream more often.” We stay quiet. We don’t talk about the stretch marks. We don’t talk about our loose skin. We quietly trade in the bikini for a one piece…because why would we want to offend others with the ungodly sight of our postpartum body? We stay quiet. We are taught that a mother’s body is something to be hidden. Those are the unspoken rules and we have to follow the rules. After all, we are mothers now. We stay quiet. We don’t seek help when we pee ourselves or have discomfort long after childbirth. We blame ourselves. “I really should have done more kegels,” we think. We stay quiet. Our culture has dictated that the “ideal” is a flat tummy and the ultimate compliment is from the stranger who says, “My goodness, you don’t even look like you’ve had a baby.” We compare ourselves to others, and ask what we did wrong to have such a flawed postpartum body. We stay quiet. What if we weren’t so quiet? What if we knew that a part of becoming a mother meant likely having a changed body? And what if we celebrated that? What if we celebrated those stretch marks as a symbol of how strong our body was and how miraculously it housed our great loves? What if we stopped blaming ourselves and started being gracious with ourselves instead? What if we TALKED about the changes that happen, so that all postpartum bodies were embraced? What if we gave women resources so they didn’t write off postpartum pain as simply a side effect of having a child? What if we helped women focus on how they felt instead of how they looked? What if? What if we didn’t stay so quiet? #getmomstrong #mompower #postpartum #postpartumbody #bodyafterbaby #stretchmarks #takebackpostpartum #twinmom
Lauren Ohayon, pilates and yoga instructor and creator of Restore Your Core, a core and diastasis recti workout program, tells Scary Mommy that you can have a very functional and strong core and still have belly pooch. You can even close up your diastasis recti and have this kind of look.
Function is different than appearance, she explains. Things like belly fat (which has nothing to do with strength, and sometimes can be moderated by diet and exercise) and stretched skin (a product or pregnancy that is just a reality we can’t change) are what are going to cause your belly to stick out or be fluffy, Ohayon explains.
“My goal for women is function,” says Ohayon. “As a women who is a body positive advocate, I respect and support ALL choices, but I do not base my programs around a look. I want you to be strong enough for life, for activities, for your confidence.”
YES. There is no shame here in wanting to feel good, to feel strong. We all want to be able to chase our kids around the playground without getting out of breath, pulling our back or injuring ourselves. And there is nothing wrong, too, with wanting to look fit, desire a slimmer figure, or whatever floats your boat.
But I think we all need to be realistic here about what is possible for us, given our age, our genetics, and how our body reacted to carrying a 7-10 pound baby in it for 9 months. I mean, hello? You think that was nothing, and that your body is just supposed to be exactly how it was before that momentous even happened?
Just, nope. And that’s okay, because dammit, you did one of the most amazing feats that humans ever do. And now you are a fucking mother, which is nothing short of awesome.
Thankfully, it’s not just people like me shouting this kind of thing from the rooftops. The body positivity movement is going strong. Just search for #postpartumbelly or #bodypositivity on Instagram and you will be blown away by the amazing women who are sharing what real bodies look like after birth.
There are even celebrities out there using their voice and their platform to call this issue out. They are making it clear that the changes their bodies have gone through as moms are something to celebrate, and that the pressure to “bounce back” within days or weeks of having a baby is utter bullshit.
Take celebrities like singer/songwriter Jessie James Decker, who had no problem showing the world what a real belly looks like three weeks after having a baby.
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Keepin it real! 3 weeks post and I’m still very swollen. The 3rd has been by far the hardest recovery, but I’m feeling stronger every day. Little Forrest is such an amazing baby and the easiest one of the 3. I’ve updated you all throughout my entire pregnancy and how much my tummy/baby were growing monthly so I felt like I should share where I’m at post baby. It sure is incredible what the body can do and I’m so grateful! I know i say this after each baby but remember what our bodies just when through for 9 months and be proud, don’t stress over post baby body, just enjoy your new baby because these are beautiful moments and memories you will cherish forever (aaaand drink your coffee to survive the no sleeping all night long ha!) ❤️
Or badass moms like Tia Mowry, who pull no punches about the truths of a 2-week old postpartum belly, and the unrealistic expectations that society puts on moms in those vulnerable, exhausting postpartum days.
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This is MY #postpartum. Two weeks in. Do I still have a belly yes. I actually look like I’m 4 months pregnant and that is OKAY. I wanted to shine a light on how our society creates false expectations after a woman gives birth. Ladies, it’s okay that our bodies are not PERFECT after our babies are born. Give your self time. Go at your own pace. Don’t allow people to put a time limit on YOUR body. You’ve just accomplished a miracle! #Love yourself, love your new body, embrace it. It you want to make changes than that’s your desire and no one else’s. Ps, #moms freaking rock!
But my favorite celebrity body positivity champion is probably Jennifer Garner. In 2014, after having three kids, Garner dared to walk around having a noticeable belly. And when rumors started to fly that she was pregnant again, she shut that shit down on Ellen, in the most candid and kick-ass way imaginable.
“I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump,” Garner told Ellen. “From now on, ladies, I will have a bump, and it will be my baby bump.”
“It’s not going anywhere,” she added. “Its name is Violet, Sam and Sera.”
You can watch the glorious clip here:
Okay, mamas. Let’s do this thing. Let’s bask in all of our postpartum gorgeousness (no matter how many months or years postpartum we are). Let’s accept that some of us are just going to have that belly pooch no matter what we do.
And that’s okay.
And if you are not there yet, that’s okay too. Embracing your body is a process. But it’s something worth trying to do, and we all need to support one another in the process.
Wherever you are in your own journey, know this. Your body is fucking beautiful. It’s a symbol of how much you are rocking this motherhood thing. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.