Women talk about how their bodies have changed since giving birth
People are starting to talk about “Mom Bods.” No, not the kind of Mom Bods that are back to swimsuit modeling at four weeks post-partum thanks to “breastfeeding” and “genetics.” No, we’re talking about real Mom Bods — the sagging, soft, stretch-marked covered realities that most of us live with. But in a refreshing change of pace, instead of focusing on how to change our bodies, we’re talking about celebrating them.
Redbook asked five moms to put on bikinis for the first time since they gave birth, and get photographed and recorded talking about how their bodies have changed. Most of us would look at this opportunity as only slightly more appealing than doing a nude interpretive dance in a busy intersection. But lucky for us, these five brave women said “yes” and shared stories that should have us all weeping and laughing and buying bikinis. At the minimum, maybe they’ll make some moms rethink they way they feel about their bodies.
In the video that accompanies the stories, the five women — Arielle, Farrah, Stephanie, Kanya, and Brittany — who are all different shapes and sizes, shed their cover-ups and dance and play with their children while wearing bikinis. They talk about how their bodies have changed since they gave birth, with Arielle commenting that she never had stretch marks before gaining 50 pounds with her pregnancy, and Farrah saying that she hadn’t realized how “drastically” her body would change. But that very quickly shifts into a focus on how empowered and positive they feel. Says Kanya, “My body is strong, even if it doesn’t look like it.” Stephanie says, “I’m really proud of my body because it made my two wonderful children.”
Then Arielle says something that most women can relate to: “I was really self-conscious when I was, like, a size 6. And now I just don’t care. Because of her, I have, like, more important things to worry about.” Preach it, Arielle, every day and twice on Sunday. There are so many women who look back on photographs of themselves when they were in their teens or twenties and remember how badly they felt about their bodies at the time when in fact they had absolutely nothing to worry about. And that should clue us in to what a fraud all of this body-shaming is and what a lie it is that we should have “a perfect body.” All those ideas do is make all women feel bad about themselves, no matter what they look like. They rob us of the joy we should be taking in our bodies, and make us focus our energy on how we look instead of what we can do. It’s hard to change the world if you’re worried you “look fat” in your jeans, and it’s hard to live up to your potential if you hate yourself.
But the quote that moved this particular mom to tears was from Kanya, who says: “This is the only me that he’s ever seen. And to him I’m amazing.” That is a truth that I think most of us forget. One day, about a year or so ago, I was working out in my living room, sweating and huffing and puffing and hating life, when my daughter came in and said, “Mom, why do you work out?” I have made a point of never saying anything negative about my body in front of my daughter, so I said, “Well, I’m just trying to get healthier so I can have a long, happy life.” “Does that mean you’ll get less chubby?” she asked, concerned. “Well,” I said, “I guess so.” My daughter started crying. “I don’t want you to be less chubby! I don’t want you to look different! I like you just the way you look now!”
That was the first moment I realized that to my daughter, what I look like today is the only me she has ever known. I am her mom — every bit of me is the person she loves more than anyone else in the world, and who loves her unconditionally. I’ve spent so much time wanting to look different, I didn’t even think about what it would mean to my daughter to have her constant, unchanging source of love and safety change.
We owe it to our sons and daughters to participate fully in their lives, and we owe it to ourselves to try to love our bodies for all they’ve done and continue to do. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to put on a bikini and swagger down the beach (though that would be kick-ass), but hopefully these women will remind us of all that our “Mom Bods” have in common, and, as Brittany so perfectly puts it, “Hopefully I’m teaching my daughter that it’s not a big deal if you look different from someone else.”