Mama Body

I’m often thinking about motherhood issues I’d like to share here and rarely get time to sit and tap something coherent out but I’d love to encourage some honest discussion, so here’s the first in a series… more to follow.

Let’s cut to the chase today, how do you *really* feel about your body now you have had a baby?

I’ve thought about writing this for months… putting it off mainly because I wanted to reach the fabled ‘other side’ that I’d read so many other super mums accounts of. The holy grail of your pre-pregnancy weight, feeling like you’ve ‘got your body back‘ and regaining your pre-motherhood confidence. Turns out at 19 months post partum, I don’t think for me at least, that perfect triad actually exists. My body has gone through many stages – post partum ‘bump’ (that lasted weeks longer than I expected,) then months where I was heavy but truly didn’t care as I was so wrapped up in my beautiful baby. The first realisations that I wanted to try and get my weight down only started to creep into my mind around 10-12 months after having Bea and co-incidentally, perhaps with a slightly conscious moderation of my cake heavy diet, I started to very slowly move towards my pre-pregnancy weight. For a while I was happy with the slimmer silhouette I saw in the mirror then I started to look at the finer detail. And it’s fair to say I don’t love what I see.

Image of Amanda, via the 4th Trimester Bodies Project on Instagram

I’ve gone to write this so many times and hesitated. In part I suppose I hoped I’d miraculously lose weight/clean up my eating habits/suddenly find the desire or time to start exercising regularly and the whole issue would go away. In part because it’s like there’s some kind of shame in admitting that under your clothes (because in reality most of what I dislike isn’t really visible,) isn’t as attractive as the media tells us it should be. And whilst I know there are truly genetically lucky women (some amongst my friends,) who have lost weight quickly, through feeding or otherwise, and still look great, the media and just your average blogger posting about how they got their weight down/body back by cutting out sugar/rediscovering their love of pilates/breast feeding, really doesn’t help.

So the truth about my body is that it still doesn’t feel like my own. I’m still feeding Bea morning and evening. This week she has been particularly clingy and my body rarely feels like my own unless she’s asleep in her cot and then, ironically I miss her. My boobs haven’t done too badly for feeding her and don’t look a whole lot different, although I’m currently missing the fullness pregnancy and feeding imparted. I’m sure everybody feels differently about the parts of their body that are different after a baby, but for me it’s my middle that bothers me the most. My waist seems to be just… absent. And my stomach muscles, whilst still present, (I know – I regularly try to tense them to check they are still there!) are hidden under a layer of blubber and seem intent on just sagging out of shape when I am relaxed… so all the time. But the thing I hate the most is the skin. I got stretch marks under my bump in about my 35th week of pregnancy. I expected it because I suffered with stretch marks in my teens but they are so faded now I hoped they would disappear to the barely visible silvery lines the earlier ones left. Whilst they are less visible now and pale, they’ve totally altered the texture of my skin. Stood upright you’d never notice but any bending forwards reveals the crepe-like texture and loose skin I loathe.

Loathe is a strong word and not how I feel about my ‘self’ I hasten to add. Fortunately I have never based my self worth on my external appearance but even though I consider myself to be unusually self confident, there have to be things and times when you don’t feel perfect. Even as I write this I feel almost defeated in admitting it. I’m mentally straining for a positive comment or course of action to round off this blog post with, to say what I’m going to do about it, or how I’m going to change myself. But I think what I really want to say is it’s ok to feel like this. That maybe acceptance is the way forwards and the way to ultimate happiness about your body after having babies. Perhaps the cliched end is that I’d go through it all again and worse for Bea. Being a mother is so much better than having a perfect (if it ever was) body and I’d much rather spend time with her than time pursuing it. In my case, most of the time motherhood is distracting enough to prevent me dwelling on the reality of my ‘new’ body. But it’s a part of motherhood nonetheless.

Now it’s time to hand over to you. How do you really feel about your body? Have your feelings changed? Perhaps you feel differently to me? I’d love to hear your thoughts readers 🙂

Rebecca x

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27 thoughts on “Mama Body

  1. THANK YOU Rebecca for writing this. I hate being made to feel like I’ve ‘failed’ at being super women for not getting back my body and weight to exactly how it was pre baby. I got my weight down to 3 pounds off my pre-baby weight about a year after having my baby – was pretty chuffed – then slowly started putting weight on. Mainly due to the fact that I couldn’t find time to exercise/didn’t want to cos I didn’t want to leave my amazing daughter! Because you know what spending time with her is so much better and much more rewarding! She’s really good company

  2. I feel the same. Having had 2, (and lost 2), i really appreciate what my body went through to produce my beautiful girls.

    I only have a couple of stretch marks (or triumph marks as i refer to them), and they don’t bother me at all, but they might do if there was lots, and i feel lucky to have escaped that, especially with the prospect of donning a bikini in the not too distant future…

    I do hate my hips and thighs though. Although apparently not enough to stick to any exercise or diet regime. I’m sure everyone feels similar, i think becoming a mother you give up so much, in all aspects of life (i lost my job because of my second) but actually its OK to miss those things, because they were the things that shaped you personality wise before.

    I don’t know if that makes sense, or its me just talking rubbish. What does get on my nerves though is the constant shaming in the media of post partum mummy bodies where they’re not quite back and the feeling that you should look like you did before after 6/12 weeks because that what kim kardashian or Abbey Clancy or whoever is looking like. We’re all different.

    My husband said to me once “yeah but you did grow two humans”… i try to remember that one.

  3. Um… ten months on and with no effort, I HAVE dropped back to my pre-pregnancy size other than I have this new pair of ridiculous boobs. They’re preventing me from wearing any of my old dresses and most of my old tops. So my body does feel like my own (as long as I don’t look at the stretch marks) but I’m feeling pretty fed up of my small, practical, drab, boring, grey-navy-and-dark-blue, jeans-and-T-shirt wardrobe; my body feels like me but my clothes don’t and sometimes that really does get me down. I didn’t realise I cared so much about my clothes until now but I miss my brightly coloured vintage dresses and I can’t afford to replace them.

  4. So many thoughts, but I need to go to bed. I will say quickly that for me, a big part of it is not just the way my body looks but the way it feels, the parts that don’t work the way they used to, the strength I feel I’ve somehow lost. I thought a lot about how my appearance might change but your body goes through so much shit in pregnancy and childbirth that in some ways appearance is the least of it. It’s a transforming experience in every way.

    Also, I was so ill at the end of my pregnancy that I was practically skin and bones and bump, so I looked pretty thin very quickly afterwards (too thin really, unhealthily so, for me) and people kept complimenting me about it. I wanted to scream, it’s not my choice or anything I’ve done! If I could have kept my appendix intact and gone past 33 weeks of pregnancy I’d probably have put on another stone and have stretch marks etc etc and I would happily swap for that if I could! So, yeah. I guess I’m just saying that the body stuff is all so much more complex and emotional than I thought it would be. As is motherhood!

  5. This is a subject weighing very heavily on my mind right now! I actually didn’t put on that much weight during pregnancy, but I got the most awful stretch marks that have completely ravaged my entire stomach. Even though I know that the scars will fade to silver eventually (M is 4 months now), they’ve changed the texture and look of my skin forever.

    And to add to my body anxiety the boy and I got engaged last week. And while I’m so happy to have my little family and to plan our future together, all the bridal bullshit does seem to assume that you’re a dewy-faced virginal 23-year-old who’s going to rock a size 8 dress. It’s awoken a lot of insecurities I thought I was over.

    I’ve now signed up for slimming world because I just can’t imagine trying on wedding dresses until I lose some cake weight – although how you fit breastfeeding boobs into a wedding dress I have no clue!

  6. Well safe to say I will never wear a crop top again. My skin ended up a bit crepey at the bottom of my tummy but it did improve over time. I’m currently 30 weeks pregnant with no 2 and waited nearly 3 years, in that time my body did eventually get back to normal, or the new normal at least. I started dieting properly just after my ds turned two. I had hung on to this extra stone for ages and with just a few tweaks to my diet I lost it in just over 3 months. That made a massive difference to my confidence and I began feeling like me again. I feel like I’ll cope with my post partum body better this time because I know that I can go back to normal, I won’t be in any rush and I won’t even think of dieting until the baby is at least 9 months old.

  7. By the time my little one was 12 months, I was pregnant again. I was about a stone away from my pre pregnancy weight. Now that number two is here I am about two stone away from what I would like to weigh; I also need to tone up in a big way too.

    I am having a lot of Physio to help with the way SPD has left my body. The aesthetics will have to wait until later. The body thing has no easy answer, just acceptance of what cannot be changed and motivation to change what we can. A healthy long term view is the best to take….and will model a healthy lifestyle to our children.

  8. I have been having some major body issues since giving birth but like Kristy, I went the opposite way. Immediately after giving birth I dropped the 10kg I had put on during pregnancy by breastfeeding. My boy is a milk monster and would feed for hours in the early days. All well and good and even though I felt like my skin was floppy, it wasn’t too bad. But then 4 months after giving birth I was rushed into hospital for an emergency myomectomy, developed septicemia, and had to have an emergency hysterectomy 3 days later. I was in intensive care for 3 days and lost another 10kg which I could ill afford.
    When I came out of hospital I was like a skeleton, I weighed less than 50kg (I’m 5″ 6), and 5 months on, I am still struggling to put the weight back on. I was incredibly lucky in that I was still able to breastfeed after everything that happened but it seems to be making it impossible for me to put on weight. I get comments from friends all the time about how lucky I am to have a problem like that but honestly it’s a nightmare and not healthy at all. I never in a million years thought I would be trying to put weight on after pregnancy but here I am and it is so very hard.

    • Vicki how terrifying! Incredible that you managed to keep breastfeeding after all that. I have found that now Flora is 19 months and I’m feeding her much less, the weight is definitely starting to come back on as my body is using less of its resources to make milk for her. Hoping you will find the same starts happening for you soon too (and that those well-meaning but extremely annoying comments stop asap!).

      • It was a pretty rough few months Kirsty, thankfully the worst is now behind me and I can concentrate on getting healthy again. It sounds like you had a pretty rotten time too, so glad that you’re feeling better and getting some weight back on!
        I totally understand why people make comments about losing weight quickly as from the outside it must look great but in reality, it’s not ideal.
        Lol I became obsessed with not wanting to give up BF in the hospital, I drove my surgeon and the nurses crazy asking how I could keep going. In the end I managed it by pumping a tiny bit every day, sometimes it would only be 10cl but it was enough! I pumped during the ICU, blood transfusions and morphine shots, I really should write a blog post about it all one day :0)
        Thanks so much for the encouragement, I hope I’ll be back to normal again soon!

    • Gosh, i hope you are ok.

      I’ve been at the other end of the spectrum too, when i was in my teens, 6stone and 5 meals a day, protein shakes from the dr, and everyone telling me i was “lucky” to be thin.

      Either way is not good, hope you get sorted soon x

      • Thank you Rachel! It was touch and go at the time but I am so much better now, I look at photos of me from last September and don’t recognise myself!

        I’m so sorry you went through that when you were younger, it must have been awful and especially at such a tricky age! I hope you’re well today!

  9. This post really resonates with me. I remember you doing a body update post last summer and I commented then, saying how down I was about my post baby body. I had hoped that time would improve things and it has slightly, but I still feel sad about the lasting effects of pregnancy. I guess I always naively thought that it would be possible get back to some kind of ‘normal’ but I am slowly coming round to the fact that I will never get back to how my body was before. I had twins 9 months ago and my big bump has resulted in a large split in my stomach muscles. When I lie down there is actually a hole in my stomach! This is something that I had never ever heard of before and none of the medical professionals along the way warned me about, despite it apparently being reasonably common, especially in twin pregnancies. I have managed to narrow the split slightly with pilates but I don’t think the muscles will ever meet again, meaning that I am left with a pregnancy-like paunch that I am very self conscious of and try to hide with baggy clothes. My GP wasn’t interested at all, telling me that I just need to accept it. Only last week someone asked how many weeks pregnant I was! Of course, I wouldn’t change my gorgeous boys for the world but that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel sad about my post partum body xx

    • My muscles parted with both my pregnancies Lisa and almost 13 months on from Polly’s birth there is still a gap. I guess it’s the luck of the draw, and we had big bumps…at least you had the excuse of having two in there! x

  10. I could have written this word for word. The extra weight, losing the weight, the stretched out skin… My body isn’t my old body and it’s definitely taking me a long time to accept it as my own. I haven’t bought any new clothes for months and don’t feel like I know what to wear any more. Add to that the hope of being pregnant again soon and I feel like I’m on hold, just waiting. Once I’m done with being pregnant, then hopefully I’ll feel like I can get back to being me again. But it’s hard not knowing when that will be.

  11. Thanks for writing such an honest post. You and Bea are beautiful and it’s sad to hear how your confidence has been affected by your post baby body.
    I have three children and my youngest is 19m so I can relate to
    this stage. I breastfed my 3 and while feeding may have helped initially with getting back into shape, I found it very difficult to lose the weight while still breastfeeding. I’m not advocating stopping- it’s a lovely bond, but don’t lose hope as it is likely to get easier when you stop.
    I fed my youngest until 6m and had some motivation to get back in to shape as she’s our last baby. I joined some mum
    friends in training for a sprint triathlon and I loved it! I’m now happy with my body and enjoying fitness now the time is right!
    Keep enjoying Bea and know that you’ll get there when the time is right X

  12. Well, I’ve only gained weight since I stopped breast feeding (Ava was 2 years 7 months). The weight dropped off very quickly after childbirth and then I stayed slim!

    I know it’s the opposite to what everyone else says about breast-feeding and weight gain. I have put all the weight I lost back on in last six months though, and am now back to my pre-baby weight (which is heavier than my ideal post baby weight!!). I now need to start dieting.

  13. Thank you for writing this! I had my baby girl not long before you had Bea, I think, in April 2014 by c section and have been reading your blog for a while now. My little girl and Bea look quite similar, and I always really enjoy reading what you have to say as they seem to go through the same sorts of stages at similar times. As for body issues I feel just like you do in every way. I got stretch marks towards the end and hated them, although the doctor doing my c section said she’d seen much worse and they weren’t too bad. My skin feels totally different now where they were / are and I have the dreaded c section pouch / overhang thing especially where my appendix scar is. In my clothes I’m a ‘normal’ size 12 / 14 and look fairly average but I hate my skin, lack of waist etc. I’ve thought a lot about having 3D lipo / cool sculpting or something like that as its non invasive but haven’t gone ahead for some reason. Anyway I just wanted to thank you for putting this out there. It’s nice to hear from someone who feels the same and isn’t slim and gorgeous like most of my Mum friends seem to be.

  14. I really empathise Rebecca. It’s still early days honestly. I think it’s about the new normal and acceptance. And listening to your partner (if you have one). I’ve lost the weight but my lower abdomen will never look the same, and reminds me of how my mum’s belly looked when I was small. I am ok with it and my other half doesn’t seem to care at all (I asked, I don’t think he’s lying). I kind of compare it to my acne scars and spots on my upper body and folliculitus on my limbs which have always bothered me but I’ve accepted them as I’ve got older and realised that nobody notices or cares. I won’t be wearing a bandeau top without a tan or a low rise bikini EVER but that’s cool. Just give yourself time, focus on the bits of you that you like, talk to pete and try not to compare yourself to others or your pre-pregnancy self. You’re gorgeous! Xxx

    • By the way my kids are 3 and 5 and losing the weight wasn’t instant either! I finally have some time for exercise and don’t eat crap because I’m sleep deprived it was much harder when they were tiny!

  15. I want to be able to say something more intelligent than this but it’s enough effort to keep my head off the desk this morning – teething toddler anyone?!

    Basically, everything you’ve written is floating around inside my own head and the fact that you’ve written about it so eloquently is such a massive massive relief to me. I still feel like a physically alien me and as much as I want to be proud of everything my body has done to grow and nourish my son I can’t look at myself in the mirror and make that connection. And now we’re thinking about number 2 and I feel so shallow admitting that I’m scared of what’s going to happen to my body again.

    Oh and somewhere the karmic controller is having the hugest laugh at my expense. My sister has a 2 week old and is already back in her pre-pregnancy clothes having lost 2 stone in 2 weeks!!!!

  16. What a great post – I would just like to share that after 3 lovely babies my body is not what it used to be. I don’t want to sound corny but it was only after giving birth to my first baby that I truly realised how amazing my body is! My 20 year old self was much more toned and perkier in places but also full of insecurities and unrealistic views of beauty. My 30 year old self has a few varicose veins but I feel so much more confident and fulfilled. And it took me 3 pregnancies to realise that beauty or body confidence isn’t about a few extra kilos or stretched skin it about perception, self love and kindness believe me ladies it shows and works!

  17. Many thoughts on this and they’re all jumbled. I put on over 4 stone with E – a combination of her being a giant baby and getting pregnant straight away after a thyroid op (going from overactive to underactive so we could have a baby in the first place). I was never that bothered and I actually loved my pregnancy body.

    Since having E, I have a definite overhang….like a sack of fat which won’t shift. It actually looks like a separate body part as my upper abs aren’t hideous and I’m pretty narrow under the bust. My size 10 maternity trousers still fit but normal trousers don’t because its just THERE. Like a phantom fat baby.

    I don’t have the time or the inclination for the gym like I used to (as it is, I’m hanging onto rationality by a thread) but I kind of think, well, we’ll have another one soon so I can sort it out after that. Not the right attitude. It does make me sad that I have NO nice photos of me and E. None. But my body lets me do what I need it to – I can run after E, go to the park. Sure, I’d like to feel vaguely more attractive but I think that’s down to a general exhaustion rather than just my weight.

    Also still feeding here…my friend lost a lot of weight when she stopped feeding so FINGERS CROSSED.

  18. We are still on holiday in Cornwall at the moment so I’ve not had much time to come on here and respond but I will once we are back. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone that has shared and that just talking about it has made me feel a million times better, so thank you!

  19. Just another one who understands! Two boys, 20 months apart and the youngest is nearly 3. I felt like a wobbly blob for a long time, but suddenly (and without dieting, although by making an effort to eat more healthily and stop takeaways and cake), the weight started to fall off. Like Becca’s friend it was when I stopped feeding the little one when he was nearly two. Looking back, it makes sense – I’d been pregnant or feeding for over four years, but didn’t stop me feeling fed up when the wait was on and delighted when it started to go!

    I also had horrid stretch marks, and still do, plus a 2x c-section overhang. However, I’m a big fan of shape wear and never really wore bikinis anyway. Plus, I have two boys who think I look beautiful every time I put a dress on (clearly not that often!).

  20. I only felt back to ” normal” once I stopped breast feeding at 15 months. My body has never been perfect and still isn’t. I have yoyo’d my whole life and that hasn’t changed. I’m currently about 10 lb more than I’d like to be but I’ve recently lost a stone so mostly feeling pretty good about myself. Despite gaining 3-4 stone in pregnancy I’m lucky to have almost no stretch marks, my boobs are a little bigger, which considering I started at 32 GG isn’t great, but on the whole I feel happy with myself. My challenge will always be not to gain excessively, pregnant or not.

  21. Crepe skin over here too. I had my babies 18 months apart so my body never fully recovered before I put it through it all again. R is 2 1/2 and Polly is 13 months. I think since losing my baby weight through Slimming World (just over 3 stone) and continuing bf has helped massively with my body confidence when dressed but I never ever look down when leaning forwards. Nobody needs to see that. If there’s a cycle of grieving over my prebaby body I guess I’m teetering over from denial to acceptance. In the last month or so I think the pouch seems a little firmer. In moments of despair I try and summon up some memories from the time when I had what I now recognise to have been a toned flat stomach and I honestly just don’t think I appreciated it enough. I am sure you will find a way through these feelings and that in time things will settle down into your new normal, it is still early days with your Bea body, don’t lose sight of that.

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