A Mother’s Body
The skin is pulled tautly over my rounded belly and my full breasts sit high on my chest. The photo of my pregnant body in its ninth month is displayed on the bookshelf above my bathtub. I look at that picture almost nightly. Not only do I find the curves and silhouette of my maternal frame captivating, I am drawn to the expression on my face. There are no lines indicating worry or discomfort, my lips rest lightly together, and slightly curl at the ends but it is the eyes that speak to me. There is a peaceful calm exuding from my stare, owning my nakedness with a confidence that I had never felt before, or for that matter, since.
Many women feel at their most beautiful when they are pregnant. Sarah, a mother of three from Ottawa, loved being pregnant and describes her first pregnancy as though it felt like an experience she was waiting her entire life for. “My wide hips helped make my first birth a relatively easy process (as far as births go). I just loved never having to suck in my belly – I could let it all hang out! I really do feel like I never felt better than when I was pregnant the first time.” Sarah is not alone in admiring how awesome a woman’s body truly is. Mirielle, a Toronto mother of two, says of her pregnant body, “I was in awe of its incredible capacity every passing week… it was truly one of the best experiences of my life where I could focus on myself and the needs of my unborn baby without feeling guilty for neglecting something else.”
Some nights, when my self-confidence is wavering, I look at those pictures and long for that unbridled self-love. Soaking in the bath water, I admire the toll three pregnancies have taken on my body. Like battles scars the silvery stretch marks tell a story. The long spindly looking one running up the left side of my abdomen is from the first time my belly stretched to cradle an unborn child. The series of red claw-like indentations along my pubic bone are the newest markings to my canvas. My breasts and stomach sag, the skin like a deflated balloon and a thickness has settled around my waist.
I knew that pregnancy would forever alter my body and most days I wear these changes with pride but living in a culture where celebrity baby bumps has become a spectator sport and images of lithe post-baby bodies are plastered across virtually every glossy tabloid magazine, I would be liar to say my body image hasn’t taken a hit.
I remember being shocked at how my body looked in the days following the birth of my eldest son. I wasn’t prepared that I would still look pregnant. The experts at Just The Facts Baby say that when a woman leaves the hospital after giving birth her uterus is still as large as when she was twenty weeks pregnant and Baby Centre reports that post-baby a woman’s body can appear rounder in the hips, thicker in the waist and softer in the tummy after she has bore a child.
Sarah’s first pregnancy was a singleton and she found that she was able to bounce back into shape pretty quickly but after the C-section she experienced with her twins her post-baby body image wasn’t as positive. “Between carrying two babies to term and having a c-section my stomach is a mess of yucky, saggy skin and stretch marks. I sometimes look in the mirror and wonder whose belly that is!” While Mirielle was forewarned, by her mommy-friends that she wouldn’t be slipping back into her skinny jeans a few weeks post-partum she remembers being surprised by the length of time it took for her to fit back into her shirts due to breastfeeding.
A Mother’s Energy
Since having my third child a few months ago, in addition to the changes in my body, I have noticed a change in my energy. Exercise and alone time used to re-charge me but now I find that the demands of having three young children under the age of four take up most of day and energy, leaving little left over for myself. Sarah, Mirielle and many other mothers report the same thing.
This post is the first in a series. Next week will explore how to incorporate exercise into busy lives, the benefits of exercise for a healthy body image, and how parents can use exercise to provide the ultimate self-care.
How has your body image changed since having children? Or has it?
photo credit: http://www.blogcdn.com/www.parentdish.com/media/2009/08/naked-pregnant-woman-240js080509.jpg