In March I had the opportunity to participate in the 4th Trimester Bodies Project. This project is "dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent in the changes brought to our bodies by motherhood, childbirth and breastfeeding." They have also worked hard to stop censoring motherhood in social media outlets. All images are as shot and there is no photoshop. Please visit their site to learn more about the project and their goals, check out their book and support them as you can.
I chose to participate in the project because I think we need take away fear and stigma from birth and postpartum. I think we need to embrace motherhood and what that means for each mother. For the mother of one child, of ten children, of loss, of singles, of multiples. Of healthy and sick. Of hospital birth and home birth. I think we also need to embrace our bodies for the amazing things that they are. A woman's body is a factory- a life building, human producing factory! Why do we as a culture and society see the need to shame women into a size 2, eating disorders, excessive working out or shame for not meeting industry "standards".
We even have these "standards" for pregnant women! I was told so often that I was "so big" One of the midwives in the practice also made a comment about how much weight I gained without asking about my activity or eating habits. She sure bit her tongue when my glucose test came back completely normal, I had a 10 pound 10 ounce baby and less than 200 cc of hemorrhage. Yep, my body did know what it was doing! Comments and thoughts give seeds of doubt room to grow. Seeds of doubt grow into fear; fear causes us to doubt our bodies and our strength and our own innate wisdom.
I loved being pregnant and big! I knew my body was growing a human! I didn't love the stretch marks (who does) but I accepted them and went with it. I loved that my body provided everything this little person needed. I was okay with gaining 50 pounds because at 38 ish weeks I could still bend over and touch my toes and paint my own toenails. I could still take the dog for his mile walks. I could still do my squats. I could still swim. Yes it was harder with someone growing inside you and pushing on your lungs and other organs, but my weight had nothing to do with my activity level. Some women just gain more weight. (Can also be a sign of other issues, always consult a healthcare provider and eat healthy and stay active). I embraced my body for what it was doing. I embraced my journey into motherhood. I viewed this as a right of passage, as becoming a member of a new and exciting tribe.
Birth came and it was awesome- I had a huge baby and no tearing- my body knew what to do! My placenta was also a great size! I had a new squish that needed soft spots to snuggle on and I provided that. My body was his safe place on the inside and became the safe place on the outside. All throughout my pregnancy I was gentle with myself- I didn't push myself to exercise extremes- I just took it easy and did what I felt I could for the day. Gentleness and love were my approach. I took the same approach after birth. I truly believe in the 9 month in, 9 month out philosophy and I didn't have any intentions of getting my "pre baby body" back aka real workouts until he was 9 months old.
At the time of the 4th Trimester project photo I was back down to my pre pregnancy weight and even just a little under, most of my pre baby clothes fit or where a little big. I felt great and more like myself. A little squishier in some spots but stronger in others. My legs and arms were super toned from carrying my little giant around. I am one of those women who loses weight with nursing (Im assuming that is what it is from as no other factors have changed). Also, had someone told me that weight training did this to my body I might have started sooner! haha! We take Odin for walks- usually 1-1.5 miles every day and thats about it.
Fast forward to today. I am down to 30 pounds under my pre-pregnancy weight. Everyone comments on how great I look, how thin I am. It is the reverse of last year when I was told how big I was; but it still has a psychological effect. (side note: commenting on someone's weight: It is also super obvious. Next time someone tells me how thin I am (meant as a compliment or not) I am going to say "and you have brown hair". Why do we feel the need to comment on a person based on size?)
Even though I am happy to be back down and feel and look good I am not sure what to do with the post-baby body. Sure, Im in the smallest size pants and tops I have ever owned and I am at the lowest weight I remember being at as an adult, Im talking since I was like 16. But its not like Im 16. I have the saggy hobo baby boobs. Just what happens to the women in my family. Somedays I feel like one of those native women in National Geographic. Wear a good bra- sure they're perky and big and wonderful. But those bras, they are tight and hurt and ugh are too much work. I have no idea how to dress this body. Add in the need to be nursing accessible and Im at a loss. Im working on it and getting there but its different.
There is no tribe for this part of the adventure of motherhood. Sure the tribe gets the tired mommy. The tribe gets wanting to work out. But the tribe is split and doesn't discuss things. As I see it the tribe is either "Eh Ill get to working out one day" or "Must be size 0 tomorrow" There are very few in between. This is why projects like #takebackpostpartum and 4th Trimester Bodies exist. This uneasiness in your new body isn't talked about. You should just get back with the program. I am thankful I have close friends who understand and share similar views. I am thankful my husband has always been supportive of my look and compliments me and makes me feel secure as a woman. Not everyone has that support. That needs to change. Theres a different stigma to deal with now.
I think Alyssa Milano is a fabulous spokesperson for motherhood and I recently came across this quote from her. Let's see if society catches up with this thought; although Im not betting on it.