Author: Crystal Dorothy

Motherhood In The Raw

Motherhood In The Raw

Learning to Love Your Postpartum Body Update

You may remember that I’ve started a long term photography project called #motherhoodintheraw. It’s all about learning to love your body again after having children.

Your postpartum body is as permanent a state as parenthood itself, and society as a whole, are conditioned to find reasons to not love it. My project is all about highlighting the beauty and changing the negative perspectives surrounding postpartum imagery.

The postpartum body is such an intense thing. You’re stuck in this place between what you used to look like and what you want to look like, neither of which will actually be achievable. You just grew a freaking human inside your body! Everything moved, shifted, stretched to accommodate these tiny beings. No one talks about how your stomach may be numb for years or how your ass literally deflates. I had two c-sections and have breastfed for five out of the past five-and-a-half years. Breastfeeding boobs are not to be confused with the large, perky ones you see on these breastfeeding celebrities in magazines. No, these are mounds of milk-filled flapjacks, and you can’t wear underwire to keep them up because it could cause a blocked milk duct.

Certainly pregnancy does create body changes. Those are things that should be appreciated and valued and not used as a weapon to limit our worthiness. Reframe your thoughts toward body appreciation when you notice criticism pop up. Or, how about acceptance? Even if you can’t find something you appreciate about your body, can you accept that it just is, releasing the judgment of good or bad? Let me be clear: Acceptance is not apathy. You are not giving up when you accept what is. You can still care about making important changes to your eating and exercise habits, how you cope with stress, or any other change that is important to you.

Resist the urge to compare your body to anyone else. It’s a human tendency to “compare and despair” as a way of assessing your self-worth. We can’t help that we do it, but we can control our response. Instead of body bashing yourself, just notice the comparison and give yourself a little mental hug, like you would your kids, letting them know you care. Say “It’s ok to be hurting about this, you are worthy and loved as you are.” This gentle response practically ensures that you will be in a better mindset to consider whatever self-care practices you can manage that moment: a drink of water, sleep, a balanced meal, a quick workout, a hot shower, or a good book.

A few things to remember and to tell yourself:

  • All bodies are good bodies (yes all bodies).
  • My body is worthy just for being born and for everything it’s done for me since then.
  • I respect my body exactly as it is right now even if I wish it would change.
  • I am fully committed to taking good care of my body as it is right now.
  • My well-being matters to me more then weight, shape, appearance, and pants size. What do I need right now for my well-being?
  • I will notice my negative thoughts and feelings, especially when I compare myself to others.
  • I will treat myself with kindness – the way I hope my children will care for themselves when they are my age – even when it’s difficult.
  • I have permission to have a bad body moment, day, or week without it being a judgment on how good I’m doing at body acceptance. I’m human.

Becoming a parent changes us, physically and mentally, forever. We will all do better when we embrace this new normal and reject unhelpful demands directed at our bodies. We deserve better.