Here’s what’s come up around body image throughout my second pregnancy:
Thoughts of disliking upper arms
A friend and I had a text conversation about Botox recently. I’m rather minimal when it comes to make-up and have never dyed my hair (I’m not against it, just haven’t ever done it), because of my minimal cosmetic procedure history she was curious about my opinions on Botox. We went back and forth with our opinions on it (if we’d ever get it, why we would/wouldn’t, etc.), but came to the conclusion of: if your sense of worth and beauty comes from getting Botox, dyeing your hair, changing your body size, you likely shouldn’t do whichever one of those applies to you since that would reinforce a false sense of beauty and reinforce getting one’s worth from a very fragile place.
I bring this up because in pregnancy I’d noticed myself having negative thoughts about my upper arms, so to combat that I wear shirts that show my upper arms and don’t workout to intentionally change that body part since I believe that would reinforce me getting worth and value from smaller/more toned arms and I don’t want my worth to come from a place that is subject to change. Taking care of myself and investing time in places that lasting worth and value can come from doesn’t guarantee a certain sized arm.
When you have a level of fat on a body part that you’re uncomfortable with, another helpful thing I’ve found to think about is how fat isn’t painful. Mentally it can cause much anguish (because of what thinness means in our culture), but fat sitting on my upper arms isn’t physically painful to mean. I mean, when my legs chafe that’s painful and it could be argued that is caused by fat, but typically, fat depositing somewhere on my body isn’t physically painful. Recognizing that it’s more mentally annoying than physically painful can be helpful for some. It’s interesting to think about. What do you think?
With a baby in my belly impacting my movement, functionally certain things are harder (shaving my legs, bending over, getting out of bed, getting in and out of a swimsuit), but there still are things that feel like relief even to my pregnant body. Even if those things and my energy levels are dwindling in these last couple pregnant weeks.
Wearing clothes that don’t fit is an automatic way to feel uncomfortable in my body. I was pregnant in a completely different season with Jo, so I ended up needing to get quite a few more maternity clothes. I’m sharing some of my favorite finds below!
I remember I was confused during Jo’s postpartum time when I was feeling uncomfortable in my body size and frustrated because I thought I’d done the work to feel comfortable in an evolving body and Andrew said the following word’s of wisdom, “feeling at peace with your body is separate from not having clothes that fit.” Meaning, feeling uncomfortable in your body because your clothes don’t fit doesn’t mean you’ve lost your ability to feel at home in your body, it may simply mean you need different/bigger clothes. As reader Anne commented on a past post, “I recognized that the barrier to allowing my body to truly settle into its natural size was a logistical one, I was becoming uncomfortable in some of my current wardrobe. I felt pressure to remain within the size range of my current clothing. But what I recognized is that buying new clothes doesn’t mean you’re “giving up”, it means acknowledging the reality of my body size and accommodating it appropriately.” So well put.
I’ve found some clothing pieces I really love and feel very comfortable in. I got a Nesting Olive dress and have been living in it. Flowy dresses work for me for the entire pregnancy, unlike many other clothes that end up a bit too small in these last couple weeks when there’s a full grown baby inside.
Other clothing finds:
Little niche shops make me love the internet. I love that I can pretty much always find exactly what I’m looking for, and find what I’m not even looking for but ends up being such a great find. Speaking of which…this underwear! I loathe pads. I find them so burdensome. I heard about this underwear and wish I would’ve had them in the first trimester. In pregnancy I tend to sporadically pee myself in the first and third trimesters, if it happened daily I’d just put in a pad daily, but since it doesn’t I get annoyed when that unassuming second sneeze gets me lol (aka the snee –> sneeze-pee). This underwear is great for forever, or at least until my pelvic floor is up for the task of keeping pee in my body again.
These are the best shorts I’ve found for pregnancy/postpartum. I first heard about them from Kath’s blog and I ended up buying a second pair since I liked my first so much. They’re very lightweight and have been great for the summer heat! I have them in dark gray and olive. They only go up to X-large, so unfortunately they may not be an option for all body types.
During Jo’s pregnancy I remember not wanting stretch marks, but this time around I feel so differently. It’s like I want marks on my body to remember this time by. I have scars on my feet and chest from the days of abusing my body with running – from shoes and sports bras that improperly fit and caused me to bleed, but I didn’t care because I had to run no matter for 8 years (exercise most definitely can become a form of self harm). I have those marks on my body that make me sad I was ever in so much pain that I ended up treating myself so poorly, so I feel some body marks (aka pregnancy momentos!) in the form of stretch marks on my upper thighs and around / under my belly button are more welcomed than undesired.
With Jo being 18+months now it’s so hard to remember her pregnancy and I think visible signs on my body would help. During and after Jo’s pregnancy I ended up with a lot of stretch marks on my boobs, and while at first I fought it, now it’s a reminder of something really cool my body has done.
Past reader comments about pregnancy/postpartum + body image
Nancy on her loving husband: “I’ll leave you with this image: my thoughtful husband going into Victoria’s Secret after baby #2 arrived and asking if they had anything appropriate for breast feeding. I don’t think they get that question very often. Thankfully someone actually helped him and he came home with the most beautiful soft flannel pajama set that buttoned up the front, allowing me to nurse easily during the night. Hurrah for clothes that fit and make you feel like yourself again :)”
Ellen on pregnant + postpartum bodies: “I’m in the “fourth trimester” with my third. Really, the hardest thing about motherhood for me is how your body is not your own and it becomes this living sacrifice. Sacrifices are beautiful and meaningful, but they ain’t pretty. The stretching and puffiness and varicose veins and general discomfort of pregnancy is necessary to grow a HUMAN BEING(!!!!) and then afterwards you’re all soft and saggy and leaking milk, losing hair and having night sweats, and you’re still growing that baby! I struggled with nursing my first because I was not prepared for that all-encompassing nature of nursing. You’ve just been through this huge physical event that requires recovery (even if it was a totally normal delivery) but when you’re nursing, it’s 24-7, whenever the baby wants it, and you have to eat and drink nonstop to keep things going! It’s really overwhelming! It’s good that you’re preparing to have help and to see a therapist. Most women have this mentality that they just bounce back after baby, in all aspects of life but that’s a dangerous mind set in my opinion. And speaking of bouncing back, I’m two months postpartum here and I’m rocking a significant pooch, flabby arms and a big leaky chest and I feel so frumpy and unattractive. But the thing is, I always think my sisters and friends who have just had babies look so beautiful and soft postpartum. I need to extend the same grace to myself instead of imposing the world’s standards of beauty and body on myself. I know my kids love me to death and think I’m beautiful and my husband (who I would really die without, he’s such a help and so selfless) is in awe of how I’m up all night feeding the baby and take care of the kids during the day and manage to get dinner on the table, etc. I guess it is a lot, if you think about it! Anyway, don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to eat more and just lay on the couch. Your baby needs you to be a relaxed, nourished, healthy mama!”
Michelle on enjoying postpartum: “I feel like postpartum gets a bad rap, but I really loved it. It’s an amazing time. I slept better with a newborn than I did at the end of pregnancy, I was surrounded by people I loved, and I found it fascinating watching my body return to “normal” function rather than “grow a baby”. Certainly my body looks and feels different than it did before, but birth is such a transformational experience I think it’s fitting to not look exactly the same.”
Kate on doing the work of recovery again: “I remember several weeks after the birth of my (beautiful, wonderful, colicky as all hell) first daughter, in the throes of sleep deprivation and round-the-clock breastfeeding, I ate a cheeseburger at like 3:00 in the afternoon, for a snack. It threw me for a loop. I had done a lot of work to get to the point of trusting my body’s cues and responding graciously, but this seemed too far away from the norm. Turns out I had done a lot of work to trust my body’s cues and respond graciously ONCE, as I moved away from eating disorders, but that same work had to be done again. And again. And again. As you said, it is our life’s work, in part, to consistently reexamine what it is our body needs and how we may best respond. And yet, to take this one step further, it may not be so intentional as that. It wasn’t for me. It was a crapshoot full of missteps and shortcuts, and more often than not my choices revolved around survival over nurture. For a time, at least, intuitive eating gave way to just eating, and hoping (and trusting) that my body would do what it needed with those things that I was able to give it, be that a long bath or a half a jar of cookie butter, four hours of nonconsecutive sleep or a long cry.”
Daniela on the mom bod: “The term “dad bod” has a positive connotation while “mom bod” is negative (or neutral). It’s time to reclaim “mom bod” as something wonderful! To me, what comes to mind are the super strong arms moms develop (without ever lifting weights in a gym) from doing everything from dishes, to laundry, to saving the world, one-handed with a little one tucked under the other arm.”
Kate on weight ending up higher than she was comfortable with: I had an ED for many years and was in what I perceived to be recovery for at least 4-6 years prior to becoming pregnant. 2 years ago, I found out I was pregnant with twins who are now 1 1/2. After pregnancy, I felt great at first. I had hoped that my weight would return to what it was before, I mean all my friends’ weights had returned to their pre-preggo weights, so why wouldn’t mine? Over a year of postpartum time with intuitive eating, full time work, no family nearby, little sleep, and no free time for extra prep cooking or exercise, my weight did stabilize! It just happened to be a little higher than I was comfortable with, and I’m still working on being comfortable with it. But I have done more body image work in these past 18 months than I ever did before. And I’m proud of this body, oh so proud! And I have a wonderful, loving husband and two healthy children that I grew in this belly of mine. And I’m strong and I have energy to carry two babies all around. I will say that postpartum has been quite the journey for me, but it’s been an incredible learning experience that I wouldn’t want to change. So regardless of what happens postpartum, know that you’re not alone, you have support, and there are other strong women who have been through it too. It’s not all rainbows and butterflies, but having these little nuggets is the best journey ever. And truthfully, I’m so much stronger from having been through this body image work.
Jennifer on pregnancy body changes: “Mom of an almost 4 year old chiming in. I have never been a tiny person. I’m built stocky, and I’ve come to love that about myself. My body changing during pregnancy was fascinating and fun, and very uncomfortable toward the end (!). I really enjoyed the process. But I won’t lie, there were times when I had to push back the “what are you going to look like afterward” thoughts, but that’s exactly what I did. I pushed those back by visualizing myself with a happy baby in my arms. After she was born, I ended up feeling this amazing sense of accomplishment and gratitude for what my body did, and I promised it that I’d never talk down to it again, for my own and my daughter’s sakes. And I had a tough time getting pregnant. There were painful/invasive tests and medications involved, and even though I was frustrated, I focused on what my body has done for me, rather than what it hadn’t. My body has healthfully carried me for 30+ years, and I’m very grateful for it.”
Amy on comparing her postpartum experiences: “I am currently 13 months postpartum with my second baby and struggling with body image. One of my big struggles is comparing how my body was after my first baby with how my body is after this baby. After my first baby, I lost weight very easily and that didn’t happen this time. I have to constantly remind myself that I am in a very different (healthier) place with food and exercise now than I was before. I also still have pants that I wore when I was going through active recovery from anorexia before any pregnancies. Of course those pants are too tight! I need to stop wishing they fit and get rid of them. I have made a promise to myself to go shopping soon and replace most of my clothes. I need a fresh outlook and can’t be comparing how something fits my body now with how it fit me years ago.”
Any mamas-to-be or mamas who’d like to share your body image triumphs/struggles/experiences?