Back in May of last year, I wrote a piece called “4 Truths About Our Post-Baby Bodies” that ran on The Huffington Post and Scary Mommy. It’s about finding strength and beauty in our postpartum bodies even though they may not look or act the way they did before having kids. Today I’m posting that piece on my blog for the first time in support of #SoGladTheyToldMe, an amazing campaign launched by Stephanie Sprenger of Mommy, For Real to spread words of honesty and understanding about motherhood and let us all know we’re not alone on this journey. She was inspired by the overwhelming response to her post I’m Glad They Warned Me, itself a response to They Should’ve Warned Me. If you have something helpful you’d like to share, please post on Facebook and Twitter, with or without a photo, and use the hashtag #SoGladTheyToldMe. Continue reading “4 Truths About Our Post-Baby Bodies #SoGladTheyToldMe”
I am not a fan of the end of the year. I find it hard to slog through these final five weeks or so of turkey and gratitude, of jolly and bright. So many expectations are crammed into such a short span: thanking, traveling, list making, list checking, to-doing, giving, receiving, helping, donating, bestowing, buying, returning, celebrating, assessing, resolving.
It’s pretty intense, stressful even, and when I’m stressed, I start to skim. Continue reading “What I Love About Right Now”
Preparing for a day at the beach with my three girls means lots of sun screen, plenty of beach toys, hats, sunglasses and for me, my trusty black one-piece bathing suit with its adjustable straps and shirring across the boobs and through the waist. It’s the kind of suit that stays put throughout a day of sand castle building, shallow water wave jumping and all the bending, squatting and lifting that comes with playing with, looking out for and chasing after kids on the beach. In other words, it’s the classic mom bathing suit.
It’s also the swimsuit I wore for our day at the beach on the glorious Italian Riviera this summer.
Wow, what an incredible few days.
My article 4 Truths About Our Post Baby Bodies ran on Scary Mommy and has 364K Facebook shares and counting. All I can say is thank you, thank you and thank you to everyone for your support of this piece. It’s amazing — but maybe not surprising — how much the topic of postpartum body image resonates with so many of us. I’m just so glad that I’m touching so many women and contributing to the conversation around definitions of strength, beauty and self-acceptance in a positive way.
Speaking of Scary Mommy, if you haven’t checked her out, you absolutely must! The awesome Jill Smokler is an expert curator of all things true, funny, confessional, quirky, messy and gorgeous about motherhood. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be part of the Scary Mommy community.
…and yesterday, my first piece was published on Kveller.com! It’s about getting to know my middle girl, Ruby, while she’s off at sleep away camp for the first time. Cleaning out her room, I realized how much I missed her and I finally found time to truly appreciate the unique person she is. That doesn’t always happen on a day-to-day basis with three clamoring kids, one fuzzy, barking dog and, well, everything that comes with this crazy-busy, bouncing life. The chance to slow down, be present and engage is a rare gift, especially for someone like me who tends to become overwhelmed by the frenzy. See what good things come from cleaning out your kid’s room?!
Again, thank you all for reading and sharing and contributing to the conversation. There’s nothing better than connecting, both in real-life and virtually, as we navigate this grown-up life together.
The final week of school is about to begin. Which also means the end of the school dress code for the next two-and-a-half months. At least that’s what my 12-year-old daughter is counting on.
When the weather is warm, not a day goes by that she doesn’t bring up the dress code, usually with an eye-roll or an exasperated, “They just don’t make shorts that are mid-thigh!” followed by stomping and tearing through her drawers looking for an acceptable skirt or leggings.
I know a lot of her frustration at this age comes from having to follow the rules, which seem unfair to her. “Why do we have to wear long shorts?” she asks. “It’s so hot so why can’t I wear this tank top?” And I always have the same answer: because it’s a school rule.
This is the easiest response at 7:36 a.m. with three lunches to pack, one toddler to dress, my teeth to brush and 14 minutes until they pile into the car for the ride to school. But it’s not the best response and with summer coming up it simply doesn’t apply.
My daughter can’t wait to wear short cutoffs and skinny-strapped tanks and strapless summer dresses. Me, I can wait forever – or at least until she’s 25. I’ve been thinking about why that is. Am I just old fashioned now that I’m in my 40s? Probably. Am I afraid the way she dresses will lead to unwanted attention that might embarrass her? Yes. But more than that, I’m concerned that at this age, when she’s just beginning to come into herself both physically and emotionally, she doesn’t have a strong enough hold on how she feels about her changing body to display so much of it to the world. I am worried that she is leaving herself open to critique or judgment or appraisal that could rattle her body image forever.
More than telling our girls what is and isn’t appropriate to wear, we need to teach them how to love and respect their bodies and really own them. We need to teach them that what makes their bodies special and powerful is how they treat and think about themselves. Simply giving them a Do Not Wear list that is primarily based on lengths and measurements and degrees of reveal sends the message that parts of their bodies are somehow bad or unwanted. Girls, especially in middle school, are going through rapid body changes. They shouldn’t feel ashamed of their curves or their skin; they shouldn’t worry whether or not their bodies, which are normal, are disturbing or distracting to someone else.
We need to temper the tendency for girls to feel shame or embarrassment with the conversation about what it means to feel comfortable and confident in their bodies. Girls need to have a voice in the discussion around the why behind the what: why is there a dress code? What does it mean to respect my body? We can talk about why there are some environments, like school, where it might feel more empowering to wear a t-shirt instead of a tank top, jeans instead of a peek-a-boo skirt.
Honestly, I’m all for dress codes. I’m just not a fan of enforcing them without including our girls – and boys – in a conversation about why we have them. Saying it’s because girls’ bodies are distracting is not acceptable. Drugs don’t belong in schools; vulgar words don’t belong in school; violence doesn’t belong in school. But girls’ bodies do belong in school, as well as everywhere else.
This summer, as we wade through the pros and cons of short denim shorts in waist-wringing sizes, strapless dresses and cropped tops with dipping necklines, I’m going to have a meaningful, body-image conversation with my daughter. I’m going to challenge her to really think about what it means to respect and love her body, to be amazed by what it looks like, how it’s changing and what it can do. I want her to feel true ownership of that gorgeous vessel and have the confidence to care for it, protect it and share it on her own terms.
By the time September rolls around, maybe the school dress code won’t really matter that much anymore – because she’ll have one of her own.
After posting 4 Truths About Our Post-Baby Bodies, I invited moms to share what they love about themselves after having kids. There were so many positive responses, ranging from a simple “Thank you. I needed that “ to “My arms have never looked toner” to “When I think about what my body did, giving birth to my kids, I’m amazed” to “I’m in better shape at 37 than I was before having my (3) children.”
There were also moms who are truly struggling with the way they look and function after having kids. C. said: “There is nothing pretty about a post-partum body especially after twins and anyone who says otherwise is a liar…I do care that my body will never be the same and I wish people wouldn’t have lied about it…” To the moms who struggle, know that you’re not alone. I hope you heal soon, see beauty and strength in yourself and believe how awesome you are.
As with any topic, there are always people with different or opposing opinions. One commenter couldn’t relate because her body “hadn’t changed at all” after having two kids. A few others felt that the article was untrue or more pointedly, “total BS,” in its description of the ways our bodies change or was unnecessarily scary for new moms. Others were simply sick of the Mama Bodies topic altogether. Fair enough. Differing perspectives make for a more interesting conversation.
A few other highlights:
The “truth” that resonated the most with people was #3: “Instead, your body will do amazing things you never dreamed it could do. It makes me so happy that most readers focused on what is possible. Besides the pure physical accomplishment and wonder of growing and carrying a human in utero, women shared other major milestones, like running a marathon after having multiple children, climbing mountains and simply choosing to live healthy, active lives as moms. Wow, ladies, thanks for the inspiration.
We moms have a sense of humor about ourselves. While my own mom felt it was a bit TMI for me to share that jumping jacks sometimes leave me, well, less than dry, several of you mentioned the perils of your own subsequently weakened pelvic floors. This quote from J. about sums it up: “Sneezing and jumping on trampolines will never be the same. Don’t let anyone try to tell you otherwise!”
Many moms also related to the sentiment that we should “never, ever give up the wine.” I got a lot of amens and lols on that one. Good to know we mamas know enough to take a load off and enjoy a good glass of chardonnay/sauvignon blanc/pinot, as needed.
It’s important to take care of our bodies. I received several very helpful comments about what can be done to help those of us with that uncomfortable leaking during physical activity. M said: “…(I am) dumbfounded that OBs and midwives don’t automatically refer every postpartum woman to see a PT [physical therapist] after birth…PT [physical therapy] is totally needed in many cases…to regain “normal” function.” So all you mamas out there who avoid jumping jacks like I do, let’s ask our OBs and primary care physicians for those physical therapy referrals!
Finally, here are a few of the links forwarded to me about positive body-image projects and articles:
The 4th Trimester Bodies Project: This incredible photography project documents women’s beautiful bodies during pregnancy and beyond.
Jade Beall’s personal photos after giving birth posted on The San Francisco Globe website are lovely.
Blooma Blog: This site is truly supportive and nurturing for new moms. I especially like the post-partum section with its focus on both emotional and physical health.
Let me know if you have any other links you’d like to share related to post-partum bodies or positive body image.