At the weekend I shared a post on Instagram that showed my postpartum body (scroll to the end to see said post); unlike my curated feed, the post was shared in my stories and showed my poor posture as well as my post-baby belly. I shared the image because we had taken photographs the day before and, when I got some of the edits from the photographer, I quickly started looking through them to see whether I had remembered to pull my stomach in. I hadn’t in all of them but had to give myself a quick talking to because the images of my family are beautiful and I think it would be really sad if I let a little pooch ruin how happy we look in them. It made me think of the many women I know who will not put themselves in front of a camera. A few of them would like to lose some weight before they take photos and others shy away from the camera because they feel that photographs make them look ‘bad’. Wesley and I spoke about this over breakfast and he seems to think that fewer people take photographs of themselves and their families because, when they view the images, they may feel that theirs falls short to that of the women, men and children they see online. Wesley, himself, is not too keen on being in front of the camera but, since Scout was born, he has realised how quickly children grow; we are always surprised when we scroll through older photos on our phones and so he now agrees that capturing the moments as she grows is important. They need not be professional ones but having photos to look back on are really precious keepsakes to share with your children when they are older. I even encouraged a friend who just gave birth to take photos with her son, regardless of how she feels she looks, because I regret not taking more day to day photos with Scout after she was born. This is turning out to be a really long intro that has very little to do with the point I was wanting to make! Anyway, after my conversation with Wesley I felt a real urge to share some of my reality; my Instagram feed shares chosen snippets of my motherhood and I wanted to post something that shared a little more than my best angle, I wanted to post something raw to remind myself, and my followers, that ‘bouncing back’ after having a baby is not the only version of motherhood. I have appreciated it so much when moms have been courageous enough to post their bellies and bodies just after giving birth and, seven months down the line, I finally felt ready to share my truth, too. Yes, I lost the pregnancy weight quickly after giving birth and yes, I have managed to keep up a decent exercise routine while following a good eating plan but these things have not spared me from the challenges of the ‘mom bod’ where cellulite, stretched skin and a new shape are a daily reminder that things have changed, that my body is different. This is my part of the story but what I really wanted to share was the overwhelming response I received from other moms, thanking me for reminding them that where they are in their post-baby journey is actually okay. So in the next few paragraphs I’d like to share what these responses communicated to me and I hope you will enjoy the exposure to other voices in this post.
In one of the responses to my post a mom shared that she really struggled with her body after having her first two children but that something had changed after having her third baby, that wearing appropriate clothing and underwear helped her feel that she looked fine, despite the further changes to her body that this pregnancy had brought. Somehow, she did not feel as much pressure to get her body ‘back’ after her third pregnancy, even though having three children really showed on her skin. This response encouraged me because I learnt that there is no prerequisite for accepting and loving yourself, that it can happen despite your physical appearance and that you can be at peace with these supposed imperfections.
A response that really stood out for me was one where a mom had decided she’d accepted that her body will do what it must while she is exclusively breastfeeding her second child. I understood entirely when she mentioned keeping up her milk supply because I, too, have struggled to keep up my supply when focusing too much on dropping kilos or centimetres. Her response reminded me that nourishing our bodies as breastfeeding moms is our first priority. I took away what she did from out interaction, that there are other moms out there facing the same kinds of issues that I am, that many mothers are, and are making it and being the best moms to their children despite it all!
Many moms were reminded that they are responsible for the content they consumed, that while it is encouraging to admire moms who are positive and who are championing their role as a mom, it is also important to find moms online that are similar to you, who share some of your struggles. Finding people who are more like you can make the experience of being online a positive space, as what they share is familiar or relatable. It was said so many times that, as moms, we need to give ourselves a break and put less pressure on ourselves to meet certain standards, whether it be of motherhood or physical appearances. I was reminded that we are all so unique that even our shared experiences are not quite the same. We all feel and respond differently to situations so posts like mine and other conversations should, I believe, serve as support and not another thing for moms to measure themselves against. I know that I am very encouraged by Rushda Moosajee because she is a real ‘mom boss’ for me and her journey helps me whip myself into mental shape at times but I also love pages like Nested (@nestedmag) because it shows motherhood in its simple, raw state, where being yourself is enough; our bodies have stretch marks, our breasts droop and sag and we cry real, broken tears and that is the part of motherhood that so many moms can attest to.
What showed up in so many of the responses was how long it has been since moms had birthed their babies. One woman who responded had a sixteen year old child and my post still resonated with her. I realised that my story is a universal one, that moms of all ages appreciate what birthing a baby does to one’s physical appearance and sense of self. It was clear that it does not matter if your child is a few weeks old or a few years old, that the change one goes through is real. I am quickly learning that there are many experiences of motherhood and that all mom voices are authentic, even when they are different to the ones you relate to or understand. What I find encouraging is that there are spaces for moms to speak about and share their realities, spaces that are free of judgement and ridicule. I believe we need more platforms where we are able to talk, safely, and so I am humbled that a little post and story about a part of my journey could amount to healthy sharing with other moms. I appreciate this moment in my journey and feel empowered that the other parts of my motherhood is true, too (like exercising and eating well and always wanting to be a better version of myself).
I’d like to end this post by thanking the moms who responded with their stories and words of support, understanding and encouragement.
If you’re a mom, I hope that you found this post enjoyable and to my other readers, thank you for coming back! We are all surrounded by amazing women and mothers and it is uplifting to know that so many people care about the stories of motherhood, too.
Until my next post,