Embracing my Post Partum Bod

Body image. A woman's post partum body. My post partum body. Fashion, clothing, fit. Aging. The gaze. The media. Beauty. Identity.

These related topics have been on my mind lately, as I near Polly's six-month birthday and my body stubbornly clings to those ten or fifteen extra pounds that two pregnancies in quick succession so readily brought me. As my breasts are much larger than ever before, impossible to hide especially paired with the need for easy access to my growing babe. As I wonder if I'll ever wear shorts again.
As I recently learned that there is a thigh gap craze, a fetish I won't even grace with googling, because I don't want to give it one iota of power.

And as Lucy just had her first week of swimming lessons - "tadpoles"- and I had to go in with her each day, alongside other moms, dads, and grandmas, in the midst of about ten other classes for youth of various ages, and a whole crowd of spectators. I wore a different "momsuit" each day, and damned if I didn't actually feel kind of proud of myself! Not for looking fit or tan, certainly not for having "worked out" or adjusted my diet to achieve a specially approved media-friendly body, no, but for being brave and for going in anyway, for trying really hard to just not care, to love myself and to love my special time with my babe in the pool.

I was inspired by mary's link to that swimsuit article going around on facebook. Put on your swimsuit mamas! Feel comfortable in your skin! This doesn't just go for mothers, but anyone who has to fight that urge to reduce and dishonor herself. It's only fair to our children, to our communities, to ourselves. It's dangerous to sit on the sidelines in a tee shirt because it says you aren't worthy of being out there playing and enjoying the water and the sun and the laughter and the kids. Embrace yourself and send a little beam of love and self-love into the universe. Be real. Don't let anyone or anything get under your skin and make you feel any certain way about yourself. It's all you. Own it.

A mother who radiates self-love and self-acceptance actually vaccinates her daughter against low self-esteem. - Naomi Wolf

 I wrote this post last time around, and I have to catch myself and remind myself until the refrain still rings in my ears: I LOVE MY BODY. There are plenty of moments I don't. I have a laundry list of ""issues" with my body since my second pregnancy. In the interest of honesty, I can tell you some of them, offhandedly, they're as familiar to me as breath: back fat. belly chubs. thicker arms. round face, less definition. girth. lack of collar bones. But why are these even considered problems? It's so stupid. It's pure vanity, and by whose definitions? I RESIST THIS! And  I suspect it smacks of consumerism and power; I want to know what kind of wheel was set in motion that gets women thinking this way, that urges us to make comparisons, that promotes self-denigration. Who stands to gain? I find the whole thing very suspect; I want to find that little wizard behind the curtain and knock him off his high horse. We are so much bigger and better than that.

For the record, I do want to be healthy, (although I feel stronger and more energetic than ever on those good days when I am in supermom mode.) so I do have plans to work in some yoga and some aerobic exercise, but not because I want to be a certain number on the scale. I just want to feel good and I hear those endorphins can be addictive :) 

I mean, look at this guy! I am so grateful I have two strong legs. And he's doing just fine, he's rocking it and he's confident as hell squawking for treats at the city park.

Swimming lessons were really fun. It was a half hour session every day for a week, and the time flew. Lucy was pretty overwhelmed the first day, but she grew more and more confident and outgoing in the class. She went flying down that little slide straight into the water and my arms. She held onto the side. She tried to plug her nose and dip her little face in. And she kicked like nobody's business. That's about as far as we got, but that is enough for us. We are happy in the water, we are confident, and we are loving being alive in our bodies, having fun and being together. 

I have to mention Anne and Jessica's post at The Ma Books on post partum fashion! Why does no one talk about it? With both of my babies, I have found it more difficult to dress my post-partum body than my pregnant body. Especially because of breastfeeding. Not to mention function, form, necessity: if I'm going to be running around all day, bending over carseats to nurse, hoisting babes and strollers, picking up toys, being smeared with popsicles and spit up, I want my clothes to be easy as air to wear, and yet I also want to look at least somewhat cute. Anne and Jessica, both with brand spanking new gorgeous newborns of their own, do a perfect job at finding that balance of beauty and comfort that makes you feel so good through the long, (well short actually!) exhausting, radiant days of mothering a wee child. 

I wanted to do a little post-partum fashion post myself, but honestly I haven't had the time to photograph myself and on some days I'm lucky if getting dressed involves anything more than throwing on the quickest tank top and wrap skirt I could find. Although maybe that counts!We'll see. Maybe I'll get a burst of energy and time. Maybe. Meanwhile I'll keep putting on my funny collection of 1980's momsuits and plunging into the water at every chance I get! How about you? Does vanity sometime stop you from donning a swimsuit? How are you going about the vital work of self-love? 


embrace the goddess you are..that we all are. heather, you radiate all kinds of beauty. your honesty is light a ray of light.
lasophia said…
I so feel you. My mom was always on a diet and avoiding sweets and binging on them. Not healthy at all. I don't want that for my daughter. Going to raise her in a healthy household where food is not the center of everything. Get your swim on!
for one, when i look at you i think you are a very petite lady, but for two, yay! love this post. i think it's not just something we owe our daughters but we owe each other, as women, to not use hate speak about our own bodies. i want to vaccinate all women against low self esteem. i refuse to say mean things about my body or participate in the body bashing conversations that sometimes occur in a group of women.
Jessica said…
I've been feeling all of those same thoughts (even though I'm almost two years postpartum :) Everdeen starts another round of swimming lessons on Monday and this time I have to go in the water with her...I can't tell you how many thoughts have passed through my head about my body, my swimsuit, what the other moms and parents are going to look like. I wish it would all go away and I could scream from the rooftops that I'm happy with the way I look! I've struggled too with making sure I don't rub any of my low self-esteem onto Everdeen. I want her to grow up and love herself and have glowing confidence! Thank you thank you for this post- I'm so glad I'm not alone and I hope I can be part of a movement to help raise our daughters to have positive body images! :)
Rachel Weaver said…
I love this. I love self-love. I love honest attempts at loving ourselves despite the fact that we don't look like models. I would so much rather be confident than "perfect."
thanks for reminding all of us who needed reminded.
The Brittons said…
Way to put it out there girl! That article is so wonderful! Moms of girls have to really watch ourselves with how we speak of ourselves... Would we want our daughters to say those words? Oh the challenges in womanhood.In 10 years we
Anonymous said…
And you look so young and healthy! Your skin and hair and everything, lucky woman!! <3 Who cares about some jiggly bits, who are we trying to impress anyways?
Milla said…
I was actually thinking with that swimsuit shot from the last post, that one of the many bonuses of possibly having a child someday, would be a more curvy beach body.

Personally, I've never had a very "swimsuit ready" bod, I have a pot belly that has always extended beyond my small boobs, something that makes me look a little "unbalanced" and wish I was curvier, not thinner. Even when I was thinner, that issue didn't really go away, except for the one period in my life when I got really sick and lost like 15 pounds in one month and I never would want to be so skinny again.

I'd love to rock your current curves, but other than a little belly protrusion, I actually think I have reverse body-dysmorphia: when I think about my bod, I think it looks a lot better than it actually does. Growing up, I was never really aware of beauty norms as much as I could have been and so whenever stuff like thigh gaps comes up I feel like I go "What? I can't possibly have that. Whatever."

Sometimes when I look at photos of myself I realize that certain styles and pieces of clothing totally don't fit my body type and are downright unflattering. But I wear them anyway. I am a little worried my ass is getting bigger though, but I don't really know what to do about it. Special ass exercises? Nah. I wouldn't even know where to begin. Plus more butt? More cushion. And finally one part of me will be curvy ;D

I think my real issue with my tummy fat is that that area has no muscle. My thighs and legs are stumpy, but I love 'em cos I know it's cos they're muscular. I think if my tummy was just as protrud-y but had more core strength I would love it more.

So just for the record, I love the curvy bod you're rocking'. If we our bodies never showed the tracks of our lives lived what would be the point of growing older, wiser and more experienced. That bod made two babes, nourishes and carries and cares and loves and still looks hella ruckus in a swimsuit, I'm glad you're in it and lovin' it.
regina said…
im right there with you, trying to find that little wizard, wondering how so many of us ended up here.

i am also trying to be brave and wear swimsuits this summer, when Id much rather be in shorts and a tank.

i think we all need to keep talking and talking and writing about this topic.
marya said…
Oh my goodness: worlds collide! One of my closest friends in OC writes for The Ma Books (her name is Julie)! Thanks for mentioning them!

Also - you radiate happiness and it is so so beautiful to see.
Amy Beatty said…
xoxo You have always rocked any and every type of swim wear!! i love it!! you are radiant and it shows that you are healthy, strong and glowing. Number and size DO NOT MATTER. but we must be active. for health. to continue to walk, run , skip, hike and swim. Some people look crazy amazing right now because they work out so much but i'm afraid they forget what our bodies are really here for. they are ours and extreme running or lifting in the long run just break them down. I want to always be able to feel my heart pounding while hiking up a mountain and marvel at my amazing body that does everything i ask of it. we need to treat them kindly and spoil them with leisurely walks and plenty of water.
anne said…
heather, you rule! in one of your last posts you have a picture of you in the pool with lucy and as i saw it i thought, "i wish i could be as confidant in a bathing suit as heather is". you really are an inspiration! these posts are so important because it's so helpful to know your not alone in these thoughts and feelings.

i can relate with all your body complaints and i often wonder when i'll feel like my old self and be able to wear all my clothes again. as if all will be right with the world once that day comes! gimmie a break! why wait to live life and have fun?

i absolutely love that quote! i have made a point to rarely complain about my body in front of my kids, especially my daughters. it drives me crazy when women call themselves fat or put themselves down in front of their daughters. the women in my family did this and needless to say i was obsessed with body since i was a kid :(

love to you and your beautiful post partum bod!
Love this! And absolutely loved your "I love my body" post. Thank you for these important reminders! I'm so tired of beating up my amazing life-creating body just because it isn't model "perfect."
Jen said…
All the pictures you post on here of you in a bathing suit I thought you looked cute!
Also, I didn't realize you were wearing them to hide "fat or flaws" I thought it was because you love vintage looks.
Either way, keep rocking what makes you feel good. Yay, for water babies and mamas!
Thank you Jen! Yep, I definitely love vintage bathing suits of various eras, but it's convenient when they have a little skirt! I still wear my not-so-cute bikini too, it's just boring from target. Doesn't show up for pictures much.
Tera said…
But you are beautiful, beautiful in every photo and living a beautiful life in every photo and looking radiantly happy! I know a photo is but a second in our lives but if in those seconds, captured is the beauty, the eyes of love, the heart of love, then you have succeeded and I hope you continue.

I still tend to be jealous of every woman because every woman I see is beautiful or sexy. Like Jaglom film. I want to be her, no her, no her...how sad. Actually, thinking back... I don't do that as much, actually haven't in three years. Pregnancy, motherhood has taken me out of that a bit and put me in this place where I am slowly letting go of putting myself down. SLOWLY. You looked sexy in your suits!

I have struggled with my body and have not been in a swim suit since July 2011. My issue since 35 has been saggy knees with cellulite no where on my body except over the saggy knees. What the hell is that?! What can I wear that covers saggy knees and shows off decent aging thighs other than pirate boots. If I had to have cellulite why not where it should be and I can hide it? I live in Texas and don't want to wear pirate boots. So I trudge on. I work out, I massage, nothing.

Now with aging comes other issues and ugh! I also have a tummy with weird stuff going on with it. Post partum. So I decided to never wear a bikini again. i wore them long enough, I am looking forward to one pieces. I was brave enough all those years with the knees and weird cellulite placement. Shorts though...still for the house and short skirts I do wear since I feel they cast a shadow my lil tired knees can hide under. I rocked short shorts, hot pants until 30, enough, can't cry, I had a good run.

Youth is beautiful and we are as young as we are going to be so might as well go for it, any of it at least for our children, it's about them now. I watched Under the Skin and felt better. A body is a body, is a body. A naked body is too violent say the French so you dress it strategically. A see through robe will make anyone look fab! Women in erotic photos, porn-y photos, all sorts of bodies, all sexy, all great, all sizes and shapes. Women on the street in clothing, all sexy, all wonderful, all with a personal fan club. There is no standard, we just think there is and that is the dangerous illusion we let into our lives and shouldn't.

So with that, have been waiting to get into a bathing suit but my lil monkey has been ill on and off two weeks and just recovered, then come the lady days...so waiting but will do it. As for thigh gap...the silliest thing ever! Really? I never even noticed gaps or no gaps in thighs in all my life. and big butts are awesome, I lost mine somewhere along the way and miss it. I lost my big boobs too so embrace what you have somewhere is someone missing their curves. My body positive is I fit into dress styles I didn't use too. Life is about being able to try it all out so I started off with one type of body and have another type now, that's actually cool I think.
dolly anna said…
my beautiful friend, thank you for saying the things that need to be said! acceptance, so true, so deep. love for ourselves, our uniqueness, and enjoying life blissfully without unkind words to ourselves. so glad lucy and polly have a momma that will teach them love and respect for the amazing body, and not just always pinching and pulling and frowning at it. i feel flabby, and i'm like: fuck yeah, rocking this! i am not an adorned object, my body keeps me doing what i love, and the energy radiates through, keeping me young and healthy as long as i continue to keep in the flow of love and respect. xo ps: post partum body is awkward in transition. remember that polly is still so young! it took me almost two years after linky to feel "normal", and even then.... ;)
teeny said…
hi love, i wish i had loved my body earlier on, when it truly was rocking and immature and i had boobs. after having oz i remember panicking at how my body had changed.....the weird baggy tummy and empty boobs. And gradually, i guess i got used to them and now they just are me. my swimsuits have totally changed, and that is ok, i'm no longer body-shy, i know Mia thinks she is the bees knees, she knows she is cute and has never heard me talk about disliking my body or any weirdness about fat- i've always been conscious of that considering my mum told me i had her thighs and butt which changed how i looked at myself. I think if there is anything having babies and body change has taught me - it's that this is not permanent. There are more changes to come with further maturing, and I best love what i have now and treasure my body for what it is, just me. I'm glad you put it out there with this post. The body changes that come with babies is a huge adjustment and it comes as quite a surprise that things don't just bounce back. You are gorgeous, and i think you are beautiful no matter what you lucky lady. xo

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