An Uncomplicated Life Blog: Thoughts On My Postpartum Body

Monday, November 26, 2018

Thoughts On My Postpartum Body

I've had four babies in four years, most recently a set of twins. Here's where I think women go wrong in their postpartum body image identification


I've documented my pregnancy and now postpartum journey on my Instagram page. Mostly just brief thoughts I've had along the way, or what I'm feeling in a particular moment. But one of my latest photos got me thinking more about how women process their postpartum bodies. I shared how I was bouncing back faster than I ever have before, despite this being baby three and four for me - twins on top on multiple pregnancies for my body! It spurred some interesting conversations in the comments and in my DMs, and I think it warranted it's own blog post: thoughts on my postpartum body and where I think women go wrong.

3 weeks postpartum with twins

If you've followed my story, you know that my first baby was a surprise. I had planned an all natural birth at a birth center with midwives and ended up having a difficult pregnancy, switched careers at 7 months pregnant, and ended up with an emergency c section with a MD in a hospital. It was all so last minute, we had to google directions to the hospital as we were on our way! That pregnancy and birth experience led me to some pretty serious postpartum depression (PPD) that went unrecognized by me (I thought I just wasn't very good at being a mom). But here's the interesting thing: none of that PPD was caused by body image issues. I never once was depressed about the way I looked, my new unplanned for scar across my abdomen, my saggy stomach skin. 

Fast forward to my second baby, Otto. He was such an easy pregnancy, and I was able to deliver him via VBAC. I got the pregnancy women dream of and the exact birth I wanted. I was able to breastfeed him past my own goal in terms of number of months. I didn't have the same level of PPD as I did with Henry - possibly because so many things went right for me/went according to my plan that I was happier, possibly because I wasn't a first time mom and had a small clue what I was getting into. I did have a fair amount of postpartum anxiety that made my relationship with my husband strained for a bit, but again, that was entirely unrelated to my postpartum body.

I should note, I don't love the way I look immediately after giving birth. I wouldn't volunteer to walk around in a bikini. I'm swollen and puffy and have loose skin just like every other woman who's popped a baby out. I wear the granny panties and use belly bandits just like other women do.

When I found out I was pregnant with twins, one of the first thoughts I had was, "Omg, my body is going to get destroyed with this pregnancy!" I cried about the stretch marks I'd never end up getting, I'd lie awake in bed at night, frantically combing through Instagram hashtags on what women's bodies who had delivered twins looked like after birth. It TERRIFIED me. I knew I had lucked out with my singleton babies and not gaining much weight or getting stretch marks, but the internet told me I was totally screwed with twins. I desperately massaged oils on my belly and examined every inch of my stomach, hips, thighs and butt at every shower, convinced that *this was the week* my body would morph into the photos I saw online.

1 week postpartum with twins

Let's flip the script for a minute. What if things had been worse than what I saw online? Then I'd be left to constantly wonder why I wasn't like all the other pregnant twin moms. I'd wonder what was wrong with me, or my body. I'd wonder why I was the chosen one to look the way I did. Perhaps I'd think I did something wrong or something to "deserve" a harder pregnancy on my body. Maybe I'd even feel disdain for women who looked great and showed the world online all of her beautiful greatness.

On either side of the coin, it's comparison that's the problem. Perhaps it's just me (I don't think it is...) but it's SO hard not to compare your life to other's that you see post their photos and experiences online. For good and for bad, it's human nature to see something and process it in the context of your own life, your own experiences.

And that, friends, is where I went wrong with my body image. I wasn't even postpartum yet and I was wrapped up in what was HAPPENING TO EVERYONE ELSE. Comparison is the thief of joy. And me thinking I'd be just like the photos on Instagram was making me a crazy person. Before I was even postpartum!

So often, the postpartum message is one of struggle. Of women hating their new bodies, however temporary those changes may or may not be. It's one that lacks compassion and it's one of constant comparison to other women who have birthed babies. It's a depressing narrative to read, over and over. "Embrace your scars!" "You earned your tiger stripes!" "That pooch just means you've created life!" 

I don't take issue with women trying to put a positive spin on the changes their bodies have gone through. Far from it! I think that's wonderful. My issue is in the comparison. We're all comparing war stories, as it were, of giving and recovering from birth. We're all commiserating together. And all that commiserating and comparison takes up all the space and doesn't leave room for the POSITIVE stories out there. The ones that focus on happiness and joy, perhaps even pride in a mother's postpartum journey. No, those women are forced to the sidelines with their stories. They're the rich and famous; the unicorns in society that don't really exist. 

I spent seven months of my twin pregnancy terrified of what it meant for me and my body. Because I was comparing myself to what I could find online, on social media, in mom blogs. Because the negative stories are easy to find. What a waste of seven months! It was then, when my belly was really big, that I started to relax. "Hey!" I thought, "maybe this won't be so bad..." I wish I hadn't wasted seven months terrified of what a twin pregnancy would never end up doing to my body. I wish I hadn't read all the postpartum stories of women who were dramatically negatively impacted by giving birth. All it did was cause me fear.

I don't think we should try to predict what will or won't be. I wish I had just done what I did with my first two children and let it be. No online research or late night hashtag combing. Just go with the flow. The less I thought about it, and still to this day the less I think about it, the easier the postpartum transition is. 

I didn't love the way I looked in the mirror that first shower after delivering my twins. I remember taking my robe off and sucking in a big gulp of air, thinking Lord! That's rough. I was bruised and bloated and had specks of blood suck to me in the surgical glue they used on my c section scar. I had stitches in my vagina and was in desperate need of a good wax. But I knew my focus for the next six weeks would have to be on recovering and getting into a breastfeeding routine with the twins, so I started the hot water and pulled myself away from the mirror.

The next time I looked in it, likely a full week later because showers don't come easy to new moms, I thought, "Whoa, that's better than I thought it'd be." Then I pulled myself away because I had all of 5 minutes before the next feeding session with the twins. Two weeks later, I even snapped a pic. Hey, I thought, this really isn't too bad! But again, my focus was on getting sleep and feeding babies. 

I had completely ditched my late night Instagram surfing habit. And was immeasurably happier!


This was the photo on Instagram that sparked this blog post!

All of this is to say, when I stopped comparing what my reality either could be or was to other postpartum moms, I got a lot happier. When I stopped looking at myself with critical eyes, I got a lot happier. Hell, when I stopped looking at myself at all, I was happy! I found a few things to focus on, which took my focus off my physical self, and wouldn't you know - things fell into place. Weight came off naturally. Swelling went down. Every time I'd get a sideways glance in the mirror, I'd think, wow, that's not as bad as I expected it to be. Nice job, Paige! Now, go feed a baby or two.

Whether you have the expectations on yourself to "bounce back" quickly or you feel like society does, I'd highly recommend taking your focus off it. I wouldn't read the mom blogs with the war stories (ironic I'm telling you not to read this as you're reading this, no?) and I wouldn't look at the pictures. Just be on your own journey. You aren't everyone else. I'm not everyone else. Everyone has their own story to tell, but that doesn't mean it's going to be YOUR story.

11 comments:

  1. As a mother of 3 and a survivor of PPD with my first child I totally understand the worry. My body was destroyed after my first and second children but by the time I had my 3rd I knew how to eat to help with the weight gain. I am now at my high school weight as a mid 30s mom and I am feeling great! It is never too late to get your body back!

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  2. I used to write for Detroit City Moms Blog and had an article about my wife's postpartum body. She was extremely self conscious of her stretch marks and C scar. I forgot they were even there after a couple weeks.

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  3. Everyone have it's different thoughts which describe him or her. So here is the blog for the ladies so all the guy's is now gone because may be they share more https://www.australianessays.org/ with others in the absent. So you select the other page which helps you to find you next page of work.

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  4. Comparing is brutal. Just don't! I carried twins to full-term. They did a number on me. But I try not to compare myself to anyone else and I'm comfortable with myself. Sure there are things I don't like about my body after carrying twins- but it was all entirely worth it and I'd do it all over again!

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  5. I'm a mom of 3 and I remember how hard it was to even have the energy to think about what I looked like no mind try and "bounce back". Comparison really is the thief of joy and once I got into some sort of a routine with baby and took time to look after me the body recovered.

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  6. Dang, you looked for postpartum. I still looked pregnant for a long time. Almost 2 years later and I'm still carrying 10 extra pounds!

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  7. You look amazing! 4 babies in 4 years and you look this great! WOW! It took me a long time to look the way I do! I am 3.5 years out from having my last baby!

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  8. I catch myself often comparing myself as well (but trying not to!). However, sometimes those comments just stick in your head! One guy told me "you'll never be the same" and I felt a bit down... But then again, what's his opinion matter anyways? I hope I'm not the same as I was - I want to become a stronger, prouder woman! Every body is a bikini body. All you have to do is put one on :) I love your happy ending to this post.

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  9. I never really gave myself time enough to let myself get wrapped up in the body images issues of comparing my body to another woman. Yeah, I had some issues. But I was too busy with PPD then when my son was 3 I was diagnosed with PTSD and my son was diagnosed with Autism. I do think you're right though because I see this all the time in women. Not that I haven't compared myself to others in the past but it was minor because my friends have compared their bodies to mine. It made me feel like I didn't have a right to dislike my body because they looked at me and saw a nice body while they were struggling. My sister had two eating disorders as well, so body image issues for me was something that I have tried to stay away from. Again, though, I am human and am flawed just like everyone else so from time to time, I do wish I looked a bit different.

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  10. Thanks for sharing this! I think especially when our bodies are going through fast and massive changes it is easy to compare- I find myself comparing against other women who are also currently pregnant: the size of their bumps, the weight they have gained etc. We all need to be easier on ourselves!

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  11. I remember staying up late googling "5 months pregnant" convinced I was way bigger than other pregnant moms. I legit cried about it. I'd show pictures to my husband and say "I'M GIGANTIC AND AT THIS RATE I'LL NEVER BE MYSELF AGAIN." And then postpartum, very quickly it was just fine. A few days after birth (and not googling other women's experiences, just looking at myself) I said "man if this is as good as it gets, I'll be okay with that." All those happy immediate-postpartum hormones definitely helped too. :)

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