Let’s face it, mums. Our bodies are different after giving birth. Some changes go away after a few weeks, some do not and we just have to accept that this is our body now. In this article, we talk about some physical changes a new mother goes through and how to adopt a positive body image to help you fall in love with your body again.
A mum’s body
We often hear of the term “mom bod.” But what is it, anyway?
Macmillan dictionary defines the term mom bod as “a body typical of a woman who has had a child or children and isn’t super-fit.” A bit harsh, isn’t it?
Meanwhile, Urban Dictionary gives a more empowering definition. One of the entries wrote: “A mother who has birthed a child or raising a child. Who has earned a new beautiful body by giving birth and is now a different type of sexy.”
Totally different perspectives. But not looking at other people’s definition of a mum’s body, what does your new body mean to you?
This portrait is perfect as it is. But many photographers would have made dozens of changes to it if they had their way. Image by Jade Beall Photography
Airbrushing the imperfections
A mother’s body is an object of beauty. For 9 months she carries life within her, then gives birth to a miraculous new life. Her breasts and strong arms nourish, protect and carry her baby. Her heart cherishes and loves this little life like no one else can.
The world doesn’t always see the beauty in a mother’s body. So what it does is surround women with unrealistic body image messages – a false portrayal of true beauty.
The reality of pregnancy and post-pregnancy – wrinkles, stretch marks, c-section scars, rounded bellies – are airbrushed away in images promoted by the media.
What are really brandings of power and love are turned into badges of shame, and these unrealistic body images have a negative influence on women.
An accurate and beautiful picture of a mum’s body
Jade Beall, a professional photographer, has re-established what a mother’s true beauty should look like. She snapped and posted a semi-nude picture of her un-retouched post-baby body on Facebook, and was surprised by the flood of supportive comments from received from other mums:
“I love your project so much! ..and I’m gonna use your photographs and story for a group of adolescent girls with low self-esteem and body image issues.”
“A beautiful showing of a proud mom. I applaud her attitude and beauty.”
“Wow… Beautiful, lovely, inspiring”
Beall was soon flooded by requests from other women requesting for their post-partum bodies to be photographed, which is just what she did.
Taking these pictures has turned into a mission for Beall, one that she hopes will help “redefine beautiful.” She said she just wants to “empower…other women to feel authentically irreplaceable.”
Beall hopes to publish the series of positive body image photographs, named A Beautiful Body, into a book.
The photographer posts these wise words on her website:
“I want to agree to love my body more and more each day, to use kind words towards myself and towards other women, to be a role model for future generations of mothers, and to choose to be empowered knowing that I am not alone and that by coming together, we can reshape body image in mass-media, build self-esteem, and explore vulnerability as a collective”
While Beall has taken steps to redefine what ‘beautiful’ should be when it comes to mums, we are still a long way off from changing how the world perceives true beauty.
There is beauty in each stretch-mark. Image by Jade Beall Photography
How your body changes after giving birth
Having a positive body image and loving our new body starts with acceptance. First, we need to accept that after bringing the most beautiful person into the world (our babies), our bodies will experience and display many physical changes.
While most of the changes disappear a few weeks postpartum, a few of them are there to stay. These changes are brought about by hormones, weight gain and the process of labour. From bigger feet to abdominal separation, here are some of the changes that we may expect from our bodies after giving birth:
- Bigger shoe size
- A few extra pounds
- Vaginal changes
- Dental problems
- Growing, shrinking or sagging breasts
- Hair growth or hair fall
- Skin changes
- Varicose veins
- Abdominal separation
- Wider hips
Once you’ve learned to accept these changes as part of your postpartum journey, you can be on your way to loving them and having a positive body image.
Postpartum Acne: Why Do I Have It and How Can I Treat It?
Mum Confession: “I’ve Gone from Wearing Extra Small Clothes to Extra Large After Giving Birth”
A Love Letter To All Mothers On The Forgotten Art Of Self-love
As we’ve heard from so many experts and even seasoned mothers – self-love and self-care are important for mums. We need to look after ourselves so that we can take better care of our families.
Moreover, having a positive body image reflects on how our children see themselves and their bodies as well. If you are so wrapped up in anxiety about your own body, it is likely to rub off on your daughter. How can you teach her to love her body if she keeps hearing your negative self-talk about how fat you look in your dress or dissing your thunder thighs?
As mums, we need to model, to some degree, body comfort, acceptance, and appreciation of our bodies to encourage our own children to do the same.
Tips for positive body image
Here are some tips to help you love the body that you have right now.
Don’t beat yourself up about how you look. Pregnancy has changed your body remarkably, and it’s not like it’s any easier to make time on getting back into shape now that your child is here. Here are some tricks to help you feel great throughout your busy day:
- Put aside baggy pregnancy clothes and invest in a few classic, well-fitting pieces. Dark-coloured tops and bottoms are great at hiding baby’s spit-up and can be easily jazzed up with bright accessories.
- Get a new haircut – one that’s quick and easy to maintain and still looks good – for days when you don’t have time to brush your hair.
- A touch of lip gloss and a dab of perfume after your morning shower will make you feel human again, especially after sleepless nights from trying to make the baby sleep.
If Jade Beall’s story made an impact on you, why not get yourself photographed in a similar way? Find some great photographers based in Singapore that you can check out (and check if other mums recommend them).
It’s really hard to even think about exercise when you are looking after your baby. For starters, why not do some gentle walking with your baby in tow? Mum and baby yoga is another great way to stretch those muscles while bonding with your bubba. Getting a mum-buddy to exercise with makes for great motivation too.
It’s easy to see in another woman what you think you don’t have yourself as far as body image goes. Stop doing this; comparing your post-partum flab with another woman’s flat tummy isn’t going to solve the problem.
Stop buying everything the media tells you
Many media channels have a way of making women feel they have to work so much harder than they already do to look good. What they won’t tell you is that the models they use have often been airbrushed to within an inch of their lives. Embrace yourself for who you are, stretch marks and all!
Remember, mums, the world may have impossible standards of beauty that you think you can’t keep up with. But for the people who matter the most – your child and your family – they think you are absolutely beautiful.
Just beautiful! Image by Jade Beall Photography
Updates by Camille Eusebio