Newly-discovered wobbly bits, battle scars, stretch marks and cellulite in places we never thought possible: Seven inspiring women talk about their relationships with their bodies and how they changed after childbirth.
Hannah, yoga teacher, Sydney
Photo credit: Naomi V Photography
I must admit, I never used to have a healthy relationship with my body and weight. I have wanted to be thinner for pretty much my entire life. I would weigh myself too often and let the number on the scale determine my mood for the day and how I felt about myself. The stupid thing is that I have never actually been overweight in my life. My earliest negative thought about my body, that I can remember, was thinking that my thighs were too big and flabby in my gymnastics leotard and being embarrassed about it. I was 6 years old, for goodness sake. I was 31 when I got pregnant with my daughter and 32 when she was born. She is an IVF baby. The hard part was getting pregnant, and after that, it was smooth sailing with an easy pregnancy and uncomplicated birth. I loved my pregnant body and because I felt so blessed and lucky to be pregnant at all, any unpleasant pregnancy symptoms that I experienced, I was grateful for. I did have second-degree tearing from the birth, which was pretty awful. It has healed well, but my poor little vajayjay will never be the same again. I do miss my old one, but I feel it’s a small price to pay in the broad scheme of things. Now, I have the most gorgeous 12-week old baby girl, with a wonderful man who loves me, who I’m marrying in October. Yes, I have stretch marks, but I think of them as my tiger stripes. I earned them. The number that I read on the scale this morning would have previously sent me spiralling into self-loathing, but today, I just don’t care. I am the heaviest I have ever been, but I’m also the happiest. Having a baby was the best thing that I’ve ever done for my body image.
Alison, yoga teacher, Brisbane
Photo credit: Shaw Innes Photographer
I was madly in love with my body after the birth of my first son; I had never looked or felt so strong. My boobs bounced back to C-cups after feeding with minimal stretch marks, and I experienced very little in the way of pelvic floor weakness, although I definitely need to listen to pee cues nowadays and I can’t hold on for as long as I used to. But after the twins, I’ve got pretty significant abdominal separation, which means I look about four months pregnant all the time. This and my C-section scar mean I’m now redeveloping my relationship with my body. I won’t lie; I wish I had my flat stomach back, but my belly grew three little men, three whole human beings that I fed from my breasts for six months. My body is super strong, lovely and soft and gives the best hugs. I love me, and I will be cool with this new shape, eventually.
Kimberley, Herbalife health and wellness coach, Sunshine Coast
Photo credit: Kimberly
I really didn’t like my pregnant body. It felt so foreign and frustrating because I couldn’t do what I needed to do. I truly had hard times with it because I felt like I’d never get myself back again. The loose, weak hips, the fluid retention, the reflux, gestational diabetes and the accompanying breakouts, the wobbly momentum you get while walking at pace in third trimester, where you’re more likely to take out innocent path-crossers than slow down for them — I was pretty anxious to get back to where I was before. These days, I feel like I love the challenge of staying “in shape” — which, of course, is made easier by the fact that it’s my job as a wellness coach to do so — but I do feel that there is a pressure present among mums to bounce back to pre-baby body. If you are happy and healthy, living a reasonably good lifestyle that will promote longevity and positive health choices to your family, then I don’t think anyone should care if you’re a size 16 with cellulite and stretch marks. Stuff ’em.
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Melissa, writer, Point Cook
Photo credit: Melissa
I remember being out in the backyard about a month after childbirth and catching a glimpse of the back of my calf muscle. It’s not a part of my body that I see often, but suddenly I couldn’t look away — there, at the top of my once-unblemished lower leg area, were stretch marks. They weren’t huge, but they were there and I was devastated. I immediately cried, grieving for a once-insignificant part of my body. It is hard to explain, but childbearing and birthing is a mission — should you choose to accept it. There will be success, but there will also be loss. The life and body you knew before will be altered in ways you cannot prepare yourself for and, though much of these changes are wondrous and indescribable, others are unexpected and hard to swallow. The body is the most glorious thing, though, especially when you witness firsthand the changes it allows to create this brand-new life; the mind boggles. Now I’m an Amazonian; I’m a superhero; I’m a rock star. I survived my mission because it is what I was built for and it fills me with a sense of pride that no amount of stretch marks can ever erase.
Jacqueline, tax agent, Brisbane
Photo credit: Jacqueline
I’m now the proud mother of three children. When I was pregnant with my first, I did everything I could to avoid stretch marks, including lathering myself up multiple times a day. In the end, though, I managed to get stretch marks and loose skin all over my stomach and, I must admit, I was devastated. I kept thinking, if someone had warned me that I would lose my youthful body forever, I would have postponed having children until later. I do feel like I lost my youth in a way. I always took my flat and toned stomach for granted. I just miss being able to go to the beach or work out and not have to worry about my shirt riding up and exposing my tummy for the world to see. When I first met my husband, I was a single mother of two. I spent months making sure he didn’t see me naked because I was so embarrassed of my body. One day, he got quite upset with me and said, “Don’t you realise that I love you and you’re beautiful to me?” There were lots of tears, but I realised that those cosmetic things didn’t matter at all to him. I’m not proud of my body and its battle scars, and I’m not about to throw on a bikini and strut my stuff in public. Maybe I should be proud. As long as my husband and my children think I am beautiful, then I am happy.
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Bonnie, support officer, Brisbane
I loved being pregnant. It is amazing being a woman and discovering what our bodies can do. Breastfeeding my two boys was the most precious bonding experience. It will always be the most intimate and special moment that I will forever cherish. I’m not in love with my body after birth; there is definitely some weight that I would like to dispense of, but I am not depressed about it. I am happy with who I am and I try to look at the things that I am happy with. I have nice skin, a slim waist, nice breasts and I am proud to have no trace of stretch marks and no pelvic floor issues. At the end of the day, there are bigger and better things to worry about than how I look. I am a good person with a lot of love to give and, in turn, I receive a lot of love back. I love my job and I’m surrounded by an amazing husband, children, friends and family. At 40, I am in the best place to not care what other people think because I am me and that is all that matters.
Amy, Arbonne consultant, Brisbane
I have to admit that I have always had body image issues, although I think age and having a baby has made me a lot more at peace with the body I have. The moment I got pregnant, my reaction was, “Hell yeah, I can stop exercising and eat whatever I want.” And that’s exactly what I did. I think because I was growing a tiny human, I felt that I had a really good excuse to not worry about what I looked like. Unfortunately, this feeling didn’t last once my daughter was born. I remember seeing photos of myself from the hospital and thinking that I looked hideous and that I no longer had a reason to look like this. I still hate looking at those photos. Six weeks after having a C-section, I joined a mothers’ fitness group and was determined to get back to my former size. Now that I am back to that pre-baby size, I have a new appreciation for my body. I was never happy with this size before, and was always picking out my imperfections, but now I accept that this is my body and I am determined to never let my daughter feel that there is something wrong with the way she looks.
Life, Love and Hiccups blogger, Sonia, adds some humour to the conversation with her share:
Maraya from Stuff Mums Like was surprised by how her body changed:
Tell us! Share your experiences and stories with us in the comment section below.