Iskra Lawrence is on a mission to make women feel better about themselves. The British model and new mama is a champion of body diversity in an industry that’s hardly known for it, but that hasn’t stopped her from promoting body positivity every chance she gets. She’s starred in unretouched lingerie and swimwear campaigns for Aerie, speaks to college students across the U.S. about the topic, and is a brand ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association.
Lawrence keeps it real on her own platforms, as well — she doesn’t retouch her own photos and speaks with refreshing openness about everything from her “softer and larger” postpartum belly to period bloat. More recently, she’s been sharing her gut-health journey with fans as a spokesperson for Activia. SheKnows caught up with the busy, badass model mama, whose child with partner Philip Payne turned one last month, to talk pandemic parenting, postpartum body triggers, and the affirmation that gets her through the day.
SheKnows: Congratulations! How has the experience of being a new mom in the pandemic been?
Iskra Lawrence: Well, like any new mom in a pandemic, I never imagined that this would be how it would end up. Not having that support network that I just assumed I would have has definitely been a challenge!
My whole life has changed in the most beautiful way because I’ve become a mother, but it has also coincided with a completely different life, a completely different kind of career. I went from having a very social life to being stuck at home and then stuck at home with a newborn. The sense of isolation was a new feeling. Loneliness, even though I have the most amazing partner. So, yeah, all of those challenges that new moms have anyway, times ten because we’re in a pandemic. It’s intense.
SK: Who has been your go-to for advice?
IL: I assumed I would ask my mom everything. We’re very close and I really value her opinion. But when it came to motherhood, it turns out she forgot everything! The one thing she remembers clearly was that I never cried once, which we all know is not the truth. That was challenging; I did speak to her a lot, thinking I was preparing myself, and [she gave] me the expectation of, ‘I’m sure you’ll have a baby that never cries.’ And then, of course, I had a baby and they cried all the time. And I couldn’t go to mom groups or really connect with women IRL. And most of my friends didn’t have children.
Luckily, Phillip’s best friend’s wife was also pregnant and we basically just podded up during the pandemic. We’ve been able to be super honest and ask all of the scary questions — Googling, ‘my baby’s penis is purple, what do I do?’ — and we’ve been going through it at the same time and it’s just been a real godsend. So I’ve started to find my mom tribe.
And then following people online, too. There are great accounts out there and not just the content, but the actual communities of comments have been really reassuring and a great resource.
SK: People aren’t always positive online, of course. Have you been mom-shamed?
IL: I had mom-shaming before my baby was even [born] because I said I was going to do a water birth at home. And, you know, comments flooded in like, ‘Why would you do this?’ So that was my first foray into my mom-shaming.
Another thing: I said my baby slept through the night from 3.5 months. And people were like, ‘Oh, so you stopped feeding him?’ And, ‘Oh, you let him cry it out?’ And, ‘You shouldn’t say that because it’s completely unrealistic and it makes everyone else feel like they’re failing.’ And I was like, trust me, I felt like I was failing, too. But, you know, I implemented something that helped us all get some sleep and we are happy.
SK: What’s the postpartum advice that you wish you had received?
IL: I’m 12 months into this, and I’m actually realizing that I could have done more things for me when my baby wasn’t crawling. Because as soon as they start crawling, you actually have to be even more focused on what they’re doing.
And I guess I wish I’d known how bad the bleeding was; that you’re going to have to wear adult diapers for at least three weeks. And that your periods, when they come back, they’re going to be horrendous. Maybe that isn’t everyone, but goodness, mine — I never had an issue with my periods. And now, like the last one, I had to sleep with a bucket by the side of my bed. The pain, the cramps, the migraines, I had no idea.
SK: We don’t hear a lot of people talking about things like postpartum periods, but you’ve been really open about it. What’s made you comfortable sharing your experiences?
IL: I’ve always been open and authentic on my platforms. For me, that’s the easier route. I can’t imagine how exhausting it would be to pretend that my life was perfect, my house was immaculate, and I was always put together. So for me, it’s just, if it enables another woman to think, ‘I’m okay, too.’
That’s definitely what I’ve tried to do with my Activia partnership: I have struggled to make time for myself. And so I’ve been trying to share the reality of that and also share, ‘Hey, I’m doing my gut-health challenge.’ That is a simple little thing I’m doing for me. Most days I feel like the last priority and it’s like, what can I do for myself that’s quick and easy and that boosts my health from within? It’s been fun to share this partnership with my platform and also, like let’s talk about periods.
SK: Is there another postpartum topic you think needs to be talked about more, that you wish wasn’t taboo? Postpartum sex?
IL: Definitely, sex is important! And it’s painful, to begin with — your estrogen levels are low, things are dry down there, and you’re still healing. So definitely I wish people did talk about that. And also just prioritizing a pleasure in life like sex. Why would you stop doing it because you’re insecure about the changes in your body? Talk to your partner about that so they understand your energy might be different in intimacy. I think that’s so important.
SK: I wish we could erase the phrase “bounce back after baby.” How do you protect yourself from postpartum body triggers?
IL: Affirmations. You have to speak to yourself in a kind, loving way because you might find that the demons are coming back. And if they’re the loudest, clearest, most frequent voices, they’re going to take over and start to break you down. So it’s very important that you stop that cycle. We have the most beautiful thing to celebrate, right? I was looking at my stomach the other night and it’s not flat anymore, it’s softer. It’s changed. It’s stretched. It’s done so much. And I was like, ‘How was this baby in there?!’ I’m in absolute awe of it.
Of course, there are times when my jeans don’t fit, and I haven’t worked out the way I used to. But I’m not rushing it. I’m not prioritizing the physical stuff over being present with my baby.
You’ve got to give yourself grace, you’ve got to give yourself time. Don’t give up on yourself. You’re still there. There’s a new version of you, but she’s still amazing.
SK: Is there a specific affirmation that you say to yourself?
IL: I literally say ‘thank you’ all the time. I look down and, oh, gosh, I’m going to tear up just saying it: My best friend can’t have children, and I’m highly aware that there’s just so many things that you have to get past to even get to the point of having a healthy baby. And so, I’m just like, ‘thank you.’ Honestly, that’s my biggest affirmation right now. And that encompasses so much.