Alexis with her husband and adorable one-year-old baby boy.
It’s been exactly one year since I opened up to the world and shared some very personal “Beauty After Baby” struggles that I was experiencing as a result of just having birthed my first child. At the time, I wrote on Yahoo Beauty: “ I have to admit that I resent what pregnancy has done to my body. I understand that the stretch marks, scars and baby weight are badges of honor, but it doesn’t really change how I feel. Personally, I no longer feel pretty. In fact, I’ve never felt less pretty than I do right now. I’m not happy with how my body looks. I’m embarrassed to be naked in front of my husband. I’m afraid I won’t lose the baby weight and that the scars and stretch marks will never fade. I’ve lost my sexy and I’m scared I won’t get it back.”
In sharing these feelings, I sparked a conversation that, of course, involved a lot of criticism and name-calling, but mostly an outpouring of gratitude for admitting what many women don’t want to admit – our bodies, our looks, and our perspective change radically after a baby, and sometimes those changes are tough to deal with. In my mind, that doesn’t make us self-centered. It makes us self-aware.
As shocked as I was about what I was experiencing, I was almost as surprised by the response I received. My post started trending on Yahoo, Good Morning America called to film a segment, followed by The Today Show. My inbox was flooded with e-mails from women all over the world—some thanking me for putting into words what they had been feeling, while others instantly felt like I was a girlfriend they could confide in. I received stories about breastfeeding woes, hair loss, weight struggles, sex after pregnancy, pancake boobs, cracked nipples, stretch marks, c-sections scars… all the things we new moms may experience and have to learn to accept and work through. The common denominator was that we were all dealing with something and not feeling like ourselves, and we were all blindsided and totally unprepared. So, for every person who called me a narcissist for sharing my story, each one of these e-mails was my redemption song. Through these newfound connections, I learned that one of the best ways to deal with post partum issues is to talk about them with other women who are going through something similar. I quickly realized that my post automatically signed me up to be that person who offered a safe place with no fear of judgment. It’s truly been an honor.
So, here I am a year later receiving many e-mails asking how I feel now. In short, I feel better, but I am just starting to get to a place where I feel like a semblance of my original self. Truth is, I won’t ever be the person I was before I had my son. My body is different in ways I cannot affect. I am learning to accept that, mostly through shifting my mindset and focusing on getting to a place where I feel comfortable with how I look now, versus trying in vain to get back to my old self. It makes the goal much more achievable. If I want to dig a bit deeper, I’ll admit it’s frustrating at times to look at other women who bounced right back, and I’m not talking about celebs—do yourself a favor and completely ignore them. I mean women without trainers and chefs and flexible schedules and a lot of help. I envy these real women in the sincerest, and most admirable way possible, but accept that we all recover on different timelines.
I recently celebrated my son’s first birthday, and while I cannot believe how quickly this year flew by, there’s another part of me that sometimes feels like time just stands still, mostly because many of the pregnancy wounds and scars that I first wrote about haven’t fully healed. I often wonder if certain scars and marks shouldn’t be gone by now, especially the c-section scar that still looks back and smiles at me in the mirror, but I try not to be too hard on myself. Some of the body after baby issues are superficial, but most are about true healing, overall health, and regaining confidence – all crucial to being the best mother I can be to my son.
To tackle the surface beauty issues (hair falling out, itchy scalp, dry skin, keratosis pilaris, etc.) I spent the year as the beauty industry’s guinea pig, scouring the market for the best products that delivered noticeable results. To address my health issues, like diastasis recti and lower back pain, I committed to PT and partnered with great doctors and healthcare experts to set realistic goals. What is most important when you’re going through all of this, however, is support. I feel so blessed to have a loving partner who will sometimes catch me sucking in my stomach and tell me not to be ashamed—that my stomach is beautiful because it is where I carried our baby. And I cannot forget my friends and my new mom friends—the ones near and far who I lean on and share battle stories with, because let’s face it, for as beautiful as motherhood is, it is hard work.
So, a year later, marks are fading, scars are slowly healing, I got a sassy new haircut (mostly so I don’t notice how much of it is still falling out), and I’m bringing my sexy back. I look at my son and my heart explodes, which makes me just fine with my new normal.