When it comes to sharing pregnancy pics — and let’s be honest, any photos — we’re usually opting for the highlight reel instead of the #nofilter shots. After all, cute baby bumps and smiles are a lot easier to explain than morning sickness and maybe even tears.
The same goes for postpartum photos. With all the body-shaming and stories of celebrities who “bounced back” a mere 25 minutes after giving birth, you can forgive new moms for second-guessing their photos showing stretch marks, loose skin or — gasp — weight gain. Besides, who needs to be told they need a “$20,000 mommy makeover“?
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“I think that it’s so important to normalize being able to accept your body and to be proud of your body for who you are,” Kristin Reyes, a postpartum nurse, tells In The Know. “Moms should feel so proud of themselves, regardless of what [their] body looks like or how it feels.”
They did just give birth to a new human, after all.
Won’t my body just ‘snap back’?
But with all of the negativity surrounding postpartum body image, some expecting moms are under the impression that they can Jedi mind trick all of that not to happen.
“So many moms are like, ‘Oh yeah, I’m just going to go and push this baby out, and my body’s going to snap back,'” Reyes says. “That’s totally not what happens. You have stretch marks. Your nipples are raw. Your nipples are cracked. You have gained weight. You have a lot of extra skin just hanging around.”
Stretch marks, the light or dark “indented streaks” that can appear on skin during pregnancy, are caused by two main factors, according to the American Pregnancy Association — the physical stretching of skin and increased hormone levels. And while it’s common to get stretch marks in the stomach area, they can also appear on the thighs, breasts, hips, lower back and buttocks.
“And that’s OK,” Reyes affirms. “That means you just housed a baby for nine months. I just think that’s just absolutely amazing.”
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Moms whose birth stories include C-sections also have that scar, a result of major abdominal surgery that ushered their child, or multiple children, into the world.
“Our C-section moms, they do have that incision,” Reyes says, “but that incision should remind you, that was the way out for your baby.”
Of course, there’s also the saggy breast situation. “Sometimes you have these perky breasts right after delivering because your milk is there,” Reyes explains, “and once you’re done breastfeeding, your breasts are saggy, and that’s OK, too.”
Wearing your new bod with pride
Admittedly, all of this sounds daunting. (And we haven’t even mentioned the disposable mesh underwear.) But here’s why moms should wear their new bods with pride. For starters, you literally just grew a human being in your body, and many moms continue to use their bodies as the sole means of nutrition for their babies. Also, you’re not alone. More women than you think are going through the same thing.
In fact, in a recent study, BabyCenter surveyed nearly 7,000 new moms with babies ranging in age from a few days old to four years old. When it came to losing postpartum weight, 61% of these moms reaffirmed what Reyes told us. That is, they expected to be back to their pre-pregnancy weight by their child’s first birthday. (Jedi mind trick, anyone?)
As it turned out, 87% of those moms added that their stomachs hadn’t returned to their previous state — or that their clothes simply fit differently now.
Sadly, 64% of the women surveyed said that “their body image had gotten worse since they became a mother.”
What we can do to normalize postpartum bodies
So what can parents and non-parents do to help normalize postpartum bodies? In a few words, keep it real. Go ahead and share the good, the bad and the unexpectedly beautiful.
Celebrities like Katy Perry, Aja Naomi King and Iskra Lawrence have already jumped on the postpartum positivity train, posting pics of themselves with inspiring messages.
“Gained weight, still feel cute,” Lawrence captioned her latest Instagram post.
But it’s the so-called everyday moms who can perhaps make the most difference. You know, the ones who don’t have access to expensive personal trainers, chefs or “mommy makeover” money. And there are many of them on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, sharing their stories alongside their stretchies.
“Moms are just complete bada** women. What a woman’s human body can do is absolutely incredible,” Reyes says. “You literally nourish a baby that is living inside of you, and then it’s a whole other life. That’s just a miracle to me.”
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If you found this story insightful, read about this mom who shut down a body-shaming TikToker.
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