Postpartum Body Image: Why Do We Hate How We Look?

By Guest Blogger Ainsley Swed, author of the blog The Milk Leech, and co-creator The Luna Mom

Well damn. The shorts I bought during my postpartum months last summer still kind of fit. I really had hoped that when I pulled them on the other week to deal with the freakishly warm winter they would fall right back down, unassisted. Instead, they stayed on my baby-wide hips where they were supposed to, even though I didn’t want them there.

I’ve lost about half the baby weight, and my body shape is changing again to what I hope is back to something closer of what I used to have. I know in the back of my mind, though, that my body will never be the same again.

The good news is IDGAF what people think anymore—of me, my parenting style, or how we live our lives. It’s actually incredibly freeing. The bad news is I-Do-GAF what I think, which is disappointing to me. I am working so hard on staying body positive and reminding myself that it is hard work producing a human being from scratch, but when I look in the mirror before a shower I can’t help but poke here or grab a handful there, and feel disappointed in what was left behind after the baby was out. I know, I know, “It takes nine months to gain it, it will take nine months to lose it!” Seeing as how that milestone isn’t that far off, it doesn’t bring me any comfort.

I realize, too, that getting back into shape has been on the absolute back burner for me. I dove headfirst into motherhood (let’s pretend that was a choice at all) and was so excited that nothing else mattered. I was hungrier than ever due to breastfeeding, so eat I did. Fortunately, the calorie burning power of boobie magic meant that I didn’t gain any weight. In fact I lost some without trying. Awesome.

Once I was confident enough to leave the house again, I started going on many afternoon walks during the week. The 40 minutes of silence for my baby and myself kept me sane. I’m sure this helped boost some calorie-burning power, too. Just this week, I went running for the first time. Well, “running.” I tried. Negative: It was really not very far. Positive: I didn’t pee myself.

Now that I’m finding my mommy groove, I have a lot more time to process a wider variety of emotions that I am going through. All of this got me thinking: why do we hate our postpartum body so much?

I believe a lot of it has to do with societal conditioning. Women are trained to think that an adolescent-looking body (but with big boobs, obviously) is what is desirable and beautiful. Narrow hips, zero belly-fat, and stick arms might look great in couture, but is impractical for everyday life. The problem is, we start to believe it about ourselves. I had body issues before, so postpartum body issues are a whole new bucket of crazy.

Women are heavily critiqued before, during, and after pregnancy. It’s insane. Why is every female celebrity lambasted all over the internet and magazines for how much weight she is (or isn’t) gaining during pregnancy. It’s disgusting. Making a baby takes calories, and calories means eating food, plain and simple. What’s even worse is how a woman’s recovery is dissected in the media. It isn’t helpful that A-listers seem to bounce back flawlessly after pushing out a watermelon only a few months before. It also isn’t helpful that they don’t tell you about the battalion of help they had to get them back to a size that fits 1% of the population.

When a woman’s body is actually used for what nature intended, i.e. pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding, it is all of a sudden inappropriate, gross, and repugnant.  Our focus should be on having the healthiest body possible; before, during, and after pregnancy. If you are naturally very lean with tiny boobies, good on ya girl. If you are quite the opposite, that is great, too! We need to love ourselves as we come by eating right but not over, exercising, and talking positively about ourselves—whether that’s out loud or in our heads.

I’d like to tell you that I am proud of every extra inch, each heavy and low breast, and the extra inches of skin. I’d like to tell myself that truth, too. But I’d be lying. But you know what, I’m getting there.

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3 thoughts on “Postpartum Body Image: Why Do We Hate How We Look?

  1. Kay

    Thanks for this post. I was 117 pre-preg. After 2 babies and 6 years later, I’m down to 122. It’s taken me that long n I’m not even at pre-preg weight. I regularly go to Zumba but am not the best at dieting. I tell myself that I’ll try harder when I’m done having kids. I too hate looking in the mirror before getting in the shower. I lift up my muffin top to look at my c-section scar. Even if I lose all my baby weight, my body will never b the same. My body frame (bones) have changed. So have my hair, nose, breasts, n feet. If I had a team like the celebrities do (surgeons, personal trainers, dietitians, hair/makeup artists), I could look that great too. Who couldn’t? Great points made in this blog. Thanks.

  2. Anonymous

    This is a great article. I wish we could all agree to never make comments about a woman’s size when she is pregnant. We feel like we are doing something good by telling mom how great she looks or how skinny she is when she is pregnant. People always say, wow, you can’t even tell she’s pregnant from behind. I think it’s comments like this that start the trend of making mothers feel like they have to be so thin while pregnant. It isn’t good for mom nor is it good for the baby!


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