The moment my daughter was lifted off my chest and taken away to be examined by the doctors after she was born, the first thing I did was run my hands over my belly. In the weeks and months leading up to her birth, rubbing the rounded, firm skin that housed my baby was one of my favourite things to do. At night, I’d lay silent and through the layers of skin and muscle and fat that separated us, I’d touch the life growing inside me, hoping for a kick; a sign that she was there. But once she entered the world and was no longer living within me, the belly I had loved so much felt…..unrecognisable. It was soft, swollen and wobbly. In a matter of hours it had gone from a place of beauty to a thing of repulsion. And I hated myself for it; I hated that something so shallow was able to steal away some of the most incredible joy of my life. Even though it makes me feel ashamed to admit it, that’s truly how I felt.
A post-baby body is something that takes a lot of work to love for some women. Six years since I gave birth for the last time, I’m still coming to terms with a body that has entirely changed shape from what it once was. A much softer, rounder body than I’ve ever had before. A body that still, to this day, often feels unrecognisable to me. Of course, it’s not just pregnancy that has changed my physicality; it’s a life that I have chosen to live that has become less disciplined in some ways and more in others.
Mum of two, Alexandra Kilmurray, posted a picture to her Instagram page (above) of her bare stomach and frankly spoke about the “dark side” of pregnancy and motherhood after struggling with the changes to her physical appearance since becoming a mother, as well as her experience with postnatal depression. In a beautifully worded caption to the picture, Alexandra wrote the following that I’m sure many of us can relate to:
“Well, I know a lot of you guys are probably thinking, ‘why would she post this picture’, but it took me 18 months to get here. 18 months to not cry when I look in the mirror, 18 months to finally fell beautiful in my own skin again! No one warns you about the dark sides of motherhood and pregnancy…no one gives you a heads up on how much you change physically and mentally after you become a mother. It’s been a long and hard postpartum ride for me..18 months after my first son and 5 months after my second son I feel like I can finally see the light and it genuinely feels amazing. Cheers to you mamas who are battling postpartum depression and still getting up everyday for your children! Cheers to you mamas who still cry about the marks on your skin from birthing your perfect babies! Cheer to motherhood, cheers to knowing that this too shall pass! And things will get better.”
Alexandra spoke so openly about how she felt about a body that had changed after pregnancy and birth.
“My husband and I knew my body would change, we knew it was just a part of motherhood. I personally, did not expect such drastic changes with myself physically and mentally,” Alexandra said.
“But my husband has been here to tell me I am beautiful, he has been here to listen to me rant about everything I hate about myself.”
It’s so refreshing to see because as mothers, there’s often a pinch of guilt that goes along with feeling conflicted about our appearance, as if the very thought of feeling confronted by a body that has changed so much is ungrateful because “look, you have a beautiful baby!” Of course that’s the most important bit, but to neglect to acknowledge that for some of us, coming to terms with a ‘new’ body is often a struggle. Alexandra is celebrating these changes on her Instagram page (which you can visit here), which has become a space where women are encouraged to share their beautiful post-pregnancy bodies.
It’s often easy to forget about the magic of a woman’s body. It’s easy to look at pictures of flat, toned abs and cellulite-free thighs and think, “I wish I looked like that.” But as the days and years go by, I’m increasingly looking outside of myself, marvelling at the two living beings that grew inside of me and instead of wishing for something different, I’m awe-struck at having had the opportunity to have carried them. There are certainly many days where I still struggle, but would I trade them in for the flat and tight tummy I used to have? There’s absolutely no question.
You can follow Alexandra’s blog, Mother by Nature, here.
Here are some of our favourite women talking about their bodies during pregnancy and after birth:
How do you feel about your post-baby body?