Post-baby body image

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

I feel like I have written about this subject a ton since I gave birth almost 14 months ago, but it is still something that I am struggling with on a daily basis.  I guess I was naive when I thought that things would go back to the way that they were with my body before having a baby.  I mean, come on, this is what Hollywood portrays as the norm.  Have a baby, then 6 weeks later, be spotted, Starbucks iced beverage in hand, walking with a baby stroller in short shorts and a cute top showing off your trim mid-section.  I thought that I would be one of those women (cough, cough, Kristin Cavallari) that would bounce back, weeks after giving birth.  I thought that if I lost the "baby weight" and exercised that everything would go back to being pretty again.  What I am finding out is that no matter how hard I work, my body is not cooperating.  It has no intention of returning to my pre-baby form.  Call me an ungrateful bitch, but I am having a serious struggle accepting this concept.

Before you complete that rolling of the eyes, let me explain something.  I am not complaining about my weight.  I eat healthy and I am very active so I do not currently have a problem in this area.  Since I have had B, I have lost all of my "baby weight" and then some due to my, sometimes compulsive and always regular, need to exercise.  What I am struggling with are the other after effects of pregnancy and child-birth, the loose belly skin, the indents and marks, the herniated belly button, and most of all the diastasis recti.  These things don't seem to be able to be helped with diet/exercise and this drives me insane.

Let me describe to you what I mean...

Last weekend was one of the first warm weekends that we have had.  It is finally shorts and flip-flops weather, something that I have classically looked forward to.  We had a birthday party to go to for one of my friend's kids and about an hour before the party, I started getting ready.  I changed into a pair of button up shorts and a striped, loose t-shirt, so as not to accentuate my stomach area.  I didn't have time to straighten my hair, so I pinned it back in a bun.  I put on some blush and mascara.  Tah Dah...ready to go.  Right?  WRONG.  This is the point where things started to go wrong.

Looking in the mirror, nothing looked good to me.  I looked like I was dressed like a "mom", something that I told myself that I would never do.  In a haste, I started going through my drawer for something else to wear, something that wouldn't make me look older than I am.  I put on a more form fitting shirt and a pair of shorts that were a little shorter.  Ugh there was my protruding belly button and pronounced belly sticking out.  I put on another t-shirt over the first one in an effort to play down everything, but then I was hot.  I started getting upset and ripped off the outfit and frantically went searching for something else.  I must have tried on 3-4 different outfits before collapsing into a heap of tears on the floor out of frustration.  Nothing I owned looked good on my body.  My hair was a frizzy, broken, mess from putting it in a bun so much.  I felt gross and unattractive.  I felt frustrated that all of the exercise and healthy diet is doing nothing to help me look better.

My husband, who had the baby, heard the ruckus that I was making and came up to check on me.  He asked me what was wrong and I told him exactly how I felt.  I am still struggling with my post-baby body.  I still haven't accepted it as the new normal.  I am still hoping (and praying) that some morning I will wake up and will not be able to see my gastrointestinal tract working though the huge gap in my stomach muscles.  I am still hoping that one day I will feel comfortable being naked again and even the slightest    

I know that I am my own worst enemy here.  I am incredibly critical about how my body looks.  I hold myself to an extremely high standard.  I am constantly comparing myself to other women.  She had a baby I look better than her?  It is exhausting.  I don't think it helps that my husband is constantly working out with younger, beautiful, and really in shape women who have either never had children, or are in the very-lucky-to-have-bounced-back-unscathed-from-pregnancy category.  Even though I think that my husband and i have a high level of communication in our marriage and my husband is constantly telling me that I am beautiful (and hot...haha), I am still insanely jealous of those women.  I feel like I will never be able to get back that six-pack of abs that I once had and see these women at CrossFit competitions proudly displaying.

I'm not sure what to do.  Surgery?  Constantly wear compression gear and belly binders?  Resign myself to the fact that I will always have to wear two t-shirts?  See a therapist?  Continue with my weekly break-downs?  Give up?  I don't know what to do and I feel like I am alone.  I haven't heard any of my friends who have had kids ever make any mention that they feel like this so I have no idea if this is a common thing or not.  Maybe I am incredibly vain?  Maybe I should count myself lucky that this is my biggest post-pregnancy complaint?  I mean there are always worse things that could be wrong with me.  Why can't I just accept things and try to move past?  I have a wonderful healthy son.  Should I just accept that this was the price that I had to pay?

I created an anonymous survey on this topic.  If you have 2 minutes, please fill it out.  I am really interested in knowing if I am the only one who has these kinds of feelings or if this truly is an issue that many women deal with.  Thank you!

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8 Responses to “Post-baby body image”

  1. Hi. I'm a lurker, but I felt the need to de-lurk to comment on this post.

    First, thank you for writing this. I know it can be hard to admit to these types of feelings after a baby, especially in the IF world where any post-baby complaint is seen as ingratitude.

    Second, I understand. I don't like to admit it, but one of the hardest aspects of my post-baby life is my hatred of my body. Rationally I know I should love my body for being able to carry and deliver a beautiful, healthy baby, but all I can focus on is how huge and gross and unattractive I feel. It's not surprising, though, since I've hated my body most of my life. But what makes it hard for me right now is that before my baby I had worked hard to get to a point where I actually felt somewhat attractive, and that was a huge thing for me. Now, I feel about as unsexy as a woman can and I've become extremely paranoid about my husband leaving me for someone younger and fitter.

    It sucks. It shouldn't be this way. We shouldn't feel this way. But how do you shake off the programming that you've grown up with, that women are only as valuable as their appearance? The sad truth is that we all know that we're being judged on our looks on a daily, hourly basis, by everyone we meet and see. It's a constant struggle and I have no answers for how to get through it.

  2. Almost everything that you just said rings true for me. I am paranoid of the same exact things. :-/ Even though I trust my husband, I can't help but feel so jealous when I see some of the girls that he works out with regularly and has befriended. Our bodies did such an amazing thing by creating out precious little ones, but then seem to have failed us on the other side.

  3. I've mentioned before that I have always struggled with my body image. Now add in post baby (when baby is almost 18 months old) and it takes it to a whole other level. We are constantly bombarded by how we should be back to pre-baby or even better than pre-baby by 6-8-10 weeks. I don't know what the answer is but I do know that I am going to continue to work hard to get better than my pre-baby.

    Kudos to you for all your hard work!

    1. Same to you!! If you find the magic bullet, please let me know. :)

  4. I definitely know how you feel. After I had my baby my tummy would not go down. I have always been thin and thought that I would be able to bounce back with exercise and diet as well. I also noticed my belly button never went back in either...that is when I googled umbilical hernia which then in turn led to discover that I had a diastasis recti! At about 4 months post partum I began splinting my tummy and flowing the tupler technique. I saw wonderful results (my diastasis was done to 1-2 fingers width) and decided to take off the splint (when I was about 7-8 months pp) because my belly looked flat! 3 days later my tummy was back to looking like I was 4 month pregnant! I was really depressed and could not understand why if my gap was not small why my belly was still looking pregnant! I then researched some more and discovered Mutu. I began doing that and not even one month later I became pregnant again! I was so terrified of what this would mean to my still already damaged tummy and hernia! I am now 6 month pregnant and have been wearing a splint to help support my hernia (so it doesn't get worse) and to help my diastasis from stretching more. I have also tried to remain active and trying to go to the gym 3 days a week. I really try to focus on engaging my core...I stay away from ab work, planks or pushup and just hoping for the best! I'm also working on my body alignment which I read contributes to a diastasis. I hope that when I have this baby I can try to regain some semblance of my old body back. There are wonderful support groups on facebook that you can follow with women all over the world posting the very same issue. There are some success stories and others that are "a work in progress" nice to read the post and know you aren't alone in this.

    Have you tried any exercises to directly help with your diastasis? How large is your diastasis now?

    1. Thanks for this thoughtful reply. I found that the same thing happened with me when I wore the splint. It was like immediate gratification that didn't stick around for very long. Definitely not a permanent solution! My diastasis is back to about a little more than 3 fingers. I actually did buy the Mutu System a few weeks ago. I started it, but then kind of fell off the wagon when I upped my running mileage and found I didn't have time for that and caring for the baby, too. I am going to start again full tilt and will report back on how well it works. Good luck with your pregnancy! :)

  5. 1) No one else cares as much as you do about your midsection. We are all our own worst critics. I bet there are people around you who think you're a "bounced back with no consequences" 'after picture' yourself.

    2) I hate to suggest throwing money at a problem, but... I suggest buying some clothes that just fit and you can just wear without angst. Stop focusing on how the stuff you already have doesn't hang the way you want. While you're at it, get a haircut that works with your current actual hair and actual life.

    3) You're someone's mom. There's no shame in looking like it. It became a stereotypical look for a reason.

    4) The longer you carry this around...

    1. Sometimes a little tough love is a good thing. Thank you for keeping it real.