Thoughts on Positive Body Image, Post Birth


By Katrina for Cool Bananas


There’s been a wave of ‘positive body image’ messages flooding my Instagram feed over the last week. And I love it. This sense of encouragement and support amongst women (many being mothers), towards shape and size; the fundamental message about learning to truly love yourself, is long overdue, especially in the media spotlight, where we’re constantly bombarded with unrealistic expectations of the female body.

Although my post here isn’t directly related to ‘accepting your body’ per say (as the movement on insta reflects), it felt apt to put it out there now (after 4 weeks of sitting as a draft) as it’s pertinent to positive body image: Philosophically, I want to reevaluate the language used in an often very flippant manner, towards our bodies, which can then, in turn, change our mindset, into a positive thought process. In all honestly, fully embracing my body shape/ size post pregnancy, will take a little me longer, and that’s perfectly ok. After all, it needs time to settle into its new form. For me, at 6 months postpartum, it’s about striking a balance between accepting my body, whilst it still adjusts.

 Let’s cut the ‘getting back into shape’ crap, post birth.

Hey! You’ve had a baby, so now you want to ‘get back into shape’?. * Enter serious eye roll here*

We’ve got this idea all wrong. I found myself using this phrase just the other day, and the more reflection I gave it, I became increasingly troubled with such a negative approach and thought. What irks me about the ‘getting back into shape’ notion post birth, in particular, is the implication that you want something to return to a condition it was in before. And the idea of ‘returning to’, suggests you have lost something. Also, ‘Getting back’ inherently means you’ve lost something too, and you want to either have or receive this again after a time when it was taken or lost (I’ve looked it up in the dictionary, can you tell?)

Whilst I do not disagree that you may loose definition to your abs (or for me currently, halloo jelly belly!) and your actual bodily shape is more than likely going to be different- your hips slightly wider, and, Hey there! Bigger feet (seriously, no one told me about this weird side effect of pregnancy?). The idea that you’ve lost something, or that your body beforegrowing and birthing a child is somehow better than what you have now. It’s just not the case. The way we should view our current body is far from having lost anything, it is quite the opposite- what we have gained (aside from a few extra kilos, and curves; these are inevitably part of the parcel when you sign up for pregnancy).

I’ve gained so much. A whole new level of respect, it’s incredible what the human body is capable of. The pure miracle of incubating another life, for your skin to stretch in ways you’d never have thought imaginable! To have shared your body, with another being inside- who has been relying solely on you for everything. Whichever way you delivered a baby earthside, YOU, YOUR body DID THAT (naturally, with all the drugs or with a medical intervention, it’s irrelevant). What immense respect and awe we deserve to credit our body with. I’ve gained stretch marks: far from feeling insecure about these, I should be proud; they, like scars that we accumulate over time, are placed there to be a constant reminded of the story, a narrative to my life.

This body of mine, even though I admit to holding onto some resentment because I feel like it failed me when I couldn’t conceive without intervention from modern day science. Despite feeling angry that my autoimmune system decides to go batshit crazy now and then, dishes out pain, which on days of late has been unbearable; This physical structure of mine, it has made me a mother. And with that, I’ve gained a whole new perspective on life, it’s changed my attitude and beliefs, transforming the essence of ‘me’ entirely. It’s helped me learn the true meaning of patience (*whispers quietly, ‘thank you, body’*).

Now, I am not saying that at 6 months post birth I feel happy with my current size and shape, or that I’m particularly confident in my skin. I’m not. It isn’t because of outside influence, the media, celebrities, or scrolling through those ‘picture perfect’ mamas on Instagram- I’m not naïve, I don’t buy into any of that jazz. We are all very unique, we must not forget that, all of us with our own struggles and priorities. We all respond differently after birth; some will fit into a pre-pregnancy wardrobe within weeks. Others will look slightly pregnant months down the line. I do! BOTH are ok. Be fearless to walk your own path, and don’t compare you beginning to anyone else’s middle. I’ve got at least 8 kilos to shed: This is the weight my frame is suited to, that my joints find comfortable to sustain me. Shape wise? Well, I look forward to seeing that. Because I don’t for one minute think, or want, it to ‘get back in shape’. Back in shape? Why would you want to move backwards? That is something belonging in the past. It’s about moving forwards, carrying a new found appreciation for your body and self as a person, and mother.

Setting goals are important, and again very subjective to each of us. Without them, how can we objectively achieve any results? Personally, I liked my pre-preggo-belly wardrobe, a lot, and with little money for new clothes, my target is to fit comfortably into those outfits again. It goes without saying first and foremost, I want to encourage my body to be strong and healthy. But feeling comfortable in ma threads is a very valid, practical, emotive and economical reason too

When it comes to finding my new shape, size and weight, my ultimate goal is to be kind to myself, both in a psychological and physiological way. Finally, there was nothing wrong with the ‘old me’, in fact, I was happy with my shape and size. I’m simply moving forward now to a more ‘improved’ version of me and bringing a whole lotta new perspective along for the ride. In the interim, you’ll still find that Ima rock a bikini, not because I’m confident but because I’m brave enough to feel the fear and do it anyway, and I wholeheartedly encourage you to do the same.