How I Learned to Embrace the Beauty of my Post-Baby Body

by Whitney Dwyer

Three months after my first child Brendan was born, I weighed less than my pre-labor weight. I thought, Woohoo, what Kelly Ripa said is true! Breastfeeding is the key. The baby literally sucks all of the fat out of you. Mother nature, you are the best!

While my body definitely wasn’t shaped the same at least I lost so much weight that my friend Gloria was a little concerned because my face kept slimming down and my collar bones became more and more defined. I was satisfied with my weight loss and figured I would moisturize the hell out of my stretch marks, do some crunches and maybe one day I would be able to wear a bikini again. Every morning I lathered my belly with coconut oil. But somewhere between working, taking care of an infant, getting dinner on the table and managing other family and social relationships, those crunches never happened.

Once I was ready to come out of my baby hibernation, rejoin the world and workout, I was pregnant again with my second love biscuit, Grayson. Almost everything was easier with Grayson. I still had the therapist that I started seeing after I had Brendan and I knew what to expect. My body healed faster. We had routines down but there was one problem — my stomach.

Every morning I stand in front of the mirror in my underwear. Sometimes I make a point to identify something positive about my appearance. One morning when I was around four months postpartum, I looked in the mirror and started to realize I wasn’t slimming down like I had after my first child. I now had an outie belly button, a pooch that made me look about three months pregnant and a chandelier of excess skin hanging down. I thought that I just needed more time. Meanwhile I remember every magazine cover at the grocery store proclaiming celebrity moms’ rapid weight loss after having children and I started feeling like there was something wrong with me. I thought I should be eating healthier and working out.

Two more months passed with no change. I realized that I had lost all the baby weight that I was going to lose. I found myself sucking in my stomach and smoothing out my skin in the mirror every morning. My husband and I tried to figure out how I could logistically fit in a workout. Between teaching — which means I always have homework — commuting and wanting to spend quality time with my children every evening, it was hard to find the time. I tried some workout videos On Demand and did crunches sporadically but ultimately I just became frustrated with the constant cycle of feeling bad about my body, wanting to do something about it but not having the time and energy to do so. Trips to the grocery store only added fuel to my frustration. I wanted to see a celebrity mom with a pooch, stretch marks and saggy boobs. All I got were smooth bellies, Photoshop, and myths about how I too could look like them.

My frustration evolved into anger. I was pissed that I allowed the media to make me feel bad about myself. I was furious that society had gotten to a place where women’s bodies aren’t honored for bringing life into this world but expected to “snapback” to their pre-baby figures. What kind of backwards shit is that?! Are we rubberbands? As a black woman, growing up having to refute Eurocentric ideals of beauty, I am aware that the lens in which I view beauty is counter to dominant American culture. Dominant American culture views my nephew as a potentially dangerous thug and my afro as a wild unkempt mane. I view both as magnificently beautiful. I needed to view my post-baby body in the same way and would love for the rest of society to do the same. I needed an outlet, a sanctuary, somewhere I could receive affirmation that other mothers look like me. The whole time I was fixated on a physical change when what I really needed was a change in my way of thinking.

Naturally, I started where everyone starts when you want to find what is out there, I Googled “post baby body.” I found multiple workout blogs. There was one blog that had a post about 50 everyday moms and their post-baby bodies but most of the pictures were just their bodies without their heads. I found another awesome project that takes pictures of women’s post-baby bodies across the country but they were predominately white and the pictures were all in black and white. I wanted to create a site and community of mothers of color who are on the journey to owning their bodies and their beauty. I wanted to start creating media to counter every sexist magazine with a celebrity mom on it, so I did. With the support of my family and my best friends, I launched last August.

The goal of the site is to help women feel good about their bodies especially after having children. The site features stories and photos of women of color discussing and showing off their post baby bodies. There is also a blog portion that serves as an outlet for me to bring attention to body-positive stories, as well as other women and body issues.
My role as a body positive blogger has pushed me to lead by example. I still suck in my belly occasionally in the mirror but I make it a point to appreciate everything about my body and remind myself that hating my insecurities only plays into sexism, capitalism and other systems of oppression designed to keep us from focusing our energy on fighting those very systems. I still have a ways to go but I know one thing, I have been every size between 0 and 10 and I am more accepting of my body now than I have ever been.

Photo: Shutterstock

Whitney Dwyer is a high school teacher by day and a body positive mom blogger by night. She resides in Oakland, California with her husband and two awesome sons, Brendan and Grayson.

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