by Claire C. McKiernan
Spider veins, muffin tops, stretch marks, loose, stretched out skin, extra weight, all this and more! How come superstar moms don’t have all this? Answer: They do (or did), but they have access to personal chefs, nutritionists, trainers, beauticians, and full-time nannies so they can devote hours a day to their bodies. And when that doesn’t work, they have cosmetic surgery and they still have Photoshop used on many, if not all, the photos you see, which, by the way, have been taken by professional photographers at the right angle and in perfect lighting.
Meanwhile, you, selfish thing that you are, spend your time nursing, cuddling, feeding, rocking, playing, teaching, reading, bathing, dressing, and wiping up spills, runny noses, tears, and adorable but stinky behinds. And when you are waiting at the hair salon to indulge in having your bangs cut for the first time in three months so you don’t resemble an English sheepdog, you pick up a magazine describing a superstar getting her body back two weeks postpartum. She looks amazing! Why can’t I look like that? (Hint: because you spend more time raising your children, you ninny!) Do you think your kids would prefer a mom who lets them blow raspberries on her pudgy dough-like belly or a sexy mom?
Don’t be so hard on yourself. Every mother goes through this. And just about every mother winces about something that changed on her body. As a mother of four, I can tell you that your body will change in predictable and non-predictable ways. Some changes will be temporary, some permanent, some you’ll get accustomed to and even stop noticing, some things you will actually like, and other things, well, that’s where you need to employ some mind over matter.
Mind Trick 1: See yourself through the eyes of your partner
You’re not just a mom, you’re a woman! You want to feel good about yourself and you want to feel attractive to your husband/s.o. Who says that you aren’t attractive? Probably only you. Think about it: at which times do you feel most attracted to/in love with your partner? Chances are, it is after he has done or said something particularly sweet/funny/thoughtful. Your attraction to his physical body is definitely a part of it, but flaws disappear in the eyes of love. He most likely feels the same way.
Mind Trick 2: Laugh
When one WBWC mom was drying her legs after getting out of the shower, her 3-year-old daughter came up and cupped her breast, telling her mom that “it was bouncing around like an old rubber ball.” Writes the mom, “Did she have to say ‘old’ when I was only 28 at the time?!?” The same dear and honest child told her mother that she enjoyed touching her mom’s stretchy, pudgy, post-baby belly because “it is like an amusement park for me.”
Nothing like kids to help you feel young! “I can’t say those comments didn’t sting a little, but you know what? I can shake my head and laugh about them. She’s a really great daughter and turning into a strong woman who will hopefully always love and accept her own body as it changes and matures.”
Mind Trick 3: Smile at other moms
While you are being tough on yourself, you may be thinking that a lot of other moms look pretty darn good. We’re all in the same boat. Be as forgiving of yourself as you are of them. You don’t know what changes they’ve gone through, and chances are, they think you look pretty good, too. Smile at them and you’ve done a service to you both.
Mind Trick 4: Put it in perspective
Your life and your world can change in a second. Appreciate the life you have: in the big scheme of things, do these body changes really matter? If you can hug your child in your arms, hear her laugh, see her smile, than you already have more than some people.
Have you ever looked at a photo of yourself as a teenager and wondered why you didn’t appreciate the body you had back then? Well, when you are 65 you’re going to wonder the same thing about the body you have today. And when you’re 85, are you going to weep over the stretch marks on your breasts? Of course not; they’ll be too wrinkled to even find those stretch marks (har-har)! Time waits for no one, so enjoy all the natural gifts you have while you have them. And when you are 85, I hope you wear your wrinkles with pride!
Mind Trick 5: Believe it, and you’ll be it
You’ve heard it before: the sexiest part of your body is your brain. Look around and you’ll notice that there are women of all shapes and sizes that have sex appeal. Why? Confidence. How do you get some? Give yourself pep talks, do small things with confidence, find a passion and get good at it, remind yourself of all the things that you like about you and let those things glow.
WBWC mom, Elisabeth, wrote in with this great example:
“After the birth of my second child I could RUN FASTER! The very first time I went running post baby I surprised myself by how much quicker I could run — even before training, while still very much in my post baby chubby body. After both babies I trained for half marathons to get my strength back. After my first baby I ran my first half marathon with a 10:12 pace. After my second baby I ran my second half with a 9:36 pace! That’s a huge difference for me, a pace I never imagined running. I told my husband I want to try for a third baby, to see if I can break a 9 min pace!
I don’t know if I can run faster because something changed physically with my body, or because my second birth was such a life-changing event for me. Although both of my babies were born naturally in birth centers, my second birth shot my confidence through the roof. It was another hard, long labor, thanks to a posterior baby. There were 3 times during labor I broke down in hysterics, knowing I could not birth my child. I was wrong. I could, and I did. After accomplishing something I knew I couldn’t do, I am a much, much, MUCH stronger gal today. So maybe I run faster now because mentally I see my body as stronger…I don’t know!”
Becoming a mother is a very big accomplishment, as is the job of mothering around the clock. Instead of looking in the mirror and harping on what you don’t like, pay attention to what you do like, both inside and out. You still have those great eyes or that adorable pinky toe that curls in funny. Maybe something has even changed for the better. If your hips grew a size or two, do yourself a favor and forget about numbers. Buy the size you need because you will ultimately feel better wearing something that looks good on you than you will squeezing into something that doesn’t. Only you know what size you bought, and you will forget it once you are getting compliments for an outfit that flatters your new (temporary or permanent) body!
Confidence is far-reaching. Writes one mom, “After I gave birth naturally to my first born, I couldn’t believe how confident and strong it made me feel as a woman and as a new mother. That confidence trickled into everything I did. Over the years it has led me to try new things that I never would have tried before, I’m better at recognizing opportunities, making new friends, and my confidence has strengthened my marriage!”
Mind Trick 6: See yourself as a good example
You have a daughter, or a son, or both. If someone had told you beforehand that you would be given this precious baby, but you would never have a flat tummy again, you still would have made the trade. Now, your tummy, or spider veins, or stretch marks, or whatever are your badges of courage. They help tell the story of your life, like the scar on your knee from that downhill– “Look Mom! No hands, no feet!”—bike-riding accident when you were ten.
You are also the most important female role model in your child’s life. Your child deserves to have an imperfect mom who can laugh, accept, and enjoy being herself. It’s all well and good to tell our daughters they are beautiful no matter what, but they know the “truth” based on what we think and say about our own bodies (and they overhear everything). What a wonderful gift to teach your child that you love yourself so that your children will more naturally love their changing bodies and not be so quick to judge the changing bodies of others.
The bottom line is: you are stuck with your body for the rest of your life. I hope you have a long, healthy, and happy life. See yourself as beautiful for your own sake as well as for those around you. Love your mommy body because it is uniquely you!
(My deepest appreciation to the brave souls that shared their stories with me; together we may have boosted a self-image or two! The prequel to this article–“Celebrate Yourself”– was shoved into the “older posts” when it came out last month. To read it, click on my name below.)