Sunday, January 3, 2010

Pregnancy and body image

I've been thinking about this topic for a few days...

When I was pregnant, I would post occasionally on pregnancy message boards and forums.  It was always nice to chat with women around your same due-date and complain compare symptoms, thoughts, funny stories, etc.  Regardless of the site, there would always be a thread or two about body image issues.  The world likes to think that pregnant women are community property and seem to have no qualms about commenting on a pregnant woman's size.

And it didn't even matter what size the woman was.  Someone would always think she was too big or small regardless of her size.  And there would be the inevitable touching of the belly by complete strangers (boundaries!!!!!).  I got a few comments this pregnancy, but luckily escaped many of them since I was locked away for the last two months of my pregnancy.  I got some comments while pregnant with Zev, but I do not remember too many of them.  I am one of those women who carry completely in front, so most comments would have to do with that.  I suppose many people think that is the 'best' way to carry (less gain in the face, butt, thighs, etc).  Honestly, it ain't that great:  too much stress on the abs leads to pretty bad post-partum results.  I had a rather severe diastisis after having Zev, which never healed completely.  But honestly, it didn't bother me all that much:  it is part of having a baby.

Now that I'm post-partum again, I still browse message boards.  I do not find much comfort in them honestly, because having a preemie is quite different from having a newborn.  And the majority of the posters are first-time moms with first-time mom anxieties; I'm hardly going to worry about which style bumper is the cutest when I'm busy worrying about when the girls are going to be able to be off the NG tube and in an open air bassinet.

There are still threads about post-partum body recovery.  So many women are freaked out about when they can return to their pre-pregnancy bodies, how they can get their abs back, how they can diet off that "baby weight", etc.  And granted, it is a valid concern for a lot of women...  but am I weird that I don't share their concern?

There is actually an excellent site:  Shape of a Mother.  I came across it while pregnant with Zev.  A beautiful site where women upload pictures of themselves and show what post-partum can look like.  Most of it is anonymous and while it isn't something I would ever do, it is nice to see the support people offer.  A post-partum body is beautiful, regardless of stretch marks, sagging breasts, and c-section scars.

Going back to me (it is all about me, after all): I don't have these anxieties.  Maybe because I actually bounced back quickly after Zev and the girls?  Or because I don't think I have that many post-partum body issues to deal with?  Maybe if I HAD stretch marks or a lot of sagging skin I would be singing a different tune.  But I really don't think so.

In my 'former life' (i.e., before bed rest and while not pregnant) I was a rather active person.  My hobby is weight lifting, and over the course of many years I have learned a lot about fitness, nutrition, and how to take care of your body.  I know what to do if I felt I needed to 'do' something, and have confidence in my ability to do it.  So how I look right  Doesn't really concern me all that much.  Interestingly, for a gym person, I was never after some body-type ideal:  I like working out for the endorphin rush, for making new strength goals, and for the structure it provides in my life.  I don't really care about making my booty smaller (god forbid), getting a six-pack (had a four-pack once...didn't change my life that much), or any other physique goals.  The number on a scale is pretty meaningless to me as well:  I don't give gravity that much power and know too much about the factors that affect body weight that are out of my control.

Which is why I think I'm weird.  I just roll my eyes at the fitness magazines:  they are full of misinformation and fitness myths and are just made to make money rather than disseminate information.  This time of year, people are making their annual 'lose 20 lb' goal, and I just don't have the interest or time to even consider such a thing.  What I am interested in is regaining some of the strength I have lost over these two months of disability, maybe getting into a new hobby (boxing?) should I have the opportunity, and simply enjoying being physical again.

How my body responds to that is secondary.  If I walk away with washboard abs, great.  But I ain't holding my breath, and given that there are only two people who would regularly see them...who the heck cares anyway?


  1. I get what you mean about the new mommy forums...pretty hard to relate to someone who takes home a perfectly healthy, newborn when you're bringing home 2 preemies.

    Have you ever checked out I really liked it when my twins were younger. They even have a NICU forum that's super helpful as well as a breastfeeding forum. Since it's all twins, lots of the mommies have been through NICU time and pumping so it's a great way to get advice and just lurk and feel like you're not alone in the universe.

    Anyways...just a suggestion if you're interested.


  2. Loved this post! I find the same thing with some boards - first time moms who worry about things we worried/thought about the first go around, which is fine, but those aren't things I'm thinking about this time around. I'm going to bookmark that shape of a mother site - thanks for the link!

  3. Excellent post! Some of the things posted on the boards about losing baby weight/not gaining more than anyone else/food paranoia just frightens me.

    You have a refreshing perspective on priorities.

  4. caryanne, I DID know about twinstuff, but completely forgot about it! Thank you. I'll check it out again...

    Magda, thanks. That's why I don't go to many main issues now are twin things and preemie things. Don't care so much about the rest of it...

  5. Thanks, Red. While I understand the anxiety for some people (pregnancy often means feeling 'out of control' with your body), sometimes it is better to just relax and trust your body. I find that the body is smarter than the brain most times. Treat it well, and it will treat you well. Treat it crappy, and you get what you deserve.