We need to change how we look at mothers' bodies

Kinderling News & Features

For a while now, women have been trying to challenge the way we look at our post-baby bodies.

You may have seen and enjoyed comedian mum Celeste Barber’s Instagram shots parodying celebrities in their ‘everyday’ poses. Or Constance Hall loving her post baby body. Social media has been a great place to display and embrace what our bodies really look like after having babies.

Such a wonderful feeling. #celestechallengeaccepted #celestebarber #funny #ciara #blessed

A post shared by Celeste Barber (@celestebarber) on

But for some reason it’s not getting through. It’s one thing to applaud the criticism aimed at the media for showing slim, polished images of women post babies and it’s quite another to accept your new body as it is.

I didn’t think I’d be bothered by the changes my body went through. I’m lucky to have a good metabolism so weight wasn’t a big issue for me. But other things changed, and I didn’t look like ‘me’ anymore. It was confronting, because it did bother me, and there was no way of going back.

Kathleen Murphy, clinical naturopath and lecturer in health science, says it’s because many of us don’t see what most women look like after a baby is born. All we have are images in the media of gorgeous pregnant women, or the baby afterwards. We don’t get a realistic idea of what happens physically to mums. We don’t see what happens when milk comes in, we don’t see the effect of hormones flooding through your body, or see that a baby bump can stay for weeks after the baby is born.

“People don’t have such big families generally, so you’re not as exposed to women having babies… so it might be the first time you come across it in the days after your own baby is born, which can be a bit of a shock,” she says.

Kathleen says that if we were told a more realistic picture of what it would feel like after birth, we’d be better equipped to deal with the changes. She lists two main things to keep in mind.

Listen to Kathleen’s interview on Kinderling Conversation:

We need to accept where we are

It takes nine months to grow a baby. Nine months of many weird and wonderful things happening inside you that you have no control over. A tiny seed grows into a baby that you can hold in your arms. Your body did that, so why do we expect it to snap back to how it was pre-birth?

Kathleen says that the expectations for women to “just get on with it” are unrealistic.

“Women are praised for slipping back into where they were before….. when really this is a time, it’s often described as the fourth trimester for the baby because it’s a big adjustment to life on the outside, but it’s also the fourth trimester for the Mum, because she is adjusting to motherhood, and the transition even if it’s your second, third or fourth time, it’s different every time,” she says. “There are different things pulling at you, as well as the physical adjustments while your hormones level out and you work out how to breast feed and your weight changes and your moods are all over the place. It’s really difficult for people to really slip right into that.”  

Redefine what it means to be ‘beautiful’

Our definition of what it is to be beautiful needs to change. Being thin doesn’t equate with physical or emotional health. Women shouldn’t feel less beautiful or amazing because they can’t get back their “pre baby body”.

Kathleen says that it’s phenomenal to actually grow another human being, “we should be remembering how incredible that is, and celebrating that, and what’s more important is not just how you look but how strong and healthy and well you are.”

Also see:

:: Why parents are made, not born
:: How to deal with competitive parenting
:: Learning to love your body after having kids
:: Finding my style again after kids                 
:: Seven easy wardrobe hacks for new mums