Babies ruin bodies. We've all heard it, and most of us believe it. At least, that’s what I believed before I got pregnant ...
When I first told my co-workers of my pregnancy, there was the obvious outpouring of “Congratulations.” But amid the cheer was another, quiet reminder from an older female colleague: “Your body will never quite be the same again.”
And it's true. But I'm certain that "ruin" isn't the right word. Having a baby changes your life, and with that, it changes your body. You might have stretch marks, varicose veins, extra weight ... or maybe you think twice before laughing in public because your bladder just isn't the same.
Before I had kids, I was terrified about how my body would change, but now that I've had two babies I realize that I'm proud of these transformations. They are my warrior marks showing my endurance through pregnancy and my strength.
But it's time to stop being ashamed of these changes. As mothers, and simply as people, it's time to start celebrating our bodies — before, during and after pregnancy. There is beauty in resilience, and beauty in change.
Here is a series of photos of some moms, including me. We're showing off, not hiding, the beauty of our changed and changing bodies.
Photo courtesy of Heather Kirchhofer of Agnes Art and Photo.
Let’s be honest. There are a whole host of ways my body has changed since giving birth, some of which have nothing to do with weight.
For example, I now always keep thin pantyliners in my purse because my bladder control is ... somewhat lacking. And my hip pops when I try to stretch out my legs at
Oh, and let's not forget about varicose veins: my right leg has a large rope-like coil running down the front.
All of these things are markers of the changes that I've undergone in the process of becoming a mother. And owning them, and not being afraid to show them, is what makes these signs of strength and beauty.
Is my body different? Yes. Is it ruined? No way.
My friend Jill gained 55 pounds with her first born. She was discouraged when none of her pre-pregnancy clothes fit her post-pregnancy body and worried constantly that she was "not the same" as before.
But Jill's anxiety, while totally fair, is largely a byproduct of the way we talk about pregnancy culturally. We fixate on losing baby weight immediately after giving birth, rather than celebrating the immense undertaking our bodies go during pregnancy, labor, and beyond!
Weight comes and goes. It's not a sign of being "ruined."
My former neighbor Sara is my personal hero for the challenges that she went through during pregnancy.
I met Sara when I was walking around the block, selling Girl Scout cookies with my daughter. She was eight months pregnant with her baby girl at the time. We got to talking and she pointed to a nephrostomy bag hanging out from her shirt.
She explained to me that at 24 weeks gestation, she started feeling pain in the lower part of her back. The pain worsened over the next few days to the point that she couldn't stand up straight. After some tests, the doctors found that her kidney was failing her.
Over the course of her pregnancy she had five surgeries and spent a total of three weeks in the hospital. She was in constant pain and ordered on bed rest for the last few weeks. Her baby girl arrived a few weeks early and once she delivered, her kidney problems disappeared.
She is a warrior and bears a slight scar on her back from where the nephrostomy
bag was placed. Our bodies tear and scar, stretch and tighten. They aren't decorative; they are strong and self-healing.
Heather struggles with the extra weight on her body at times. She says its
harder to lose weight after having her daughter.
But as I said, our culture focuses way too much on the virtues of post-pregnancy looks. We don't focus enough on the feats of the body. Pregnancy and birth are truly extraordinary.
Heather in particular is a birthing rock star. She delivered her daughter naturally
with no epidural or any pain relief. After 13 hours of labor and two full hours of pushing, her baby girl entered the world. She said it was the most exhilarating, I can go-out-and-conquer-the-world-moment ever.
So once again: weight comes and goes. The journey of motherhood, too, is ever-changing -- but a constant source of joy and fulfillment.
JoAnn, Jill, Sara + Heather
Heather (pictured above) is also the brilliant photographer behind the photographs in this post.
Here we are, in our swimsuits, telling the world, real mom bodies are
awesome. Real moms are all shapes and sizes. They are all colors and shades.
Yes, babies have changed our bodies, all in different ways. We are all in constant
states of improvement in every area of our lives. But, we are not covering up.
You bet we will be out there this summer playing in the pool, chasing little ones around splash pads and lounging by the water. Hope to see you there.