I'll admit it. I've spent way to much time staring in the mirror at my stomach. I've picked a part every stretch mark and fold of loose skin until I can't even look at it anymore.
We live in a world where there is so much pressure on what we look like. We see it all over social media and the TV. It seems like there's beauty products, weight loss products, etc. that are shoved down our throats constantly without us even realizing it. We follow people on social media who's lives appeal to us in so many unhealthy ways, and celebrating these people for what they look like. We get this idea in our heads "that's what I want to look like, that's what I want my life to be like," not even taking a moment to put things into perspective that Instagram is just a highlight reel of someone's life.
The majority of you, reading this right now, like me, have probably wished you could change some things about your body at least once in your life. Whether it be bigger boobs, longer hair, or a thinner waist, we're always wanting to change something about ourselves. For some reason or another, the way we view our bodies is never good enough.
I've never been the most body-positive person. I've actually dealt with body image issues my whole life. I've always had a muscular build that I have had a long love-hate, mostly hate, relationship with it. Growing up I was never a small girl, I remember getting comments like "are you, gymnast," "I can see this muscles in your arms and legs" "you look like a sprinter." Most of you may be thinking, "why did I have a problem with that" and to tell you the truth, I don't exactly know. But, back then, those were the worst words I could hear. I hated it. I hated it when people drew attention to my body because I wasn't proud of it; I was ashamed and embarrassed. I thought looking strong meant I looked like, a "guy."
Before getting pregnant, I still had a pretty athletic figure. I wish I could say it was due to lots of hard work and eating well, but that would be a lie. Its a combination of genetics and being a collegiate athlete. I was coming off four years playing college basketball, so I was in pretty decent shape.
To kick off my pregnancy, I was very sick in my first trimester and a half. I couldn't keep anything down, and just about everything grossed me out. I was put on a daily regimen of Diclegis to get my nausea and vomiting under control. I lost 7 pounds in my first trimester. I quickly gained it back. My stomach grew rapidly, but my skin seemed like it didn't. It always felt like a balloon about to pop. It itched all the time, and there were times I scratched so hard I would break the skin. I had stretch marks everywhere.
Fast-forward to the day I gave birth, weighing 206lbs. I gained almost 60lbs. I knew my body was going to change throughout my pregnancy, but somehow I had this idea in my head that it wasn't going to be as drastic of a change as it was, I was so wrong. Once I got home from the hospital, I was still very swollen all over, and I still looked about six months pregnant. I knew that my stomach wouldn't be completely flat after giving birth, but I didn't expect to still look pregnant. Weeks later my stomach was still nowhere near flat, but it was much smaller. I carried a lot of weight in my back and thighs, weight I was I wasn't used to carrying. By the time I went back to my doctor to have my staples removed, I weighed 180lbs, I was happy to lose weight, but I still wasn't happy about the way my body looked. My boobs looked like old water balloons, my stomach looked like a car accident, and none of my clothes fit. I knew it would take time.
It took my belly for almost two months for the swelling to go all the way down. At three months postpartum my belly was still there, I was breastfeeding and pumping like crazy, and my appetite was insane. Eating everything in sight was what I did. I dove into mommy mode right away, not even cautious of the what I was eating. Thankfully the magic of making milk and burning calories saved me from not holding on to a lot more weight than I should have.
When I finally got cleared from my OB to return to physical activity and felt decent enough to leave the house, I would go on walks. Daily walks guaranteed me two things, 3o minutes of silence and my damn sanity. A few weeks went by and I joined a gym with one of my close friends. My goal initially was to do as much cardio as possible and burn the most possible calories. I'd run on the treadmill with a long sleeve shirt, leggings, and a sweatshirt (I thought, the more I sweat, the more weight I'm loosing ). I would spend hours going back and forth from the treadmill, Stairmaster, and the elliptical about 4-5 times a week. Within a few weeks I started to notice a difference. The skin on my stomach got a little tighter but it was still mushy and full of wrinkles.
I gradually reduced my cardio and started doing more weight training. That's when I began to see the real changes. Everything started to tighten back up (not like it was before), and not only was my body starting to change, so did my attitude. I looked forward to working out and the boost of energy I got afterwards. Yes, I still did it with the hopes of transforming my body, but I also did it because it made me feel good and I could.
My reality is that before I got pregnant, I was in pretty good shape. My body fat percentage was within a healthy range, boobs that sat up on their own, and pretty clear skin.
After pregnancy, I have a mom pooch, wider rib cage, wider hips, permanent dark circles, sandbags for boobs, and hormonal acne. Now, I am not saying this to throw a pity party for myself or fish for compliments, its the truth. Childbirth is a trauma to the body. My body has changed in ways I never thought possible, and that is okay. With everything that could go wrong during and after childbirth, especially as black women, leaving the hospital alive and healthy is a blessing in itself, so I can deal with pair of saggy tits and loose skin. The rate of which black women are dying due to maternal health/childbirth is alarming. So many women of color go to the hospital to deliver their babies, not being taken seriously when they have health concerns of their own, and never leave the hospital. Just look at what happened to Serena Williams, she almost died.
I've learned what's important, and it's not to "snapback" after having a baby or two. Once I learned to see my body for more than just what it looks like physically, I stopped putting myself down about the things I cannot change about it. Now, when I'm staring at myself in the mirror I know longer pick myself apart. I'm at peace with what I see and all the physical reminders of what my body has done. For me, it was motherhood that started my whole "body positive" journey. After carrying two full-term babies at the same time, and then laboring for 18+ hours, and breastfeeding two babies for months has made me appreciate my body more than I have ever before. I see myself in a completely different light than I used to. I spent most of my life not liking my body and thinking awful things about it, and now I could care less. Whether you "bounce" back or not, everyone deserves to be body positive. It's not about how much weight you lose or how well you eat. The truth is that no amount of dieting or working out can reverse the changes pregnancy and childbirth has made on your body. Our bodies can do so much, and you don't have to have had a baby to know that. Whenever I start to not to feel good about myself, I make a mental checklist of everything I am grateful for my body for. At the top of my list, I immediately think about my healthy pregnancy and having my babies. Then, not too far behind, I think about; my health, my ability to still be agile, my ability to run, my strength to walk around with two 35lb babies on my hips all day, and so on.
Embracing the change
Maybe your boobs will never sit up the same way and and your wider hips won't allow you to wear your pre pregnancy jeans no matter how many carbs you don't eat or how long you can run on the treadmill. Whatever IT is, embrace it. Like come on, what good does it do to sit there and mope about it. My stretch marks are here to stay, so why would I sit around thinking about how that won't change. I am not saying this because I believe you cannot lose weight and become your best self, but you have to keeping looking forward because your body will never be the exact same. Our bodies were meant for change, and that's a sign of growth. It's important as mother and a teacher that I model body positivity. Embrace the change. Embrace the growth. Embrace everything you're body is capable of.
Body Positive Tips- Postpartum
These are a few tricks I used to stay body positive on a daily basis:
1. Throw away your scale. I hate personally hate the scale, it can only monitor your weight. It cannot keep track of your overall body composition.
2. If you no longer feel good about yourself when you put on those clothes you've had since college, throw them away. They'll do nothing but haunt you of the fact that you are not chick anymore. LOL.
3. Be kind to yourself. No one is perfect, accept that and be good to yourself anyway.
4. Remind your self that thinking negative about your body will not change anything.
5. Stop thinking you have to look how you did 5-10 years ago. Appreciate the body you have in the present.