Privilege over Pressure For the Postpartum Body

by Candace David, LPC, LCDC

Standing and looking at my reflection in the mirror, I remember thinking, “Well, that looks different.” 


I had given birth to my second child three hours prior and was now in my postpartum room. My beautiful little girl weighed 9lbs 8oz and was 21 inches long. I had carried her and created a safe environment for her to grow in and become a very healthy newborn! And yet, as my pregnancy progressed and my tummy grew and grew, so did my fears of what my postpartum body would look like. And so there I stood…hours after enduring natural childbirth and finally getting to meet my sweet little girl, I looked at my reflection and thought, “Wow…this looks different.” 


This photo is a perfect depiction of the reality of a postpartum body. So many women stand in their hospital bathroom and look at their reflection for the first time and see this body. A body that no longer has a child, but still looks pregnant. A body we don’t recognize. A body we weren’t expecting. Too often these bodies aren’t appreciated or celebrated. 


The pressure to be thin is real and everywhere. This pressure can be compounded following pregnancy. 


We want to be back in our pre-pregnancy clothes pronto and look and feel like we didn’t just carry around a baby for 9 months! This desire is affirmed by the comments that follow “Congratulations!” When people meet Baby and see Mommy again they say, “You look great Mommy!” or “You’ve already lost a lot of that baby weight!” or “Don’t worry, give it time, you’ll be back to normal soon.” 


If you think that’s bad, some things we tell ourselves sound like, “This is going to take a lot of work.” or “I look like I’m 5 months pregnant!” or “I’ll never get back to the way I looked before.” 


The burden felt when staring at the reflection your postpartum body can feel a lot like shame. The birth of a child is a time meant for celebration and yet, so often it’s coupled with mourning what our figure used to look like or the daunting realization that there are so many new stretch marks. 


Before you go down that road, take a second to think about what you’ve done. You’ve conceived, carried, and brought life into the world! The conception and birth of a child is nothing short of a miracle- and you got to play an integral role in it!


This isn’t necessarily a time to ask others to change their words or expectations. This is a time to ask ourselves if we’re worth it to change our inner thoughts or self-expectations. The answer is, yes. Take a look at that sweet baby, fiery toddler, curious child, exploring teen, or independent adult and remember that you played an integral role in their life becoming a reality.  Take a look at your postpartum body and appreciate and celebrate YOU. 


The pressure to be thin is real and everywhere. The privilege of being a mom, mommy, or momma can be greater than that pressure. 


You’re worth the change.

A very special “thank you” to Jayme Pierce (@piercejames) for giving us permission to share the photo from her empowering Instagram post of what a real postpartum body looks like. Jayme, we agree that you are a “bad-a$$” and we are grateful for bold, brave and beautiful women like you!

A very special “thank you” to Jayme Pierce (@piercejames) for giving us permission to share the photo from her empowering Instagram post of what a real postpartum body looks like. Jayme, we agree that you are a “bad-a$$” and we are grateful for bold, brave and beautiful women like you!