Mum’s photo of the trimester no one talks about: “I did it for me and for you”

Elise Raquel and family

“I wish that someone had told me what realistically might happen to my body and to my mind,” this great mum-of-three from Western Australia wrote, as she proudly shared an incredible shot of her very real, very beautiful postpartum belly on Instagram. 

My post labour photo has been shared a few times on the internet this past week. And although I received a huge amount of support and had so many mothers share their own postpartum stories, I also saw many people question my decision to share such a personal photo publicly on the internet. So I thought I'd explain why. When I was pregnant with Peyton I really had no idea what post birth was really like, and you don't fully understand until you actually have a baby! I was one of the first of my friends to get pregnant, so I didn't have that support group to ask all those TMI questions about pregnancy and birth. My doctor was more concerned about setting a medically unnecessary induction date rather than explaining to me what post birth would be like! No one told me the reality of the fourth trimester. I had no idea you could still look so pregnant even after giving birth. Everyone told me I was young, I would bounce straight back, and I believed them. Just like many women do, I too used to look up to the media, celebrities who would show off their supermodel like post baby bodies just weeks after giving birth! I thought thats how it would be for me too. So when I went home from hospital four days after giving birth, still looking six months pregnant, I thought I must have done something wrong. How come I didn't look like they did post baby? How come I didn't bounce back straight away like everyone said I would? How come it took me a year to fit back into my pre baby jeans? Well, because for many women, and for me, this post baby picture that was painted in my head just wasn't realistic! There's so much pressure from society and from ourselves to look a certain way post baby, but for many that's not the case, and that's ok! I posted that photo because I wish someone had posted a photo just like mine when I was pregnant. I wish that someone had told me what realistically might happen to my body and to my mind. The fourth trimester is such a taboo topic. I want other mums also walking in my shoes to know that they're not alone. That whatever their postpartum journey may be, it's ok, it's normal and it should always be priaised! I did it for me, for you and for her!

A post shared by Formerly eliseraquel (@raisingyoungloves) on

Bouncing back?

Instagrammer Elise Raquel is determined to reflect a broader view of postpartum bodies, at a time when we’re very often bombarded with images of women who have “bounced back” in the days and weeks after delivering.

While some women’s bodies resemble something close to their former selves fairly quickly, many women are slower to recover. More still are forever changed by carrying a baby. The reality is that women’s bodies and brains respond to the rigours of pregnancy and labour in very different ways.

Elise initially shared the image below on her Instagram account, after the birth of her baby Willa. The shot was taken a few hours after Willa’s birth, and Elise posted it because she wanted to share an authentic image of a postpartum body.

The response was overwhelmingly positive, but Elise says some commenters questioned the wisdom of sharing “such a personal photo publicly on the internet”. 

Let's talk postpartum bodies! I asked @belleverdiglionephotography to take this photo, just hours after giving birth to Willa, in my rawest and most vulnerable state. I was in pain and I was overcome by a flood of emotions. Elated to have welcomed our beautiful girl and so empowered and proud of what my body and I had just done! It's a strange feeling to look down and still see a bump, even though you're holding your baby in your arms, even after doing it three times. It's not easy to go home with a baby and still have to wear maternity clothes. With my first I was adamant I would just "bounce back". Everyone would say "you're young, you'll loose the baby weight in no time!" But you know what, I didn't, I never have in fact. With each baby I've gained a few more kilos and a few more stretch marks. I used to feel the need to cover up in this newborn stage, I didn't want to see my body in this state, so why would anyone else? It's taken me three babies, but I've finally realised this postpartum body isn't something to hide! I am beyond proud for what this body has given and sacralised. I am thankful that my body is able to carry and birth babies naturally. I am NOT ashamed of my (many) new stripes and my postpartum body. And neither should you! Let's celebrate postpartum bodies, in all their glory. The female body is incredible and I am so proud of what mine has done!

A post shared by Formerly eliseraquel (@raisingyoungloves) on

The fourth trimester

Elise knows that the personal is often political though. She’s keen to forgo her privacy for the greater good, to discuss – and normalise – the diverse range of shifts and changes women experience after birth. In fact, she’s followed up with another shot – and some further words on postpartum minds and bodies.

Elise feels the secrecy surrounding vulnerable and incredible postpartum bods is unnecessary and unhelpful.

“I wish that someone had told me what realistically might happen to my body and to my mind. The fourth trimester is such a taboo topic,” she wrote.

“No one told me the reality of the fourth trimester. I had no idea you could still look so pregnant even after giving birth. Everyone told me I was young, I would bounce straight back, and I believed them.”

Confidence blow

This great mum says her age coupled with some unrealistic media depiction of new mums, conspired to make her feel confused and demoralised.

“Just like many women do, I too used to look up to the media, celebrities who would show off their supermodel like post baby bodies just weeks after giving birth,” she said.” I thought thats how it would be for me too.”

“So when I went home from hospital four days after giving birth, still looking six months pregnant, I thought I must have done something wrong. How come I didn’t look like they did post baby? How come I didn’t bounce back straight away like everyone said I would? How come it took me a year to fit back into my pre baby jeans?”

Family is everything ❤️

A post shared by Formerly eliseraquel (@raisingyoungloves) on

Unrealistic and unhelpful

She quickly realised that the super mums the media often celebrates are often the exception, rather than the rule.

“For many women, and for me, this post baby picture that was painted in my head just wasn’t realistic! There’s so much pressure from society and from ourselves to look a certain way post baby, but for many that’s not the case, and that’s ok! ”

Elise hopes that by posting her “personal” postpartum photos, she can help other women realise that the body spectrum is varied and wonderful, and that whatever skin they’re in as new mums, it’s worth celebrating.

“I want other mums also walking in my shoes to know that they’re not alone. That whatever their postpartum journey may be, it’s ok, it’s normal and it should always be praised! I did it for me, for you and for her!”

Yes! This!

Other mums chimed in, sharing their own stories of having to familiarise themselves with their post-birth bodies.

“Oh yes so so very true, and that uncomfortable “empty” feeling while your organs slowly find their homes again,” one follower posted.

“I really needed to hear this. I am nearly 5 months postpartum and I still have a ways to go to fit into those pre baby jeans. You are beautiful, I am beautiful, all you mamas are beautiful,” another new mum wrote.

“12 months later and I still haven’t ‘bounced back’. I was so motivated early on and the the sleep deprivation and pure exhaustion hit and I would shove anything and everything into my face for that quick energy fix. Thank you Elise for being honest and real,” a tired mum shared.

You can read more of their comments here, on Elise’s post. Thank you for broaching such an important topic, so openly, Elise.

 

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