When new mums take to social media to share images of their postpartum bodies, we’re often bracing ourselves, expecting pregnancy-and-birth-defying shots of miraculously flat bellies or ‘enviable’ thigh gap.
Maybe you’ve encountered these posts online?
Apparently #blessed mums who’ve bounced back to their pre-pregnancy shape within days and even managed skinny jeans and the kind of pretty, shiny hairdo that would be right at home on one of the The Bachelor ladies. It’s a LOT.
It’s not just social media promoting post-pregnancy perfection. The tabloids also love to feature women who are the postpartum exception, rather than the rule, complete with invasive pics that feature captions with words like “flaunts” and “showcases”.
This focus on looking like we haven’t given birth, as quickly as possible is making life miserable for women who may already be struggling with exhaustion, anxiety or postnatal depression.
It’s a commercially driven, like-getting, click-baiting strategy that’s giving mums unfounded reasons to dislike themselves and pushing women into isolation, worried that they are not “the norm”.
Mums who are blearily, boobily coming to terms with the shock of birth, various leaky body bits and the often gruelling demands of this new, newborn life, are left feeling all kinds of pressure to measure up to a tricky perfect mum prototype.
The pressure is unrelenting and unfair.
A different story
Even when women have miraculously grown and delivered a whole human (or two, or three!) into the world, there’s still subtle pressure to be more, to do it all in skinny, sexy, pretty, fashion-forward style. Ugh.
Luckily, the winds of change are in the air.
A push towards a more diverse depiction of post-baby bods, feelings and experiences is rolling out on platforms like Instagram and it can’t come soon enough, as far as we’re concerned.
Not every mum is seeking to realise the purported “yummy mummy” ideal. There’s a growing contingent of women who are eager to depict those postpartum days in a more vulnerable and realistic way.
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…..we are only 20 hours in, but we are making it ❤️ #postpartum #belly #thisisbirth #melbournedocumentaryphotographer #melbourne #melbournebirthphotographer #melbournebirth #birth @birthbecomesher @birthwithoutfear @thebirthhour @birthphotography_australia @birthofamama @carriagehousebirth @melissajeanbabies
Take ace Melbourne photographer and mum Lacey Barratt, for instance. She’s the kind of quiet activist the world really needs.
Not only did she share a beautiful, fragile and realistic image of herself after the birth of her baby, she revealed her postpartum experience so openly that she caught herself by surprise.
“…..we are only 20 hours in, but we are making it,” Lacey captioned the image, uploaded to Instagram a few days ago.
Faced with herself
She followed it up with a post on Facebook, explaining that when she looked at the photo again after a friend had asked whether she was doing okay, she saw all the difficulty, fragility and strength of her mum experience reflected back at her.
“I took another look at it. I *saw* my soul. In a picture. I cried. I didn’t want to look at it anymore. I saw a woman standing next to her birth affirmation bunting less than 24 hours post birth…and she wasn’t babymooning. I saw a woman who felt like after 4 biological births in 5 years and 5 children total, that this was her job. Like she was good for nothing else other than birthing babies. Like she is just going through the process. Pregnant, birth, postpartum, baby cries, boob baby, baby poops, change baby, raise baby….just going through the motions. There was no attachment. It looks like someone just dumped a baby in my arms. I feel no warmth when I look at this. Then, I felt guilty. I felt vulnerable. And I debated if I wanted to share,” Lacey posted.
We’re so glad she did. Not only is it comforting to realise that other women have confusing and complex feelings after the birth of their baby, that it’s not always peachy, it’s important to see that skinny jeans and pretty hair are not the only kind of post-baby experience.
In sharing a photo of her totally gorgeous, slightly battle-weary postpartum body. In showing us this exhausted, overwhelmed, in-love expression, she is her own kind of perfect, and that’s what everyone should be aiming for.
We’re all in this together
Lots of other mums sighed with relief and commented in solidarity.
“The stories I have received from sharing these image is a strong reminder that I am not alone, and I am very normal. So for my pp mama’s out there, don’t be discouraged. You are not alone and you are doing f*cking fabulous,” Lacey wrote.
We’re not saying that post-baby skinny jeans and pretty hair are something to be scoffed at or universally rejected. What we are saying is that they’re not everyone’s ideal or goal, and that we need to see a more diverse range of postpartum bodies and experiences, to reassure women that in this moment, they are perfect (and powerful) just as they are.
If you’re struggling with body image and accepting your amazing self, we can highly recommend the film Embrace as a great starting point to rethinking your approach.