Last night I was sitting on the couch with a fussy baby on my breast. Scrolling through the many options on Netflix, I was hoping to find something humorous that I didn’t have to 100% pay attention to and still follow. I settled on the movie I Feel Pretty starring Amy Schumer.
The movie had a lot of laughs, but it also got me thinking about body imaging and how social media, shows, celebrities all affect our confidence and body image. It can be so toxic.
Amy Schumer may not have the ideal body that advertising and Instagram pushes, but she is not outside of the norm for so many of us. Her body is relatable to so many, and it is beautiful. Yet, this movie made it seem as though we should laugh at her having confidence in a body that isn’t the typical hour-glass figure society wants us all to strive for.
Every day is a battle for women to cling to confidence and not to succumb to what the world around us tells us is beautiful. As a woman, and as a mother to a baby girl, I find the very thought of beauty terrifying. I know that somewhere down the line I am going to have to wipe tears from under my daughter’s eyes because she may not fall into the category of beautiful every outlet out there pushes at women.
Pre-Pregnancy I was skinny.
My body was athletic and thin. I often had women ask me if I ate, or what my secret was. Both were equally frustrating questions. We are hardwired to crave smaller bodies, to want curves with minimal fat, wide-set hips, a full bottom and heavy breasts. Passive aggressive comments are made to those people we find too heavy, and people we find too thin. There really is no winning, and it’s shameful the way we, as a society, make women feel.
Despite having a small waist, and being thin, I still didn’t have confidence in my body. I often would have people walk up to me, especially older women, and wrap their hands around my waist, commenting on how thin I was. They would comment when they hugged me, at the size of my clothes “Did you buy that in the kid’s section?” no matter where I turned, there was always someone commenting on my body in one way or another. In some ways, being skinny is worse to someone who doesn’t have high self-esteem or confidence in their body because it is somehow more acceptable for people to comment on how thin and skinny people are as opposed to people with a larger body type. If you aren’t confident in your body, there are people reminding you of it every single day, as those comments are completely acceptable.
Pre-pregnancy I struggled to maintain my weight. I have an over-active thyroid and because of that, if there were days when I didn’t eat as much as I should have I felt as though I could see that on my body, that I could feel it in my energy and how I went through my day.
When I got pregnant, weight was definitely something I worried about. I worried whether I would be able to put on the weight my baby needed. Whether my baby would get enough nutrition or whether I would be on all sorts of supplements to help me through this important time in my life. I was lucky to gain all the weight needed, and then some.
I gained weight slowly in the beginning. Through the first five months of my pregnancy there was no one that knew I was pregnant. I kept it to myself for two major reasons. The first reason was because I thought it was a nice bond that was being built between my husband and I. Having this secret between us, such a happy secret, really pulled us closer together. The other reason was that I knew the comments I would get. People telling me I was too thin and not putting on the weight I needed to be in those early stages of my pregnancy. I didn’t need the judgements of others adding onto the anxieties I already had.
For whatever reason, the outside world gets to have all these opinions about women’s bodies.
During pregnancy, if you weren’t the kind of person that radiated confidence before, chances are, your confidence levels are going to drop. I think the main reason for all of this is because of the major changes your body goes through and with each change that happens there is one questions that repeats itself in the back of your mind, over and over and over.
“Is this normal?”
The problem with this question is that we all put ourselves in these comparison columns where we compare every change to other women we know or see that are going through the same thing forgetting the most important fact: we may be going through the same thing, but we are not the same.
Every single woman is different. Even my sister and I who only have two years separating us, are as different as can be. Night and day. As were our pregnancy experiences. As are our body types, and body images.
It’s important to keep reminding yourself that there is no normal, just what is normal for you.
My body went through a lot of changes during my pregnancy, and my confidence went through changes right along with it. At the beginning, I felt my body was still mine. Sure, I was nauseous all the time, but outside of that, I still looked like me.
My confidence was as it always was. Not the greatest, but still there at times. I kept wondering when I would start to show. When would I finally get breasts, something I had always been lacking in my life? When would I get a little bump? Would I balloon out of control? Something my sister said she did although I always thought she gained weight normally. Or would I stay more myself? I had so many questions at the beginning and as much as we don’t want to admit it, a lot of our confidence as women is tied to what we look like and our bodies.
At 28 weeks I was probably my most confident. I had the bump I wanted, my breasts were looking pretty nice if I do say so myself, and I had gained a good amount of weight. My doctor was happy with my progress, and that made me happy. In the back of my mind, I was still a little worried I would get a lot of stretch marks. My sister had a lot, she had them on her belly, on her breasts, on her arms, she even got them behind her knees. My sister has a lighter complexion than me, more pale like my mother so her stretch marks were angry and red. I remember that being something I worried about a lot in the beginning. Would I get those?
I worried whether my body would be so changed after becoming a mom that it would shatter the small amount of confidence I had. Or would my post-pregnancy body make me see myself the way Amy Schumer’s character saw herself after she hit her head during a spin class?
I took a photo of myself right before heading to the hospital to deliver. Towards the end of my pregnancy I was too exhausted for confidence to even register in my brain. My feet were swollen, none of my clothes fit, I had a lot more discharge, I was tired, hungry…. if I had confidence, or a lack there of, it was a mystery to me.
In the days that followed I was exhausted, sore, and uncomfortable but bigger than all of that was my happiness. I was a mom, I couldn’t believe it. I was also amazed at how quickly my stomach shrunk while breastfeeding. I forced myself to take a postpartum photo.
Today I have been a mom for 2 months and 10 days. My weight seems to stay at 130lbs which I am happy with since my goal weight pre-pregnancy was 125lbs. I look more like myself but have extra weight in the places I always wanted.
So how is my confidence?
It goes up and down.
The skin on my stomach is darker than the rest from stretching to accommodate my baby. The skin, although shrinking back, is looser than I am used to and honestly I struggle with accepting this. I don’t need it to go back to what it was, I just… if I’m being honest I’m not entirely sure what I want or need for my confidence to build up to a place where it doesn’t negatively affect my happiness.
It’s a journey and I’m finding my way. Hopefully I figure it out soon. The grey weather is also weighing on me a bit. I’d love to just be out enjoying my new mommy life but feel a bit restricted.
For any new moms reading this or mommies to be, just know that you are beautiful and we are all amazing! Everything else we will figure out as we go.