Rachel Sara Safer is a fashion blogger who shares her experiences with modesty and motherhood @modestisthenewblack on Instagram. I invited her to write about her experiences with body image pre and post baby. In all of these photos she is wearing The Origami Dress in Sorbet.
Body image is a very funny thing, at least for me. I’m an average woman who some days feels super confident in how I appear and other days I don’t want anyone looking my way. After bringing my son, AY, into the world I am in complete awe of what my body created and all the ways it’s changed to accommodate him. On the other hand, those changes have also contributed to the many days I feel ‘ugly’.
Pregnancy is a wonderful thing. My body was creating life! Bones, organs, & limbs were created from scratch inside of me. The beginning of my pregnancy, months 1-5, I felt amazing. I was nauseous all the time, but very confident in how I looked. All the right places were shaping out and my belly was still my belly. I was able to hide my precious little boy from the world still and fit into all the outfits I loved to wear. The only thing I needed to change were my bras, and it’s rare you hear women complaining of needing to size up! Then that awkward in between stage came and people were looking at me like “is she getting fat because of corona quarantine or is she pregnant?”. What made it worse was when those people who have no boundaries asked before we were even sharing. I didn’t want to jinx my pregnancy and say I wasn’t- but I also didn’t want to share that I was. Something I so badly wanted to do then was suck in my stomach- but it wasn’t soft and malleable anymore, so spanx wouldn’t have helped. It was firm and growing because my baby was growing. It was a wonderful thing but I couldn’t help but feel so ugly when I looked in the mirror.
Then I popped! I loved my belly and all the little signs of life moving around inside! However, with a growing belly you have the stretch marks to go with it. I was starting to feel like I belonged in Carol Baskin’s tiger sanctuary. They began to cover my lower back, hips, thighs & my belly last. That was a difficult thing to learn to love. Some days I looked at them thinking they’re really cool battle scars from entering motherhood and other days I wished entering motherhood appeared a little more discrete on my body. Towards the end of my second trimester I started to swell a lot in my legs, hands, and face. I looked big and felt big. I cried a lot during this time. I couldn’t reach my toes and each doctor’s appointment I had to hear how much more I gained since the last visit. About fifty pounds total! I never was one who looked at the number on the scale but suddenly it was all about the number! What made it all worse was the comments of “How much have you gained?” “Is that normal?” “Are you eating healthy?” “You should walk more.” - nobody realizing that when extra hormones are added into my body, my body reacts by puffing up. Other great comments that really made me have a good cry in the shower were “Are you sure you aren’t having twins? You’re huge!” “Wow! I can’t believe how big you are!” “Don’t worry, after the baby if you get moving right away you’ll go back to your beautiful self.” Thank you, Karen. That’s exactly what I needed to hear to feel beautiful in my own skin.
Postpartum isn’t exactly the greatest time in a woman’s life- especially when it comes to body image. I remember so vividly after the nurses took my son to clean him off, I placed my hands down where my belly was and they just dropped. My belly wasn’t there and neither was my pre-pregnancy belly. A soft and deflated version of my stomach had taken over the place my son’s home for 9 months had been. My extremely convenient arm rest was gone. It was so weird for me. In the hospital I hadn’t really gotten a look at my body. If I had a moment or the energy to look in a mirror- I was only able to see from my chest and up. I knew everything below the belt felt horrible and I wasn’t trying to see how it all looked. I got home 2 days postpartum and took a quick glance at myself. Frizzy hair, nursing bra, mesh underwear. The most attractive version of myself I have ever seen! NOT. After that for a good two weeks everything was an exhausting and uncomfortable blur. The only time I saw my stomach was in the shower looking down at it- never really in the reflection of the mirror. I can say it was because I didn’t have time- but truthfully I was scared of what I’d see. I felt sad at how deflated my stomach looked. My stretch marks looked like they covered more surface area of my stomach than they did when I was pregnant. My stomach was soft and loose. I didn’t feel confident. It was hard. I tried to catch my negative thoughts before they got too mean and replace them with kindness and understanding. My body created a life and is recovering now- that’s beautiful. However, the beauty is harder to see most days. I was still swollen for a good week-10 days after I gave birth. My legs finally went back down to their normal size right after my sons bris- go figure! My face has its moments of looking more swollen and not. Truthfully that’s dependent if I have time to drink enough water or not each day.
I think body image is something that is always changing for me. I don’t particularly feel ugly most days postpartum because I didn’t expect to look my best. I was warned your belly still will look sorta pregnant and sorta not. The days I feel the worst are when I get comments from people that just don’t think before the speak. For example, I felt so ugly after a lady said “Rachel! Wow! You should get those postpartum belly bands. It would help flatten your stomach & you WOULD look so amazing IF you used one.” THANK. YOU. KAREN!!!!
But then you have days where you feel happy and content in your skin and thankful for what your body can do.
My advice is to take it day by day! And when you encounter a Karen, because you inevitably will, have yourself a good cry or dance it out and keep on keeping