Having kids later in life affected my postpartum body image in a positive way.One of the unexpected benefits of having my kids at 35 and 36 is fewer stretch marks. Since our bodies have less collagen and elastin as they age, our skin doesn’t have to fight as hard to stretch against a growing uterus. But as an older mom, I can tell you honestly that deeper and darker scars wouldn’t have bothered me much anyway.
Maybe it’s that I have bigger fish to fry with wrinkles and uneven skin tone in the much more visible areas like my face that I don’t sweat a few stretch marks and loose skin on my stomach or thighs. Or maybe I had a little more time with my pre-baby body that I was ready to leave her and my unhealthy body image behind.
I see post after post on social media where young women are struggling to love their postpartum bodies. They’re trying hard to fight the changes their bodies go through to bring life into this world and even harder to accept them. I find myself looking at these self conscious new moms and thinking, “how can you not love your body? It’s beautiful!”
But I remember my distorted, unhealthy body image throughout my teens and 20s and I relate. Nothing could have drawn my attention away from the physical changes at that age. There is definitely less pressure in your late thirties and early forties to bounce back and even less pressure to be something we’re not.We’re embracing these changes and showing them off like the hard-earned badges they are. Unapologetically dressing more comfortably, we’re not setting the bar lower, but confidently setting new trends. We have mom role models like Jennifer Garner and Reece Witherspoon to demonstrate that building a healthy lifestyle, healthy relationships, and healthy kids are a more fulfilling focus than the size and shape of our bodies.
Along with leaving unreasonable and unattainable body standards behind, we’ve left many superficial relationships with them.
I’m grateful to have a husband who hasn’t seemed to notice any changes in my physical appearance postpartum. A man who appreciates my body’s ability to keep up with two growing boys more than the ability to wear a size zero.
I’m also lucky enough to be surrounded by women who embrace fitness as more of a way to connect than compete. We share common workout goals that include stress relief, strength, and flexibility. Women I can sweat, laugh, and eat with. Women whose body confidence is more inspirational than six pack abs and worn with glamour and strength.
Grateful to have found my body positive tribe, I’ll admit I had to earn it from within in order to belong. I remember holding my colicky infant in the bathroom in front of our full length mirror, fan on and his favorite song playing on repeat. Swaying in tune to Somewhere Over the Rainbow, my eyes scanned my postpartum body with shame.
Pre-baby, I was fit. Washboard stomach, strong and lean from head to toe. It was her eyes that scrutinized every lump and bulge, cringing at the body whose mass filled out the bulky sweatshirt and stretched against extra large leggings.
But as my eyes explored upward, I caught the sight of my peacefully sleeping newborn on my shoulder. It not only filled me with peace, but also an overwhelming sense of victory. Relying on my brand new motherly instincts, I had solved the colic mystery, finding the exact combination of sensory puzzle pieces to soothe my son to sleep.
Then my eyes found my own face in the reflection. I looked as serene, content, and fulfilled as I felt. In that moment, I knew two things. One, that I had never looked more beautiful to myself than I had in my whole life. And two, that happiness and pride will always radiate more beauty than a number on a scale or a commercialistic ideal.
As women, part of us will always miss the body and skin of our youth, but not one of us would choose to go back to the uncertainty and self-consciousness connected to those years.
There are a number of reasons I’m personally glad to have started a family later in life. I’m more patient and financially stable. But I’m equally glad to be raising my kids in a phase of my life where my self-assurance is just as likely to pass on to them as my love of reading and the great outdoors.
A SAHM, Christine and her husband hope to instill their love of the outdoors in their two young sons by keeping busy outside. They can often be found walking their dogs, cheering on the Detroit Tigers, or enjoying play dates anywhere kids can expend large amounts of energy with minimal destruction of property. Christine is a contributor for the Mid-Michigan Mom’s Blog and has also been published on Motherly, Her View From Home, Scary Mommy and more.