A couple years ago, I approached Bonnie Crowder, the founder of the female body acceptance website, Shape of A Mother. If you haven’t checked it out, please do. Women submit photos of what they look like after having children and seeing the diversity in body shapes and sizes gave me incredible confidence after I became a mom. I wanted to interview her for my first book, then focused on everything pertaining to young motherhood. When the book topic got switched around to focus instead on just careers, I held on to the interview for later.
Well, I don’t want to hold it any longer because it’s really good stuff. It’s still as valid to me as it was when she spoke two years ago. Check it out:
YML: Young mothers visit SOAM frequently, and some are thrilled with their new postpartum bodies and some are not. What is the first thing you would say to a young mom who is having a hard time coming to terms with how her post-baby body looks?
Crowder: The thing I wish most in the world for young people is to be able to see the world with old eyes. Age, experience and the opportunity to be exposed to many things over time gives one a better sense of what a body should look like and what beauty is. We are never alone in our struggles and how a body changes after a pregnancy is completely normal. I think young moms tend to have less exposure to this normalcy than the rest of us (and even then, we don’t have nearly enough). I imagine it must be incredibly difficult when your friends all still have their youthful bodies while yours is the body of a mother, but I promise you that you are simply one step ahead of them, someday most of them will become mothers as well. Make the CHOICE to see the beauty in a mother’s body. It’s not the easiest road, but it can be done!
YML: What are three things a young mom can do to become more comfortable in her new body? (For example, don’t worry about clothing sizes, exercise to relieve stress, don’t be afraid to be naked, etc.)
Crowder: The first thing that I personally feel needs to be done is to stop verbally abusing yourself. Just stop. Even if you can’t find good things to say about yourself just yet at the very least stop abusing yourself out loud and internally. You will be amazed at what a difference this small step can make.
From there I would recommend to begin complimenting yourself. Point out to yourself that your bum looks really hot in those jeans, or that the color red really makes your skin glow. Soon you will begin believing yourself and feeling better about how you look. I try to speak to myself as though a kind friend is speaking to me, or how I’d speak to someone I care about. I would never insult a friend, I’d find a way to make them feel good. We deserve to treat ourselves as we treat our friends.
Another thing that’s helped me is people watching. I’ve always admired watching dancers, not only for their grace and beauty, but because I get to see such a wide variety of body shapes – and each of them strong and fit because of the very nature of what they are being used for. Some dancers have curvy bodies, some are very thin, and others are thick with muscles. But very few fit this idea of beauty that pervades magazine covers. After watching dancers, I find myself more attracted to the ones that fall outside this idea of what is conventionally beautiful, and I begin to see how much beauty diversity truly holds.
It is possible to consciously change your feelings about certain body parts. For instance, with stretch marks on your belly, gently run your fingers over them and remember how it felt to have your baby moving from the inside, turning and kicking. By choosing to remember good things, you can create positive associations with these things that are left long after your babies run off to school, or to college, or to a home of their own. These things can be a blessing, a way to always remember these tender moments.
YML: What advice would you give a young mother who constantly compares her post-baby body to those of her childless peers?
Crowder: Try imagining how you would want a daughter of yours to think about herself. Give her advice to help her understand what you want for her. Now follow your own advice. Would you want your daughter to compare herself against others? Or would you want her to understand that she is simply who she is and that she is beautiful just as she is? There is nothing positive to be gained from comparing yourself to anyone in any way, because you are uniquely YOU, and, frankly, life is too short to focus our intents on things which produce negativity. Too many women say they wished they appreciated themselves while they were young. I want more women to be able to say, “I’ve loved myself since my youth.” Perhaps that can begin with you.
The ancient women spoke of three phases in a woman’s life: maiden, mother, and crone. Becoming a mother changes you internally, in ways a maiden cannot comprehend, and your body reflects that. You hold more wisdom now. Because our society does not value or cultivate wisdom, we are made to believe we must look like maidens forever if we are to be valuable. In truth, each stage of a woman’s life is valuable for what it is. Be proud that you hold the wisdom of motherhood, your new body is simply an external expression of that wisdom. And that is beautiful.