This is a comment about my experience. I’m not complaining, really, just adding to the range and variety that have already been posted to this site.
I’m 32, the mother of 2 kids, the youngest of which is 6. I was a stay-at-home mom until the youngest was 2, and I breastfed on demand until the baby decided to stop. I spent about 5 or 6 years in a row pregnant and/or breastfeeding. My experience wasn’t unusual, as far as I can tell – either unusually positive or negative. I had no real complications, no breast infections. I had practically no sex drive during this period. My first baby was demanding and exhausting. I wore loose shirts and no bra while I was nursing, because it was more convenient that way – nothing to fiddle with when the baby was hungry or fussy, and easy to nurse in public. So I put up with wet spots of my shirt, smelling vaguely sour during the infancy periods, when I leaked, and being somewhat frumpy. In the best of times, I didn’t care much about how I looked or dressed, I wore what fit and what was practical. Besides, with a baby in a sling or backpack, I knew I wasn’t the height of fashion anyway!
My breasts varied radically. Sometimes, they were full and engorged, very round and hard, and other times they were quite loose and floppy. It just depended on when I had last nursed, and how much. On average, they were size D during this time. Since weaning, I have worn a bra, and my breasts have gone back to their normal size C. When I’m standing upright, they are not that droopy – I think I have lost much of the extra skin from there. Maybe wearing a bra has helped in that regard.
Right around the time my youngest was losing interest in nursing, I was starting to want my old body back. My weight had settled around 20 pounds above what it had been before I got pregnant the first time, and I was starting to feel quite frumpy. But I didn’t really do much to lose weight until this year, when I got sick from food poisoning and lost 7 pounds without thinking about it! I have about 5 pounds to go to get back to my preferred weight, but I’m not trying very hard anymore because I’m pretty satisfied with how I look and feel. I’m just trying to eat reasonably well and get exercise.
I’m 5’2″, and weighed around 110 before I got pregnant. I weigh about 118 right now. I have a picture of myself at the end of my last pregnancy and it’s painful to look at. My baby was 10 lbs, and 21 inches long. I was huge. I had to move the driver’s seat backwards a notch in order to be able to fit behind the steering wheel, and then stretch to reach the pedals! I think mostly when I look at that picture I remember how uncomfortable it was those last few weeks, and I remember my labor (which was a difficult natural birth, but no stitches required – woo hoo!).
Well, here’s my pictures. The first two are of my belly, with me on my hands and knees. Something that surprised me about being a mother is how long it’s taken for the extra skin on my belly to go away. It has slowly gone away, and the stretch marks have faded a bit. But I think that I’m still carrying extra fat which is why I think I still need to lose another 5 lbs or so. When I eat, my belly is noticeably bigger, especially if I’ve eaten more than one large meal in a row. When I do Pilates, I can see my muscles, and I like the sensation that I’m getting stronger. I didn’t take a picture of my breasts, but in this position, they dangle somewhat loosely and I don’t like the way they look (but my husband likes it, so I guess I can’t complain).
The first picture I took with the camera near my chin. When I’m on my hands and knees, it’s what I see if I look along my torso. I feel really self-conscious about how my belly just dangles like that. The crease in the middle results from (I guess) connective tissue and my belly button attaching my skin to my insides.
The second picture is what I look like from the side. It really isn’t so bad. I don’t have to feel *that* self-conscious around my husband :)
The third picture is me clothed. In the last year or so, I’ve enjoyed dressing more nicely than I have before. Maybe it keeps me from feeling so old, I’m not sure.
I said before that I wanted my old body back. Well, I know I won’t ever really get it back. My hips are wider, but I guess that’s ok since curves are good, right? I think my thighs will always be thicker that I want, and I’m afraid I will always have this belly. I don’t mind the stretch marks at all, and I feel much more comfortable with my body knowing that it helped both my kids be healthy and strong. As I think about it now, I realize that I started the path to understanding and accepting my body way back when I learned how to do NFP (which has been a very effective birth control method for us). Natural childbirth helped a lot, too. It made me feel strong and capable, like I could trust myself. These days, when I say I want to lose weight, it’s not because I want to be thin, it’s mostly because I want to feel healthy and energetic again. It represents freedom and empowerment to me.