Need to Learn to See Beauty in Myself (Anonymous)

I am 33 years old. I have been pregnant six times, and I’ve given birth to four fantastic children, ages 8, 5, 2, and 7 months.

I married my best friend straight out of college and got pregnant with our first child about two years later, the second month we tried. We were both in graduate school at the time, so our financial situation was not ideal, but we had planned the pregnancy and were very excited. Our first son was born shortly before my 25th birthday.

Growing up, I’d always been skinny and had never had any real body issues. My weight crept up in the years following high school, though, and I began my first pregnancy at the high end of what is considered healthy for my height. Looking back, I realize I was beautiful, but at the time, I just felt fat.

I gained 40 pounds with that pregnancy, much of which was water weight that was shed easily and quickly after giving birth. Twenty pounds stayed with me, though, as did the stretch marks that had made a fierce and furious appearance at around 36 weeks, long after I’d thought I’d dodged that bullet.

I had never seen anything like my stretch marks postpartum. My breasts and belly were covered in angry, purple stripes. I remember asking my dermatologist how I could get rid of them. She looked at me like I was crazy. I had become a mom and was finally learning one of the best-kept secrets about real women’s bodies.

It took me 18 months or so to lose the weight from my first pregnancy. My body was finally my own again, and I felt great! I began thinking of the stretch marks as momma tiger stripes, battle scars that showed just how well my body had grown and nourished my son.

We started trying for a second child shortly after I lost weight. Unfortunately, we were not as lucky this time, and I experienced two, consecutive, first-trimester miscarriages. The day I was to start Clomid in the hopes of attracting another sticky pregnancy, I found out I was pregnant for the fourth time.

I was so worried about losing another baby that I really didn’t worry much about how my body looked during that pregnancy. I was just happy to be pregnant! My body was working as it should; it was supporting another pregnancy.

My beautiful daughter was born when I was 28. She didn’t leave me with any new stretch marks, but she did encourage the old ones to crawl a tiny bit up my breasts and abdomen. My stripes, which had grown pale and silvery, were again tipped in purple.

My third child, another boy, was born three years later. In utero, he had always preferred one side over the other, and was born a full pound larger than my first two, so he left my belly lopsided. The apron of skin to which I had grown accustomed from my first pregnancy hung down further and more to one side than the other now.

When we conceived our fourth child, I weighed the most I’d ever weighed at the beginning of a pregnancy. My weight had always fluctuated quite a bit, but this was a maximum. I was embarrassed I’d let my body deteriorate, and I was worried about gaining even more.

My fourth child, and my third son, was born seven months ago. As big as I was when I carried him, he was my smallest baby, a few ounces shy of his oldest brother and sister.

I weigh more now than I’ve ever weighed without being pregnant. When I think back to the body I inhabited when I got pregnant with my first child, the change over these past nine years is astounding.

I’m starting to understand that I am done bearing children. I feel like I’ve been through a war, and I finally have time to stand back and survey the damage. This is the body I’m left with. It is the only one I will ever have, and it will never, never be the same.

I have stripes now, permanent stripes that mark where the skin on my belly stretched as my babies pulled it up over their bodies like a blanket. The muscles under these stripes have separated and become weak. My skin hangs, lopsided. I have breasts that hang too, breasts that have nursed babies for 59 months (and counting). Pendulous, striped breasts, with brown areolas where there used to be pink. My legs are bigger. My arms are bigger. I have a double chin, crow’s feet, and sprinkles of gray in my hair.

I wouldn’t change any of it, but at the same time, I can’t say I love my body. I see beauty in other women that I just don’t see in myself. I look in the mirror, and my body doesn’t reflect me. Staring back is someone who looks tired, someone whose physical transformation has left her with a body that is virtually unrecognizable.

I want my children to have a mother who loves her body. I just don’t know how. I want them – my daughter, especially – to grow up understanding that there is a wide range in what is beautiful. I want them not only to see beauty in others, but also beauty in themselves, every day of their lives.


9 thoughts on “Need to Learn to See Beauty in Myself (Anonymous)

  • Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    You are beautiful. Thanks for sharing your story. You are only seven months pp after six pregnancies! Give your body a bit of time to settle into itself. I can relate to how hard it is to accept your new shape, but I think you look wonderful. Congrats on four babies!

  • Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 8:18 pm

    What you have written is beautiful and poignant and touching. I hope that the self-love comes to you.

  • Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 4:36 am

    Last parragraph is amazing, it reflects the exact utopia that society should follow as a nature law: let´s make children to love themselves for what they are not for how they look like.
    Your womb brought up life, your entire body made that life to grow and to be. You just have to be proud, even if you don´t see what you want to see reflected in a mirror. You should be proud, girl.
    A big hug for you, beautiful mom.

    (Sorry for my english, by the way.)

  • Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 10:11 am

    I love this post. I’m 37 and have 3 children, and I totally relate to your feelings. You are lovely.

  • Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    It looks like you might be dealing with diastasis recti, and/or a functional imbalance between in your abdominal muscle, both which can be corrected with proper postpartum abdominal reconditioning.

    To re-flatten your abdomen and close your mid line, you need to first build strength (a lot) in you deepest muscle, your Transverse Abdominis, or TvA, then train the muscle to function properly as a stabilizer.

    Manual splinting of the Rectus Abdominis, with either a fitness band, or your hands, can be very helpful until you have enough internal strength and control.

    In the mean time, don’t do any exercises that flex/roll the upper body off the floor, or against the force of gravity as these movements will push your mid line further apart and increase abdominal wall bulging.

  • Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 3:09 pm

    I think you look like a beautiful mother,i think this is how natural normal mothers look like,don’t go for media images…those are superficial.Just eat healthy,work out a little,and be happy, trust me you are naturally beautiful.

  • Wednesday, January 27, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    Hello! I loved reading what you wrote. I’m actually 25 and in a year and a half my husband and I will be in graduate school. We have a three year old and are contemplating when to have another (and if it’s possible during this time in our lives, financially speaking). So, I loved reading about your lives together.
    You know, what I was thinking while I was reading was that my mother started out very thin, had two miscarriages and four children and in the end, she looked very similar to you, but larger with larger breasts and an overhanging tummy… but she never gave me any reason to hate my body. At times I was paranoid to become overweight–probably more from what my sisters said about themselves–but she never said anything negative about herself. I knew she wanted to be thin again, but she never said anything negative about her body. I think that’s what changed how I felt about myself. I saw her naked on numerous occasions–it was no secret what a woman SHOULD look like and CAN look like. I’m thankful to her for that.
    So if you never LOVE your body, you CAN respect it and I’m sure your daughter will absorb that self-love no matter what. No worries, my friend. :)

  • Monday, March 15, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Reading this made me cry. It is everything that I have been feeling since I gave birth to my fourth baby a year ago. Before that I loved the pregnacies. Now I feel softer than ever. With my first 2 I didn’t feel that self concious. I was still young. More active I guess. After the 3rd the weight didn’t come off like before, but that was o.k. I was done I had my 3 that I always imagined, 2 girls and 1 boy. I still felt good about my body. My husband couldn’t get enough. Then when my son was gonna be 4 years old I had a miscarriage and desperatly wanted another baby. The pregnancy felt differnt and I never felt good again. I struggle every day with what I think I should look likel. I have daughters that need their mother feel good about herself. I try to be happy with myself now. This is what giving life gives us. We just need to find a way to embrace these new curves, rolls, whatever we ended up with in the end.

  • Thursday, January 20, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    My stomach looks like yours I have had 3 babies too. I exercise like crazy and my upper stomach still sticks out. I am so proud of the way you speak about your body.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *