Bouncing Forward: What It Really Feels Like to Have a Post-Baby Body
If I could go back in time and give my pre-mommy self some advice, I would have a lot to say. It’s true that the last thing a new mother wants is another piece of unsolicited advice, but because this is advice for myself, I’ll let it slide and start with:
Sleep in. Past 7 a.m. Read books. In quiet. Wear high heels. Outside of date night. Wear silk shirts. White ones. Cook. Use complicated recipes that take all of Sunday. Run. Without pushing a stroller. Loiter in your favorite store. Without mitigating a tantrum. Volunteer. While spare time is still abundant. Travel without having to pack your entire house.
But — among all the advice I would give, there’s 1 piece that I would suggest most of all: Wear the bikini.
I’m fairly certain most mothers (and more magazine headlines than I care to contemplate) will tell you that after kids your body will be different. Not necessarily in a negative way, but just … different.
I’ve always considered myself to be someone with a healthy body image. I exercise and maintain a nutritious diet, but I am never one to turn down a good dessert or to stop at just 2 slices of pepperoni pizza. Before I had children, I felt good about my body. I wouldn’t say I was “skinny,” but I wasn’t overweight — just in-between.
However, there were still plenty of times as a woman in my mid-20s when I didn’t feel comfortable in my skin. I recall one specific time during a vacation with my now-husband, in Hawaii. I enjoyed more than my share of sugary piña coladas, buttery seafood pasta, and homemade banana bread from stands along the winding road to Hana. As someone whose weight tends to fluctuate constantly, I would say I was at the tippy-top end of my personal spectrum upon return. So, I didn’t exactly jump to share photos of the trip. Instead, I just filed them away.
Fast-forward 10 wonderful years full of unimaginable joy and wonder and 2 beautiful kids later, and boy has my opinion changed. One day, when rummaging through an old box of photos, I came across those Hawaii pictures. You know what? It turns out I looked pretty good. In fact, if I could wear that yellow bikini and look exactly the same, I would probably wear it around town with reckless abandon.
It’s not that I don’t feel good about my post-baby body. It provided the miracles of 20 tiny toes and countless face-tingling giggles. I have it to thank for awe-inspiring firsts, sweet bedtime cuddles, and smile-inducing miniature handprints on the sliding glass door.
It’s been a thrilling joyride indeed — an incredible one — but one that has also left a tiny interstate of stretch marks where smooth skin used to be and curves where there used to be straightaways. Things changed so much that it is often hard to look in the mirror and not long for the “old me.” With my family complete, I really want to feel confident again. So, I have decided to no longer look in my rearview mirror. I don’t want to “bounce back” as the magazines say.
Instead, I have decided to bounce forward.
Lately, I have been doing considerable research into plastic surgery for moms. I expected to find a variety of options for women like me. What took me by surprise was just how many women are in my same boat. According to statistics from the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, surgeons in U.S. performed some 160,000 tummy tuck procedures in 2013, an increase of more than 2% from the previous year.
As I also discovered, not only has the technology behind this and other procedures improved, but so has the overall attitude. It’s not just OK for moms to invest in their happiness and well-being after the sacrifice that comes along with pregnancy and childbirth; rather it’s totally common and widely acceptable. Many even proudly celebrate their transformations, known commonly as “mommy makeovers.”
In my search, I came across the website of Dr. Camille Cash, a double board-certified plastic surgeon in Houston (and mother of 3). In describing the mommy makeover, Dr. Cash says, “As a plastic surgeon and mother myself, I understand the difficulty many mothers face trying to return to their previous shape after having children. That’s why I am dedicated to empowering mothers to look and feel just the way they want through a mommy makeover.”
My favorite part about this? Five words: “just the way they want.” I am considering these natural-looking, empowering improvements myself. I want to still be me but to feel my very best. I want to be happy with my life and family, and also completely happy with myself. I know this choice isn’t for everyone, but just like my body, it’s mine.
Who knows? Maybe next summer, you can find me in Hawaii, with kids and husband in tow. I’ll be the one in the yellow bikini, sipping the piña colada.