Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Body of a Mom

This morning on the radio I heard an advertisement for a plastic surgeon for specials on "Mommy Makeovers." The ad started with a woman who said that she had kids and she loves being a mom, but... even though she's back to her pre-pregnancy weight, her body just isn't the same as it was pre-kids. And she misses that body and wishes she had it again.

Completely typical, right? I'm sure just about every mom has felt that way--I know I have!

So this plastic surgeon is offering the "Mommy Makeovers" to get moms back their pre-kids body. He can make your breasts full/perky again, tuck that tummy, take away the stretch marks, lipo those saddlebags! Before you know it, you'll have the body of a 20 year old again!

While I'm sure that many women would love to have their "old" body back, I have a big problem with this whole concept. Mainly the idea that after having gone through pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding and all the other things we go through on the road of parenthood (specifically motherhood), our bodies aren't good enough, at least in the looks department.

After all that we've been through, should our bodies still look like we are in our early 20s, taut and firm, perky and full, slim and smooth? Is it a reasonable for mothers to think that when they are back to their pre-pregnancy weight (if they even get back to that weight) they should also be back to their pre-pregnancy form? And where does this expectation come from? From Hollywood, with the women who are able to hire personal trainers and plastic surgeons immediately after giving birth? From our society who has developed terms such as "first wives" and "trophy wives"? From other women who judge people by appearances?

I have before talked about how amazed I am at my body--what it can do/has done and how well it's been holding up after 33 years of wear and tear. And while my body was pretty rocking at 21, I don't ever expect it to look like that again. I wouldn't even want it to! That body at 21, it hadn't done what this body has done. It hadn't gotten pregnant or given birth. It hadn't nursed babies or worn them around in slings. It hadn't spent almost 3 years as a mother or almost 3 years prior to that just trying to conceive.

To eliminate the marks and changes, in my mind, would be to belittle not only the experience of becoming and being a mother, but also the natural order of the world, of humanity and of womanhood. Instead of turning to plastic surgery to try and recapture our inexperienced youth, we should be appreciative of the bodies we have and the way that women's bodies SHOULD look at this age and stage of our lives. We are still beautiful, and our bodies are amazing. We should be focused on that, not on what we once looked like.

Recently, Kate of The Big Piece of Cake wrote a post on DC Metro Moms about wearing a bathing suit now that she's a mom. My favorite line of that post is, "I look like somebody's mother. And it has set me free - free from that ridiculous egomaniacal fear of how my body is perceived." While I, like most women, still want to look good, be in shape and feel good about my body, I think it's so important to have realistic expectations of how we should look, especially once we've become mothers. Personally, I have also found that being somebody's mother is very freeing. But I think feeling this way is only possible when we have realistic expectations for our bodies.

Having said all that, some people still aren't going to be happy with their bodies the way they are, especially post-babies. If those people would feel better with a little tuck and lift, that's their choice and really none of my business. I just hope that we, men and women alike, realize and accept what a mom's body should look like: gorgeous and amazing, even with the scars, stretch marks, soft spots and sagging.


OneHappyCow said...

Check out www.theshapeofamother.com. Talk about freeing - and beautiful!

Anonymous said...

you must not have the extreme amount of stretch marks i have.i look like i was tortured by the military

Becoming Mommy said...

I will agree that the concept that you HAVE to look like you did before is abhorrant. With the work it did, it isn't and shouldnt.
However, the idea of marketing to women AFTER they are done having kids could be a good thing. If a different track was taken.
If a woman were to have had a physical quirk she always hated, but thought might be made less obvious by a post-babies-body she might put off some things till then. If it was still bothersome to her, she might decide then to go ahead and take action.
And that wouldn't be pushing women to perpetually look taut and perky.

hush said...

As with so many things in life, I think balance is the key - in this case a balanced approach to expectations. It's the extremes that are problematic. I have a neighbor who is a mother of 3 who just left for inpatient treatment for anorexia, so this has been on my mind. Long story short -her DH saw that her exercise anorexia was affecting the kids, and finally staged an intervention involving her parents coming in from out of state and told her "we get this treated or our marriage is over" - then made all the appointments. I can see how her illness arose from these awful societal expectations.

Karen said...

There are times when I cry over what I've become, and at those times my husband is quick to ask which kid I'd like to trade for the lack of stretch marks and return of perk. He makes a valid point.

Cloud said...

@hush- that is horrifying. That poor woman.

I miss exercise- mostly for how it makes me feel (less achy, more strong, more powerful), but also for how it makes me look. However, I have just had to come to terms with reality. I simply don't have time to really exercise right now. I will when the baby is a little older, but not right now. I know some women make the time, but I can't. There are other things that are more important to me.

I haven't really figured out what the mom me is going to look like, but I am 100% sure that I won't be using plastic surgery to get there. To me, it would be completely elective surgery and therefore not worth the risk. Now, if I had to have a mastectomy or were a burn survivor- I'd almost certainly feel differently. But for a flabby tummy or saggy breasts? Eh. Not worth it.

But that doesn't mean I won't worry about how I "look fat", etc.

However, I live in Southern California, where I pretty much never have the chance to hide behind bulky sweaters and coats. So I think I'd better just learn to be glad that I look like somebody's mother. Even if those other mothers I see around don't....

happenstance said...

I reckon if you started out looking like a model, motherhood can put a dent in your self image.. luckily, i wasn't very good looking to begin with : D

I think aging is a very beautiful thing.. the older i get, the happier, more content i become with the way things are... including the 2x c section scar that folds up on itself, the nipples that like staring at my feet, etc. I -really- do like not giving one flying fig what i look like in a crowd: feeling like i was on a show for strangers as a youthful woman was always very disturbing to me. Now, gray and heavyset and hauling 2 gallons of milk home in my 7 year old trenchcoat, no one gives me a literal second glance: AND I LOVE IT. If i looked like this 20 years ago, i'd feel horrid.. it's the age (and of course, the experience of motherhood!) that makes it all ok : )

Burgh Baby said...

I can't say I would cry if someone were to offer to rid me of the Chinese road map on my stomach. I very much so wouldn't because the amount of stretch marks that come from a nearly ten pound kid is. not. nice. But, I'm too lazy to take an active role in doing anything about them.

Geeks in Rome said...

It's true, it is freeing to not be a hot young thang getting stared at!

I always thought moms are best when they are soft and mushy -- what little child wants to be hugged and cuddled by some bony knobby waif!? I loved the warm enveloping strength my mom's ample lap and arms offered.

I like my post-births body. It is strong and sturdy and has done what no man has ever done before.

Two Shorten the Road said...

I just wish the girls didn't want to hang out down below my armpits.

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