So that’s me, right above these words in my bikini. Yep, I’m throwing caution to the wind and plastering my image across this little online space, something I can’t say I had planned to do up until maybe a week ago. What changed my mind and motivated me to share my post partum bod with the interwebs? A little thing called The 4th Trimester Bodies project.
I’d never heard of it until last week when something related to it popped up in my newsfeed and I was intrigued. I clicked over to the site (you can find it HERE) and had a good mosey around. While you can pop on over yourself and check it out properly, I’ll give you a bare bones rundown. The 4th Trimester Bodies Project is the brainchild of photographer and mother Ashlee and her desire to accurately represent what the post partum body looks like to and for a variety of different women. It was tagline for the project however which really got me; this project is dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent in the changes brought to our bodies by motherhood, childbirth and breastfeeding.
Something about seeing the photos posted on on the site and reading the stories that accompanied them really got into my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and I guess more deeply, what my own perceptions of my body were these days. Had I embraced the changes that 9 months of pregnancy, birth and 6 months of breastfeeding brought?
I find it hard to sum up the relationship I have with my own body as it’s certainly changed over time. I was insanely sporty as a kid and teenager and as such, never worried much about my weight. As i rolled into teenage-hood properly, I had the opposite problem in that I was seen as being too skinny. My low bodyweight and a few genetic factors meant that I ended up with a condition where the bottom part of my sternum poked out. It was visible in cossies (which, as a swimmer and water polo player I spent a LOT of time in), and in singlet tops and t-shirts that didn’t have a pattern of logo on the front. I was extremely self conscious and can still remember the hours my wonderful mum would spend with me finding cossies that would detract away from my chest area and disguise the funny pokey outy bit.
When I was 15, I had the bone shaved down and part of it removed. A surgery that had become necessary due to discomfort and the risk that eventually I might encounter a ‘bone through the skin’ situation (eewwwww!). The surgery was done and I recovered quickly. I still have a small scar but it sits right beneath my bra line and is barely noticeable.
As I hit the later teenage years and my interest and participation in sport dwindled, my body changed again. This also coincided with me discovering alcohol and the joys of socialising past 10pm. I put on weight for the first time in my life, finally got boobs and discovered the angst that comes with not being happy with the way my body looked.
It would be a pattern that repeated itself pretty much through my early twenties and while I wouldn’t say I ever delved into disordered thinking, I swung between loathing and tolerating my body. There wasn’t much love. Just general tolerance. I always thought I could do with losing a few kilograms and tended to get stuck in the ‘If I just do XYZ then I’ll lose XYZ and all will be good in the world’ mindset. I’ve always fallen back on that way of thinking; once something changes THEN life will be perfect, and it was no different when it came to my body and how I looked.
I fell pregnant with Ollie a few weeks after getting married. The pre-wedding preparations had been epic. I think I was at the gym almost everyday and was eating meals that pretty much resembled what you’d see in the pages of Women’s Fitness magazine. I have no idea now what I weighed at my wedding but I felt pretty good, though still wondered if ‘my arms could have been a LITTLE more toned.’
While I was pretty active during pregnancy, I pretty much didn’t stop eating for 9 months. I was never weighed and didn’t have any issues with gaining too much but I reckon I would have had to of put on maybe 20 kilograms. My body changed again (and not just with the addition of an enormous bump). I got cellulite for the first time in my life. My bum and thighs increased in size. Everything seemed bigger. Despite that, I LOVED being pregnant and loved the fact that my body was growing a little life inside it.
Fast forward to the weeks and months after birth and while I was suprised to still be carrying my baby belly around for a short time, i seemed to lose weight quickly. I wasn’t looking after myself though and it definitely started to impact both my body and mental state. I reckon I probably went back to around my pre-pregnancy standard weight though I didn’t weigh myself. Things were different though and I felt as if my body had been completely transformed by pregnancy. 11 months after Ollie was born, I quit sugar which changed things again.
Mulling over where I’m at now was interesting. As I lazed on the balcony of our holiday cabin on Monday, clad in a bikini, I realised I’ve never worried less about how I look. I was a little stunned by that, I have to admit. I used to spend so much time worrying about exercise and what I was eating, primarily because of the potential impact it would have on how I looked. After having Ollie I was more concerned with whether my boobs would work properly. Fast forward a few months and it was all about learning to wear him, push a trolley and carry bags of shopping up three flights of stairs. I quit sugar primarily for the mental health benefits I was hoping to achieve. A decrease in anxiety was what I was looking for, not a change in dress size. I did catch myself zeroing in on my belly when I passed the multiple mirrors in our cabin but instead of the tirade of criticism I would have experienced three years ago, it was far more ‘meh, whatever’.
I’ve never posted shots of me in anything other than clothes before. Heck, my photos are usually cropped to take in the makeup or outfit that I’m wearing. But seeing the bravery displayed by the women taking part in The 4th Trimester Bodies Project inspired me to put my money where my mouth it and actually demonstrate the comfortable place I’m at with my body these days. It is slightly terrifying. Somehow, writing about my struggles with OCD, anxiety and depression were easy compared to shoving a few bikini clad pics onto a page which is quite ridiculous when you think about it!
So in the name of solidarity, in celebrating the miraculous feats my body has occurred, here I am! 20 months post partum!