There are a lot of things you give up when you become a mother. Freedom, spontaneity, sleep and drinking are just a few of the casualties. These are the sacrifices that mothers bond over at mothers’ groups; exchanging childbirth war stories and early mothering woes.
Once you’re initiated into motherhood, it’s perfectly acceptable to complain about the accompanying losses and life changes. But few openly discuss the changes that have occurred to them physically. You hear that “your body is never the same after childbirth” but you have no idea how much. Some bits get crinklier, some parts get more elastic and some parts take on a new form altogether but it’s best not to look “down there” unless you have to.
I accepted that my body would change with motherhood. There are some subtle changes and some not so subtle changes. A line here, a stretch mark there and a crinkly pouch are all “souvenirs” of my pregnancy. But perhaps the most upsetting physical change has been the noticeable loss of my breasts. And I am not talking reduction or sagginess; I am talking about a disappearance! Admittedly they were not voluptuous to begin with; they were petite in keeping with the rest of my body. But they were ample – a B+ or sometimes a C.
Never have I loved my body more than when I was breastfeeding. Sure, I acquired some stretch marks and horrible veins but those things didn’t bother me. I had boobs and I loved them! The cruel irony is that you don’t get to appreciate them fully when feeding. They are purposeful and you don’t really feel very sexy when in the full throes of lactation. Milk sprays are not a turn on.
I breastfed each of my three children for around 6-8 months and I enjoyed it immensely. But it’s now been over a year since I stopped feeding and what remains is not pretty. My breasts are gone and they are not coming back. While some may dismiss this as a first-world problem; a trivial complaint or a flippant worry, its impact on my self-esteem is significant.
You see, there is nothing I can do to change my shape. If you gain weight after pregnancy you have the ability to lose weight. It might not be easy but with hard work you can shed those extra kilos. My problem is the opposite. I can’t create fat, not naturally anyway.
People are very quick to compliment my figure and I often hear: “Don’t you look fantastic after having three kids.” They needn’t be envious though, because under the surface I don’t feel I look very good. When I try to participate in conversations about body changes after pregnancy my comments are dismissed. I am “skinny” and apparently I have no grounds for complaint. It seems that if you’ve gained weight you get a lot more understanding from those around you than if you’ve lost weight.
But I have unwillingly shed part of my femininity. Clothes now hang from me and there is no shape or remote opportunity for cleavage. Bathers shopping and bra shopping is horrendous. There simply isn’t enough “up” in “push up” to make an impression. I have no practical need to wear a bra; wearing one only to create the illusion of something underneath.
It’s important to remember that body image concerns are not exclusive to people carrying extra weight. Skinny people can suffer from poor body image too. I feel like my femininity has been robbed and it has affected my self-esteem, not to mention my libido. My beautiful sets of matching lingerie lay hidden in a bottom drawer and will never be worn again.
So, would I do something about it? That’s the question. I have friends who have had boob jobs since having children and I can understand their decision to do so. But I don’t know if I can go down this path. Perhaps I could justify it as simply an extension of other self-improvements. I dye my hair regularly and it makes me feel better. Where’s the harm? Is a boob job that much of jump from that?
I wouldn’t trade breastfeeding my babies for my former boobs but I wish they hadn’t sucked them lifeless.
Here are some photos of post-baby bodies, collected as part of Mamamia’s Body Positive Project.
Michaela Fox is a freelance writer, blogger and mother. She has three young daughters and sometimes wonders why she had them in under three years! She is hoping that short-term pain results in long-term gain. You can follow her on Twitter, join her on Facebook or read her honest musings on motherhood at Not Another Slippery Dip.
Would you ever consider a boob job after breastfeeding?