Are jeans a symbol of control in postpartum?

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Note: This article discusses body image, if you feel triggered by this subject then feel free to skip.

If you have ever felt uncomfortable about your body, you’re not alone.

I’m yet to meet a woman who is unscathed by diet culture. At the time of writing this, I’m 23 weeks pregnant. My feelings towards my body fluctuate between admiration and unease. Even as I sit at my desk, I’m charmed by the little flutters I can feel yet physically uncomfortable by what I have ignorantly chosen to wear. 

My protruding belly is pressed heavily against the hair tie that is so desperately clasping my jeans together. I should just give up my Levi’s and button flies altogether, but I won’t—not yet.

I have an attachment to this particular pair of no-stretch straight-legged jeans. I have worn these in the four years leading up to this pregnancy, and though it is inevitable that they will no longer fit, this is a palpable reminder of what’s coming.

That things, not even my body, would be the same again. As with my first pregnancy, the lovestruck feeling of growing life inside of my body is enough to free me, at least in fleeting moments, from the prison of my own mind.

I know I will eventually give into elastic waist pants, but it is the overwhelming thoughts of my postpartum self that consume me. I can still so viscerally remember trying to squeeze into my old jeans at 6 weeks postpartum. Only to be floored by the reality that they would not budge past my thighs. My body was still swollen and leaking, yet I was chasing my old self.


Image: Instagram/Jade Fox

My internal dialogue is one thing, but the pressure to pop out a child and ‘bounce back’ as though nothing has happened is just as insistent offline as it is on. 


Recently a friend, Kate*, shared an image in the group chat of a brochure that was sitting in her GP’s office. The headline read: “How will you get your body back now that you’ve had your baby?” 

Needless to say, Kate did not pick up the brochure to read further; the language used on the front cover was “horrifying” (her word) enough. Another friend, Molly*, spoke of a well-meaning but uninformed trainer who suggested “meal replacements instead of reaching for that chocolate bar”. 

Before Leni*, added; “I lost weight fairly quickly after giving birth and remember everyone telling me how ‘good’ I looked, and it was as though I had not had a baby – even though any weight I had shifted came from anxiety and walking like a maniac to get my baby to sleep.” 

I, too, am guilty of comparing and commenting on a mother’s appearance. Assuming that she must have it together if she fits back into her pre-baby 501s – no hair tie in sight. 

“The link between thinness and health is a common misconception, especially when we are talking about mothers’ bodies and bodies that have been through so much change and trauma, which is often out of our own control.” Sami Rose, strength coach for KIC, body image and binge eating counsellor, says before adding, “I think it is not a bad thing to crave your old body as a way of regaining control of self but not at the cost of your health and comments on appearance with no regard for health – mental and physical – is what is most troubling.” 

Perhaps that is it. As I look down at my heaving belly, I feel my control relinquishing. 


I am no longer in charge. My unborn son, who is constantly kicking my internal organs, is, and soon, he will take agency of my body in the outside world. 

Fitting into an old pair of jeans was more than a fashion statement. To me, and to many others, including Rachel*, who admitted to “sobbing in the mirror at 3 months postpartum” as her SLVERLAKE’s were nowhere near doing up; jeans signified a sense of control and order that had been restored to our lives. As though fastening that fly was stitching together parts of our new and old selves. 

Another friend Anna*, confided, “I refuse to buy the size up, so for now, I’m just not wearing jeans.” She had stopped breastfeeding and wanted agency over her once body again. Choosing to punish herself at the gym and on a strict lose-the-mummy-pooch regime to get it back. I get it, and sadly most women, postpartum or not, do. 

I, too, know how it feels to want to regain the body I felt I had lost but her words also remind me of another part of myself I would like to leave behind. The part of me that obsessed with the size on the tag. 

Image: Instagram/Jade Fox


I remember how it felt to fit back into my old jeans. Staring at myself in the mirror and yelling out to my husband “they fit!” Securing that fly was the self-assurance and security I needed when everything around me was unknown— would my son sleep or not? Will we go into lockdown once again? Will we be able to pay the mortgage? Will I ever take to this new role as mum? 

The jeans made me feel optimistic that even in chaos, I still had a form of control, even it was over something as frivolous as fitting into the pants I so desperately wanted to wear.

I’m self-aware enough to know that it will be hard to block out the head noise, and the algorithm and the constant ads I’ll inevitably be fed but this time, I’m determined not to fall victim to snap back culture. I won’t let an item of clothing disregard the journey my body has been on not just during pregnancy but over the course of my life. 


“If you keep referring back to an item of clothing that is making you feel frustrated or sad about your body, remove it from your sight. Either pack it away, donate it and focus on filling your wardrobe with items that make you feel good and that fit you now.” Sami advises.

Just like my old faithful jeans, a favourite pair is only a favourite pair if they are comfortable, fit well, and make you feel great. If they don’t, it seems ridiculous to cling to anything, clothing or otherwise, that resurfaces the parts of you that you would rather leave behind. 

So, as I unpeel the hair tie from my jeans and instantly relieve my stomach, I decide to take control by listening to Sami and pack away items that no longer fit. 

Sizing up or probably an even more sensible option for now, buying maternity jeans (I know, I know but this Scandinavian brand came highly recommended… even Leandra Medine Cohen is a fan), will not only spare me the internal and external pressures to bounce back but instead, let joy in. 

The joy of getting dressed and new life—regardless of what size my body is.

*Names have been changed for anonymity.

Feature image: Supplied/Jade Fox, Dear Dilate.

This article is republished from Jade Fox's Dear Dilate newsletter with permission.

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