• Chelsea-Shay Friesen

Body Image Issues After Baby - Do you ever feel not pretty enough?

EST. READING TIME - 5 min

Talking about your body is always a VERY scary and VERY nerve wracking thing. These days there is so much shame & comparison going around there's often not a safe space to discuss your figure without feeling bad about it.

So of course I want to talk about it! :) And specifically I want to talk about what happened to my body after having my baby.

JUST TO BE CLEAR: I am not going to talk about my weight or my size. I am not going to push some program or product on you. And this is DEFINITELY not a " DO WHAT I DID " type of thing.

My goal in writing about my health journey after having a baby comes from a deep desire to encourage you! It comes from a place of vulnerability and wanting other women out there to feel empowered in their own season of motherhood.

Honestly, I am really fearful that sharing this part of my life with you will result in judgement, backlash, or being quietly misunderstood.

So I ask you from the bottom of my sweet little soul, please read this with soft eyes and a heart that believes the best. I hope hearing about my journey helps you in yours.

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VANITY kicked my butt during pregnancy. But lets not pretend this was a new thing....

The struggle began when I was about 10. I hit those awkward middle school years hard!!! And true to that time of life, those years hit back even harder! I was a big girl.

I have a vivid memory of being 12 years old and crying in my older brothers arms pleading with him " I'm so big Jason. I'm not pretty. Do you think I'm pretty?" It's sad how young we are when we're confronted with the world's IMPOSSIBLE beauty standards.

( the blonde in the photo below is me)

Those years fueled a passion for nutrition, fitness, & being interested in fashion. By golly I was not going to be that clunky kid forever!

In time my body got slimmer .... but the scars from that season remained.

I would forever be a BIG girl.

INSERT HIGHLY HORMONAL, SUPER SENSITIVE, NEW LIFE STAGE OF PREGNANCY------------------------

What happens to a woman's body A F T E R they have a baby? Do you know?

I had no idea.

At 12 weeks I started to swell, at 20 weeks I started to balloon, at 30 weeks I couldn't see my feet, at 40 I looked like I had stuffed a large watermelon up my shirt...

I needed to know how all this extra "me" was going to ever go back to my old self. Being a "former BIG girl " I carried a chip on my shoulder about gaining weight. I knew I would need to put on some pounds during the pregnancy process but I was terrified of it.

What if it never went away? What if I blew up and never got it off again?

So I began a search. I'd google things like " how to recover from pregnancy?" or " what happens to your stomach after you give birth?" or " how to get fit after baby?"

I desperately wanted to know how my body was going to respond to pushing a human out. And I was shocked to find that there is not much about this topic out there.

I get it though. This is one of the most tender seasons of your life. You're so exposed and so vulnerable. It is hard to address logic & reality when you've witnessed the miraculous! So who the heck cares about what it did to your body???!!

I DID.

I needed to know. I needed to prepare for this total annihilation.

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It's sad to admit that my very first thought after pushing her out was " PRAISE GOD I HAVE MY BODY BACK!" But I guess that shows you the sin in my heart.

I immediately lost at least 15 pounds of weight (baby & other things) and my tummy withdrew from its bulging state into a much softer, & smaller structure.

I couldn't help but think, " Okay, we're headed in the right direction!"

After that, EVERY single day for 6 months I would wake up, shimmy over to the mirror, & lift up my shirt to see if there was any progress in the shrinking process. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY

One week after giving birth I started planning my work out routines I WOULD do once I was cleared.

At 8 weeks I was cleared to work out again so I hit it, as hard as I could and I thought about my displeasure with physique every few hours.

At 4 months I was running a bunch but I wasn't seeing results. I was beginning to feel like a failure. How could I not be back to my " normal" size by now?

At month 6 I stalled out. Nothing was changing.

So I attempted the whole 30 & ran almost every day... I was solidly starting to obsesses.

IN FACT, I even looked at medical treatments for saddlebags. Like I was THIS close to buying some cream from Sweden that promised to lessen the appearance of cellulite!

AND THEN......I threw out my back! Bending over to grab a stinking toy!

I was rushed to a chiropractor who then told me that I had torn the ab muscles around my belly button, this is called diastasis recti.

My abs were in fact pulling further apart BECAUSE I WAS DOING THE WRONG TYPE OF ACTIVITY, and I was making it worse!

..... are you freaking kidding me?! All that hard work had been for nothing!!!

I learned that the twisting motion of running was stretching my already pulled abs further from apart each other ( which is why I wasn't seeing results) & if I wanted to prevent more back pain I would need to find another was to stay fit.

It is hard enough to simply stay awake with a new born, much less stay hygienically acceptable, MUCH LESS work out.... and now I would have to avoid the only convenient & affordable option for a stay at home mom, which also happened to be my favorite activity...RUNNING.

Low. Point.

It was time to face the facts. My body was forever changed. I was idolizing it. And God was trying to get my attention.

"Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.( OR HOW FIT YOU ARE) Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight." - 1 Peter 3:3-4

By confessing the vanity in my heart I have been able to see myself with gentle eyes; with His eyes.

I had to adjust my perspective.... and THAT changed everything!

I quit trying to get back into my pre-baby clothes, I quit taking stomach selfies, AND I STARTED FOCUSING on being healthy enough to be a good mom.

I STARTED FOCUSING ON WHO GOD SAYS I ALREADY AM INSTEAD OF WHO I WAS PUSHING MY SELF TO BE.

I am officially one "pant size" bigger & one bra size smaller than I was before getting pregnant. And I love it!

I have thrown out EVERY pair of pants, shorts, and bras from before!

I'm CHOOSING to embrace this new bigger, healthier size.

My legs are thicker, there is still a gap between my ab muscles, & THERE IS SO MUCH EXTRA SKIN I don't think I will ever look the same.

BUT who cares. MY beauty is not defined by what instagram, INStyle magazine, the girl next to me, or even my own mind says.

My peace with my appearance comes from the everlasting love found at the foot of the cross. Not at the crossfit gym.

"For [God] created my inmost being; [He] knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise [Him] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." - Psalm 139:13-14

I put my identity in Christ's love, aimed for personal health, and let all the other expectations fade.