The Journey of Motherhood: Body Image

Motherhood is a journey. 

This guest post is written by Laura Otton, LCSW, who has a private practice based out of Huntington, NY, specializing in all things motherhood ranging from fertility issues and pregnancy loss, to pregnancy and the postpartum period. She is running The Journey of Motherhood, a series of workshops, at The Nesting Place in West Islip NY. The second workshop, Body Image, is the inspiration for this post and will be held this Saturday December 14, 2019. You can learn more about Laura practice and workshops by visiting her website at therapyformotherhood.com


This is Part 1 of a four-part series

Postpartum body, body image, postpartum body image, postpartum, pregnant body, self esteem, self worth, motherhood, journey of motherhood

Do you want to sell a product to a pregnant or postpartum woman? Tell her it will get her body back” or prevent icky" things from happening like stretch marks or a tummy pouch. 

My expertise does not lie in how we got to this place of impossible expectations that do little but denigrate a womans body and feed a billion-dollar industry, but I do know that mothers are so inundated with these messages starting in their own childhoods that those messages are constantly coming at her and now from her. She is the most judgmental of herself! 

Pregnancy and postpartum will open any cracks there may have been in a womans self-image, raising up any insecurity, any doubt, any sadness, any trauma, any violation, any negativity. And, to add insult to injury, often a womans physical needs are brushed aside even by professionalsa woman is told that incontinence is a normal part of being a mom, so buy some pads. Or a vaginal organ prolapse (ever heard of it?) isnt even diagnosed much less treated. Diastasis recti (a gap in the abdominal muscles) is also accepted as normal and maybe given a shrug, if the mother is even checked for it. Hemorrhoids, hernias, back pain, painful intercourse, the list goes on. 

The postpartum body is about so much more than weight gain and stretch marks, though those certainly get the most attention (and judgment). So whats a woman to do? All too often she suffers silently, perhaps adapting unhealthy diets or punishing exercise routines, or sometimes overeating or drinking to numb the pain and staying far away from exercise out of fear and perceived judgment, or perhaps a mix of these both in varying degrees.  

This is where my work comes in. First and foremost, every woman deserves to receive validation about what is happening to their bodiesto be heard and believed. Then, I link them to the various providers who WILL listen, who WILL help (shout out to the wonderful pelvic floor specialists out there! Chiropractors! Naturopaths!). And then on to her feelings and emotions she has about her body. What a loaded topic, one that has its roots in childhood and has crept into nearly every aspect of her day. 

I find that one of the most effective ways to get started in thinking about this is to ask two simple questions: First, how do you want your daughter to view her body? Secondly, how do you want your son to view womens bodies? 

Starting there, the woman gathers up an ideal view of her body, a view that she doesnt believe quite yet for herself. But she knows already that she wants her daughter to eat nourishing foods for her mind and body, exercise to gain strength and mobility, breathe to calm her mind and gather her thoughts, sleep to recharge, and, just as importantly, view others’ bodies without judgment or criticism. 

And for her son? She wants him to respect a womans body irregardless of its shape, its abilities, or its deviations from what society has deemed as desirable. She wants him to never objectify a womans body, but rather view the woman as a complete Self with strengths, intelligence, creativity, humor, and more. No where in there is disgust, judgment, loathing, punishment, or shame she may be giving herself. 

Sometimes the mothers motivation to change her self-perception comes first from the desire to raise a son and daughter with this mindset, but she soon finds that kindness towards her body is one of the most liberating, freeing, lovely changes she can make. She starts strengthening and healing her body and mind for her own joy, not anyone elses. 

My message is and always will be that we are all striving to accept our bodies fully and completely as perfect, while at the same time working on strengthening, nourishing, and healing to feel better. Your body has done truly amazing things. It deserves the care and attention to heal, it deserves to be treated with respect, kindness, and love. Do it not for your partner, or society, or social media, or your children. Do it for you. 

No comments