I was at an all-day conference over the weekend that focused on body positivity -a touchy subject for most women, especially those whose bodies have been transformed by pregnancy and birth.
There’s so much pressure for us to return to – acting, working, looking, behaving, being – who we were before the baby. This presumes two things: 1) that it’s easily achievable and 2) that it’s actually preferable to who we are now.
Motherhood changes us in profound ways – some of which are super obvious. As our bellies grow, so do our breasts, our hips, our thighs, our arms. It’s common for our entire body to change during pregnancy, not just our bellies. Yet, secretly that’s exactly what we’re all hoping for: that perfect little celebrity baby bump. When we get more than we expected, or if we feel at all like our bodies “failed” us at birth or breastfeeding, this can lead to an intense dislike – even loathing – of a body that deserves nothing but love and awe for all that it has done to bring our baby into this world.
This is not a new subject for me to write about. You can read other examples of why I think women need to celebrate their bodies here and here. But having just come from a conference completely devoted to this idea, I’m feeling the need to share the love and hook you up with the great work that the presenters at the body.breast.baby conference are doing to encourage Mommas toward self-body love.
The presenters at this conference spoke to the gamut of experiences women face being judged by how they look, rather than by who they are.
Joni Edelman, Editor in Chief of Ravishly started the day off by sharing her own personal story of being thin and miserable vs “fat” and happy. You may have seen this in your social media feed – her story resonated with women around the world! Joni talked extensively about the diet industry and how susceptible women are to buying, literally, into something that’s a lie. Her message: “Happiness does not require thinness. Fatness does not presume sadness.”
We were treated to a presentation by 15-year old, Lovinia Martin-Weber who reminded us all about how much our kids listen to us. They’re listening, really listening to what we say about our own bodies. And when that message doesn’t match with what we say to them about their own bodies, they question the validity of that message. They might start to believe that if you don’t like your body, then maybe they shouldn’t like theirs. Lovinia’s message was a wake-up call for the Mommas in the room to model self body love so that our kiddos grow up believing their bodies are strong and beautiful!
The Peachie Moms, a.k.a., Amanda Edwards and Jen McClellan, were on hand to discuss all the ways pregnancy and birth can change every part of our bodies – every part. They talked about how even if you’re a skinny Momma, a medium Momma (that would be me!) or a plus-size Momma, that feelings of insecurity about our bodies is a real struggle. Their message is that no matter our size each one of us is deserving of self-love and body positivity. Their presentation was equal parts funny and reassuring.
A whole session was dedicated to talking about our breasts: what we thought of them before we ever had them, how we feel about them being used to sell burgers and beers, and the complicated relationship we might have with how they most likely don’t match up with the ideal represented in the media. The presentation was by Jessica Martin-Weber (mother to the body positivity activist teen mentioned above – nice job, Momma!) My favorite quote from the entire day came from Jessica’s presentation,“You can’t sell me anything if I’m happy with myself.” LOVE this statement.
At one point, I snuck out to have a quick conversation and to record a snippet of one of my birth stories with Bryn Huntpalmer, the woman behind The Birth Hour – a podcast devoted to birth stories. What a brilliant idea! If you’re like me, and you can’t get enough birth stories, being able to listen to them via podcast is about the most Momma-friendly idea ever! You can listen to birth stories while you’re nursing, making dinner, driving to and from work, etc. It was fun to chat with Bryn and tell a little bit of my 4th birth story. She is compiling all of these mini-sessions into one that will be on the show sometime in the future. Right now, Bryn’s working with Every Mother Counts on a fundraiser to support her work with the podcast and help underserved pregnant Mommas around the globe.
We spent some time talking about our monthly cycles with Tracy Puhl of Glad Rags and Susan Landa of Moon Days. It was a really interesting discussion about how we’re socialized to not talk about our periods, or to consider them gross – rather than seeing them as an important part of what it means to be a woman. Keeping the conversation open and normalizing this regular part of our lives as women is something we should all strive for. Especially after hearing woman after woman share their personal experience of how it was never discussed so they associated their periods with shame and silence.
The day ended with Laura Weetzie Wilson and Ashlee Dean Wells of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project – the organizers of this whole event. I got hooked up with this group when one of my readers (Thanks, Sharon!) read this post and asked if I knew of them. I didn’t – but when I went to their site, I knew I wanted to! These two women are doing extraordinary things by taking photographs of women with real, postpartum bodies and celebrating the beauty they know each of them possesses. Women are being transformed by these photo sessions, and I think we are all changed by looking at these beautiful, real Momma bodies!
All in all, a great day of healing and empowerment! I loved getting to hear all of these presenters speak about a subject that’s so near and dear to my heart: encouraging women to love the bodies and the lives that motherhood has given them. Please do yourself a favor and check out what each of these wonderful women are doing in the world of birth. So fun to meet all of them, and I wish them incredible success.
Have you heard of any of these great organizations or women before today? Who else do I need to be paying attention to in the world of birth? Please let me know – I love to connect with other people who are as passionate about bellies, birth and babies as I am!