Searching For My Lost Sexy
I hear a lot of women talk about how much their body has changed since giving birth and I never truly appreciated this until I experienced it myself. I used to love my breasts. I probably still do but they have changed so much since having my daughter. They’ve grown; they leak; the size varies depending on whether I’ve breast fed or pumped yet. There is nothing sexier than a nursing bra with wet spots. Actually, everything is sexier than that right now and therein lies my problem. I want my sexy back! I need my sexy back. My sexy was everything to me. I wore the best outfits, got the best compliments and now no one notices me. They want to see a picture of my beautiful daughter. Don’t get me wrong, I love that people want to ask about her but what about me? What about my wants, what about my needs? What about stroking my ego just enough so that I almost believe there is something sexy left in me. Help me believe that my body hasn’t gone from an incubator to a milk market!
Most days I consider myself a Feminist, maybe a Womanist on others. Through this evolution of myself, I acknowledge the history of hypersexualized and degrading images of women of color, specifically Black women. I value the global and historical perspective that those bodies have been exploited for profit and I don’t want to minimize the agency of any of those bodies. None of this knowledge has helped me process how I feel about the changes in my body; changes that I have no control over. Changes that don’t usually do positive things for my self-esteem or encourage a positive self image. I used to be comfortable with my body because it exemplified those very things that my feminist self knew could be damaging to perpetuate. It’s easy to be comfortable when you embody the stereotypes. But then pregnancy happens and everything changes. You are looked at as a vessel and your body is not your own. It’s also not so encouraging hearing that all women experience this or that you can exercise or eat differently or wear girdles to put everything back to the way it was. What’s less encouraging is realizing all the empowerment in the world will not change who you see when you look in the mirror.
It’s very difficult to walk a line between wanting to be empowered and not caring much about fighting the patriarchy if you could just stop your breasts from leaking every time a baby cries. I want to feed my child but I also want a sexy bra that makes me feel like I used to. It’s not just the breasts though. All the pregnancy hair growth is done and has since fallen out. My stomach jiggles in ways that I didn’t know was possible and my C-Section scar is actually crooked. I’m sick of hearing about the snapback that everyone wants post baby. I want to eat fattening food sans guilt and I want my old shoes to fit. Most of all I want to look at myself in the mirror and believe that I’m just as sexy with these changes as I was before them. That’s hard to do some days but it’s important to try because I am raising a Black daughter. A daughter who will look in the mirror and see an image of herself that society may say isn’t beautiful. I’ve scoured the Internet looking for encouragement on how to address my body image woes and I realized that the masses weren’t talking to me. They are talking to the women who want to diet and exercise to get their body back while I want to be the woman who accepts the changes and loves their body regardless. The woman who feels sexy while her breasts leak.
How do I get there?
1. Remember that all new mothers experience these thoughts and feelings to some extent. This is typical. What is NOT typical is when these thoughts trigger depression. Seek help if you have chronic, recurring thoughts about your body image, if you constantly feel depressed or are crying incessantly, or if you experience severe dieting or binge eating that lasts more than a week.
2. We need to learn to cope with our body image issues. Remember, your post-pregnancy weight doesn’t go away immediately. Stop comparing yourself to other women; we are all unique in our journey and what may have happened to then may not happen for you. Don’t push yourself to exercise too early or too much. If you didn’t run a marathon pre-baby then don’t expect to do it 6 weeks postpartum. Practice self-care. Go get your hair done, nails done, everything did and wear some clothes that fit so you can feel more attractive. This will help you feel better about your appearance. Most importantly, STOP LOOKING AT CELEBRITIES. We are not them. Most of us don’t have nannies and personal chefs and personal trainers. I’ve accepted that I am not really Beyoncé’s cousin. Well not really but I’m ok with not snapping back as quickly as she appeared to have done.
3. Lastly, but certainly not least, use your partner, family and friends for the support that they are hopefully offering you. We don’t have to be that Superwoman trope. It’s ok to say, I can’t do this alone. It’s ok to say, I feel insecure about myself. It’s ok to reach out for help when you are overwhelmed. What is not ok is feeling less beautiful than you are undoubtedly are. So put on that nursing bra and look at yourself in the mirror. Remind yourself that while you might not feel so sexy today, that sexy is in there and you’re going to find it and wear it proudly.
LaDawn Lanier is a Sexologist, Certified School Psychologist and owner of Lanier Educational Consulting. Lanier Educational Consulting is a private practice that provides sexuality education through individual and couples coaching and workshops. Her goal is to help restore balance to one’s life by listening to the needs of her clients and collaboratively designing a plan that addresses both long and short-term goals. She also offers the support needed to take healthy steps towards meeting those goals and making more meaningful life choices.