What Postpartum Bellies Really Look Like: One Bold Mother Gives Mommyish The Inside Scoop

work life balanceImagine having a baby and then baring your postpartum belly for all the world to see. Sounds like a nightmare, no? Sure, some women bounce right back and would gladly show off their assets, but most moms I know are insecure about that loose skin that just won’t go away no matter how many crunches they do or how much weight they lose. Oh, motherhood.

You can now feel better about your own postpartum belly thanks to a group of working moms-slash-bloggers in Connecticut who have boldly appeared before the camera in nothing but a sports bra and yoga pants. Their aim? To show what real women’s bodies look like and encourage moms to embrace their post-baby bods – stretch marks and all. (It looks kind of like a Dove campaign, but here there’s no giant corporation behind the project.)

The photos are worth checking out for the diversity of body types alone. The seven women, all part of  CT Working Moms – an online community for women balancing work and family – are all in their 30s and with kids ranging from 8 months to 8 years old. We caught up with Michelle Noehren, one of the brave moms pictured (she’s on the far left), to get the inside scoop on what postpartum bellies really look like and the thinking behind the project

Mommyish: What prompted you to participate in such a bold initiative?
Michelle Noehren: We talk a lot about how hard our society is on women’s bodies, especially women who have recently had babies. Seeing celebs that look like they never even had a child can make other moms feel badly about themselves. We felt like doing something to combat our country’s unattainable beauty ideals so we decided to bear our own bellies in order to be a positive example for other moms. We spend way too much time each day hating our bodies – and our bodies did an amazing thing by growing one or multiple human beings.

Mommyish: What were some of the challenges involved in posing in a sports bra and posting the photos live for all the world to see?
MN: Every single one of us felt a little nervous about taking off our shirts – even in front of each other! But once the shirts were off all the ladies were giving each other compliments and we felt great right away. For me, I’ve never even worn a bikini to the beach before so showing my tummy was (and is!) a big deal for me.

Mommyish: What do you hope to accomplish with these series of photographs? What message are you hoping to send to women?
MN: We want women to feel supported. Even if you are looking to lose a little weight, we should still be proud of our bodies as they are, right now. The vast majority of us do not look like the models we see in magazines and we don’t have access to the same type of support that celebrities do. We want moms to embrace their post-baby bodies, stretch marks and all!

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    • lawcat

      “Their aim? To show what real women’s bodies look like…”

      As opposed to what? Fake women’s bodies? As far as I know, celebrities are still actual human beings, they just have the means to do things differently. And that’s completely fine. Their job requires them to project a certain image; mine does not. If a VS Angel can walk a catwalk a few months after giving birth, more power to her.

      And what, exactly, defines a *real* woman? If someone drops back down to pre-pregnancy weight 3 weeks after giving birth, does that make them a *real* woman? Or should one keep the weight on so as not to make other people feel bad?

      At this point in your life, if looking at a Photoshopped image in a magazine makes you “feel bad,” stop looking at them. There’s always going to be someone thinner, prettier, etc whether that person is in a magazine or someone you see out and about. If you had insecurities pre-pregnancy, they are going to be there afterwards.

    • Dee

      I had my son on the 14th and I’m already back to my pre-pregnancy weight. No stretch marks, and my stomach is almost as flat as it was before (just a little smushy, which I find kind of cool for some reason). Granted, I went into labor 6 weeks early so the results could have been different, not that I would have cared. I’ve even had people tell me that I don’t even look like I just had a baby. I guess that makes me the shittiest woman in the world.

      • lawcat

        Well…just don’t go outside. You don’t want to make anyone feel bad about themselves. : )

      • CP

        Be thankful. Don’t even think for a second you are the shittiest woman — you had a baby! You should feel like superwoman. I know I did right after giving birth. Some of us do have to work harder to get back to pre-pregnancy form, and for most of us, I think, our bodies never really go back to the way it was. There is too much focus on being rail thin and having flat, flat bellies. I would hope that another mom would not think of you as “shitty”, but just support you as another mom. I hope you and baby are doing well and healthy.

      • KD

        Oh, I guess getting validation from movies, television, magazines, and other forms of media that glorify your body type just isn’t enough, so you have to play the victim when people with body types different than yours attempt to show pride in what they look like. Some people will always find something to complain about, I guess.

      • Dee

        KD… There’s no reason to be a bitch. :)

      • Lesley

        Is this what you understood from this article? What a sad life you must have.

      • Dee

        According to this article, “real women” are a complete mess after childbirth. I happened to be one of the lucky ones that returned to my pre-pregnancy body with little effort. I must not be a “real woman” then.

        Sad life, Lesley? Nope. I have a hot body again and a beautiful baby boy that is thriving and growing. I’m pretty damn happy, as a matter of fact! :)

      • Julie

        Hey Dee, CONGRATS on the new baby! That’s all anyone should be saying to you right now. Luckily, some of us are smart enough to see the sarcasm in the last line of your original post. I know text doesn’t translate well, but I’m not a stuck up bitch so I got it.
        Also, congrats on bouncing back so quickly! I had a baby back in March and I’m saggy and stretch marked and if I have anything to say about it, it doesn’t seem as “real” as it used to. I’d like my “real” body back, but I’m pretty sure whatever I do, it’s not gonna happen. So, I’m happy for you. A little envious, yes, but mostly happy.

    • lucygoosey74

      Thank you ladies, for giving us another perspective.

    • Nikki

      Normally pregnancy women get normal body after deliver a baby. If not with doing some workouts pregnancy women get healthy body.

      http://www.thepregnancyzone.com/category/postpartum/

    • Bianca

      I love how these kind of stories always say ‘real women’, as if celebrities and other people who get the weight off aren’t real. Plus size women in general are often referred to as ‘real women’ as well. I find that just as insulting to slim people as calling someone a fatty :/ And I’m not even slim!

      • Ipsedixit

        Exactly. For a site that advocates not having “mommy wars” they certainly like to use provocative language. Probably for page hits. Classifying some women as “real” implies that others are not.

        The distinction of “real” as it applies above is silly. Giving birth, being childfree, losing weight, gaining weight, having a job, being a SAHM, etc. none of these things affect whether or not you are a “real” woman. If you’re a human with female parts, you’re a “real” woman.

    • Claire

      I think possibly “real women” is meant as the opposite of “airbrushed women” – which lets be honest are what we see in magazines.

      Even Dee (lucky girl) says she is “a little smooshy” – of course! That may or may not go away, and who should care? My mum had 5 children and has a fantastic figure at 65 she looks better than I do at 38 after only 2 children. We are all different and all of us are to be celebrated, big belly, small belly, no belly, pregnant belly, non-pregnant belly. Whatever.

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    • Sandpiper

      Hi, I gave birth to my baby 2 months before my 30th birthday. 3 days before I went into labor my baby’s father ran off with another woman. That is to say that I was not a celebrity or blessed with money. I was however, 5 feet 10 inches tall and just happened to be living in Hawaii. Never knew real love and after 29 years hadn’t found it. I was infatuated and “in love” with “baby daddy” but he didn’t feel the same. So here I was at 29 w/2 mos to my 30th birthday living in romantic Hawaii & he runs off with a girl 10 yrs younger.

      I had to wait 6 wks to get Dr. to release me to fly home to the states with my baby. Me and my little baby boy were thrown away, so I had a friend take pictures of me and my 5 week old infant before I left. I didn’t know that women still looked pregnant after giving birth. My daughter-in-law asked for pictures of my son’s dad, so I showed her & her mom the album. I was visiting them and went upstairs to guest room, window was open & they were outside below looking at pictures and exclaiming that I didn’t look like I had had a baby. I didn’t know women gained so much weight. I was very poor & unloved all my life & had no advantages except 5′ 10″ tall & slim & gained only 26 lbs during pregnancy. I happened to live in Kona on the big island of Hawaii at the time. I walked alot and swam as often as I could in the community pool but also studied nutrition & ate good food.

      I didn’t realize that other women still looked pregnant after delivery until that day when I was probably 60 & my son’s wife was expecting. It isn’t about money and priviledge w/me. It was maybe “gene pool”. Just guessing here. I have many photos taken in short shorts & halter top 5 wks after my little sweetie was born. Certainly not air-brushed. Raised little baby for 7 yrs before I married a man from my church. If anyone wants to see pictures, contact me. By the way, I had natural childbirth. I’ve since learned that Cesarean section seems to be way harder to expell water weight & whatever. So I guess I was lucky twice cause pushing baby out expells all the rest of the fluid weight apparently. So if women who had to have C section for medical emergency reasons, you girls didn’t have a choice & I’m sorry that it takes longer time to get back into shape. If you never get back to original, just be thankful your man didn’t throw you and baby away and is still with you. Never knew what that was like.

    • Maureen

      You are an inspiration for me! I’ve been trying to get my weight down since having twin boys over a year ago and can’t seem to find the time to exercise. This article has made me not beat myself up over it as wellas be proud that I have these stretch marks! :)

    • Kim

      It takes some real balls to pose for that picture! Thanks, ladies! Beauty is found when you are comfortable with yourself.