Courtney Champion (32), Clara (5), and Leo (19 months)
Alabama | Photographed in Richmond, VA
Courtney shares -
"I felt fantastic, physically, during both of my pregnancies. During my second, I even wore a form fitting dress to a wedding, something I had never done and haven't since. I loved how confident I felt when I was pregnant. That quickly changed after delivering both babies. All of a sudden, the body I was so comfortable in no longer felt like it was mine, which is weird to think about since I had been growing another human in it for nearly a year and didn't feel that way. This was especially true after my second pregnancy, when my stomach felt super squishy after delivery. Even after losing the pregnancy weight, my stomach still has more flab than it once did. My hips are wider. My breasts are saggier. I have smile lines, which I'm pretty sure count as wrinkles. But I'm still proud of what my body did and continues to do. It grew to accommodate two new lives. My breasts nourished each of those lives well into toddlerhood.
My first postpartum experience was difficult. My daughter was born with an unexpected birth defect, and that was the start of a very scary time that required appointments with cardiologists, geneticists, and surgeons. It also led to the loss of some family relationships. I felt very scared and often very alone. We have no photos from the first couple hours of her life, because she was taken for further exams soon after being placed on my chest. I will always regret that.
With my second, everything after delivery went just like I wanted. He was placed on my chest and stayed there for a long time. I delivered med-free, which is something I wanted, and I felt like a total badass afterward. That feeling subsided the next day, though, when I realized how much pain I was in. I went from feeling incredibly strong to shuffling to the bathroom and crossing my fingers I could pee without it hurting. We don't have much of a support system, so there were times I still felt alone. I worried that I wasn't giving my first child enough attention. I thought I should be able to do it all, and then I'd be disappointed when I couldn't. On the flip side, I did feel more prepared for those feelings the second time around, so that helped some.
I would tell a new parent to extend themselves the same grace and understanding they would show someone else.
I feel like loving oneself is a pretty radical act these days. Society, generally speaking, values one type of body. I think normalizing and showing all types of bodies is one way to break free from societal standards.
Beyond that, I grew up listening to my mother and grandmother make awful comments about their bodies. My grandmother lived with us when I was a teenager, and I remember her religiously weighing herself. If she was a pound over what she had been the day before, she'd say, "I'm only eating an apple today."
Being a parent has helped me stop with the negative self talk, but I still think it sometimes. It's hard to erase so many years of being conditioned to think that way, but I have the power to hopefully prevent my children from ever viewing their bodies the way I once viewed mine, and it's pretty incredible to know this cycle can stop with me. I once imagined how hearing my daughter say to herself something I thought about myself, and it destroyed me. I never want either of my children to make those comments to themselves or others. I feel responsible as a parent to ensure my children grow up loving and appreciating their bodies and ones that look different than theirs.
I've worked very hard to never talk about food in the way I heard growing up. We talk about how some foods are good for us because they give us energy and help our bodies grow and some foods are just fun to eat. There's no such thing as "bad" food, and guilt and shame should not be associated with eating. I'm a food blogger, and I think so much of how we view our bodies and those of others is tied to how we view food. I have so many issues with the "clean eating" movement because it implies that the opposite of that is dirty. I love to cook and bake, and I do it from scratch. Why am I able to do that? Privilege. I have enough income and time to do it. But you know what? A person feeding their family frozen pizza or fast food is still feeding their family. I am over this elitist version of food and the shame it places on eating and the way we view our bodies."