Diana Rice (34), Ainslie (3), and Leighton (11 months)
Washington, DC / New York City | Photographed in St. Louis, MO
Diana shares -
"I never struggled with body image until a few months after my older daughter was born. Because I am a person who enjoys thin privilege, because I gained the “right” amount of weight during my pregnancy, because people told me I was “all belly” and because I was exclusively breastfeeding, I naively assumed that my body would easily return to its former shape. Around three or four months postpartum, I realized that was not going to be the case. I was unsatisfied with how I still looked pregnant. But it also didn’t make sense to me that I should have to adopt an extreme diet or exercise routine to restore my former shape. As a dietitian, I’m well-versed in the dangers of these measures and beyond that, I just believed that my body had already been through enough. But I was unhappy and probably spent just as much time obsessing over what to wear to conceal my belly as some other women do working out or worrying about what to eat. And although I really dislike being pregnant, I was relieved that my second pregnancy allowed me to let go of my insecurity, since instead of just looking pregnant I truly was pregnant. I did my best to hold on to that confidence after delivering my second daughter and although my body now is pretty much identical to where it was after delivering my first, I’m a lot more content with how it looks.
My first pregnancy was so painful. I had symphysis pubis dysfunction, which occurs when the pregnancy hormone relaxin causes the pelvic bone to become too loose. It basically felt like someone had smashed my pelvis with a hammer. It made walking very challenging, which is a big deal when you live in New York City. I also experienced a thrombosed hemorrhoid...enough said. I had been considering a natural birth but after experiencing the constant pain of those conditions, I couldn’t get an epidural fast enough. I’m thankful that I had a uneventful birth and never experienced postpartum depression, but the months following my oldest child’s birth were incredibly stressful nonetheless. Independent of having a newborn child, which of course is hard enough, a lot of other stressful events happened to fall within those first months. One Sunday, my church replaced their usual sermon with a guided meditation. Despite all of the stressful events in my life at that time, what surfaced for me was how much my body had failed me during my pregnancy and continued to let me down postpartum. Either I didn’t know or I wouldn’t let myself accept that that was what was truly bothering me until that moment. I left the service in tears. I was angry that God would let that happen to me or to any woman, being that we give of ourselves to bring new life into the world, after all. In addition to the weight I was retaining, the pregnancy left me needing two surgeries, including one for an umbilical hernia that made normal physical exertion feel exhausting. The hernia especially frustrated me because it felt like my body had literally given out from the stress of the pregnancy. I wanted more children and I worried how I would be able to endure another pregnancy. I had the surgery to correct the hernia at 10 months postpartum. It left me with a U-shaped scar under my navel, which became my excuse to keep my belly hidden under layers of clothing that summer (I was supposed to keep the scar out of the sun). But all told, it was a simple procedure and an uneventful recovery and I felt so much better once I ultimately healed. I was cleared to conceive another child three months after the surgery and we found out we were expecting again a few months after that. My second pregnancy was still painful but much less rocky than my first. And in the time since delivering my younger daughter, I have learned so much more about body positivity. I am so blessed to have two perfect little girls. What my body looks like is so inconsequential. My husband doesn’t care. My girls don’t care. In fact, I am keenly aware as a mother of girls that these precious babies will be watching me, processing what I eat, how I move and how I talk about myself as they become young women themselves. It is my responsibility to help them become confident and resilient in all aspects of their lives, but especially in how they see their bodies. Our culture doesn’t make that easy, but I am up for the challenge.
My postpartum experience has shaped my career path. I realized my passion for helping other women nourish and love their postpartum bodies. I am very inspired by the adage that we can only take others as far as we have taken ourselves. I want every woman to have the confidence to do this. Helping them get there starts with taking this step myself!
You are worthy! Why do we plague ourselves with doubt and fear, whether it is about our bodies, our parenting or what we have to contribute to the world? Think about whether this is the experience you would want your own children to have. They don’t want it for you, either, so boldly proclaim yourself - as you are in this moment - to the world."