Rae Lynn Cooley (30), Niko (5) and Lola (6 months old)
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
After having my son Niko 5 years ago, I was so uncomfortable with how I looked. It felt so foreign. The weight wasn’t coming off. I was now covered in stretch marks on my stomach, lower back, and breasts. I was trying to figure out how to be a new mom and also exist in a body that didn’t feel or look like the one I had before.
Having my daughter 6 months ago brought even more changes - Hormonal acne and postpartum hair loss took a toll on my self esteem. As far as weight, this time it is the complete opposite from my last pregnancy. I now weigh 50 pounds less than I did before getting pregnant with Lola. This is a combination of anxiety, breastfeeding, and health issues. People congratulate me or sometimes even make comments about me being “too skinny now”. I know people usually mean no harm by it, but weight loss is not always something to be celebrated or commented on.
I don’t identify with the way I look anymore. I’ve always expressed who I am through how I look. I’m focused so much on my children that I have lost that. I’ve put myself on the back burner. It may seem trivial to other people, but the reflection in the mirror doesn’t feel like me and that can make you lose your sense of self. I joke sometimes that I have my “mom suit” on. I’m constantly in leggings, hoodies, no make up, and my hair in a bun. I’d love to get back to being creative with my look again. I feel most confident when my appearance shows my personality. I’d like to get some of the tattoos I’ve wanted throughout the years but have brushed off because it is not a priority. I should go get my hair colored a fun color like I always used to, and not just think to myself that it’s not important so I shouldn’t. I am not ONLY Niko and Lola‘s mom, I am Rae Lynn too.
I do find that with each year I grow older, the less my imperfections bother me. Maybe it’s just me getting used to my new normal, but I am more forgiving with the way my body looks. One thing that helps is the fact that my children take so much comfort in my body. My son likes to lay his head on my stomach, he will say “I love your squishy belly, mama”. My daughter reaches for my breasts to soothe herself to sleep. I am learning to love my body and thank her for all she has done and has sacrificed.
Feel free to share your postpartum journey.
I wish the postpartum period was treated so differently. This is one of the most vulnerable times for a woman. She needs rest, care, love, support, and healthy food to nourish her body. The healing we must go through takes time. We need a community of family and friends to rely on. I feel like we as a society are so disconnected from that now. We want mothers to bounce back and get to “normal” life as soon as possible. I hope this changes in the future.
I had some postpartum anxiety after my son was born, but it was mild compared to what I’m dealing with now. My daughter is 6 months old and I am still in the depths of it. I’ve been waiting for it to get better but it hasn’t. I know that a lot of it has to do with me being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a few years ago. It made me feel completely out of control of my health and my fate. Now this fear has transferred to me being worried about my family‘s health. My hormones are still out of whack and it amplifies everything. It is so hard to deal with these things when you are raising tiny little humans. You put on a happy face so they will have no clue that anything is wrong. I don’t want them to ever feel worried or scared.
Postpartum mood disorders are so common but sometimes I feel like I have nowhere to turn. I’ve went to my midwife at my OB/GYN office, my primary care doctor, and even my baby’s pediatrician about this. Everyone’s answer was one size fits all. That I should go on a medication right away. Try this one and if it doesn’t work, we will do that one. While I’m not against trying medication whatsoever, it’s not getting to the root of the problem. I wish there was more personalized care for these situations. It would be amazing and reassuring to find a support group of mothers who are going through the same thing that can relate, and doctors and counselors who specialize in these sort of postpartum situations specifically. I haven’t found anything like that locally but I’m making an appointment to see a counselor and hopefully get pointed in the right direction. I hope that if anyone out there is reading this and can relate, they know they are not alone in this.
What is your truth?
My personal truth that I would pass on to others is the power of being transparent. I have found in my hardships that the more open I was about what I was going through, no matter how embarrassing or ugly or hard it was to be honest about, the more I was met with people who can relate or want to help. Being a mother is so HARD. It’s okay to need a break. It’s okay to take care of yourself too. It’s okay to need help. We aren’t meant to be martyrs to motherhood. In fact, I feel like the more self care you practice, the more positive energy you will have to really be present with your children.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I chose to participate in this movement is because it is out of my comfort zone. It’s pretty intimidating for me to be photographed in my underwear for everyone to see my flaws, and tell intimate truths about myself for everyone to judge. There is so much strength in vulnerability. When I just lay the raw truth out in the open, I feel a sense of relief. It is what it is, I am what I am. I am a constantly evolving multifaceted woman.”