Alexis Karlson (36 - she/her), parent to Sylvia (23 months) 24 weeks pregnant with baby due in November.
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
Parenthood has given me more appreciation for what my body can do and made me less likely to judge its shortcomings. How can I be critical of a body that grew two babies and allowed me to breastfeed my older child for nearly two years? If anything, I am guilty of neglecting my body, despite all it has done for me. My diet could be better, and I don’t have the same availability and flexibility to go to yoga or exercise classes. This leaves me feeling disconnect from myself, but I still feel good about the strength of my body.
What was your experience?
My physical postpartum journey with my first child wasn’t as awful as I feared it would be. I worried about bleeding, burning, weakness, and all the other unpleasant sensations that happen in the weeks immediately following a birth. I definitely experienced all of them – and more – but my body healed well and more quickly than I would have expected.
Another important part of my postpartum journey was developing a support system. My husband and I joined a new parents group about two months after our daughter was born. That group helped normalize the ups and downs of being a new parent. I also took a mama/baby mindfulness workshop that bolstered my postpartum wellbeing by helping me move beyond a purely caregiver role with my daughter to nurturing a deeper relationship with her.
The longest part of my “recovery” has been to figure out how to integrate my old self with my new self. That is a daily exercise. I’m surprised at how hard it is to get quality time to pursue my old hobbies, or even to schedule a date night with my husband. Our priorities have changed so much, so trips to the pool or playground come before quilting or going to the movies.
What is one piece of knowledge you'd pass along to your former self, or a new parent?
I would tell my former self to be at peace with uncertainty and embrace it. As a parent you do your best to educate yourself and prepare for what your child may need, and yet there’s still so much you don’t know or can’t control. That can feel very overwhelming, or even threatening, to be in that place of not knowing. It has helped me to find in-person and online communities where I can ask questions, commiserate with others, and talk through what I’m facing. These communities are safe places where I can ask questions of people who get what it means to be a parent.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I wanted to commemorate this point in my motherhood journey as I bridge from having one child to raising two kids. I like how this movement celebrates all mothers’ stories and experiences.