How I Came to Terms with a Post-Baby Body

by | Sep 22, 2020 | For Women | 13 comments

Coming to Terms with Your Post-Baby Body

Our bodies were not meant to stay the same throughout our lives.

Certainly we grow older. But childbirth also has a profound effect. I had three babies in 2.5 years – it was a lot. And with pregnancy comes big changes to your body, many of which don’t go away.

Earlier this week I pointed you to an awesome app for pregnancy–the Stork Advisor. And last week we wrote about the sad side of pregnancy, or how to help those that are dealing with pregnancy and baby loss.

Today Joanna’s back, sharing her thoughts on stretch marks and coming to terms with a post-pregnancy body.

(She wrote this last year, when her daughter Mari was younger and before she welcomed little Talitha, her second, into the world last month!)

I’m a small person who married into a tall family.

My husband is 6’ 2” and I’m 5’ 1” (Here we are at Sheila’s daughter’s Katie’s wedding, just three days before Mari was born).

Getting used to a post-baby body

It was no surprise, then, that when I was pregnant with our daughter, that I was all baby. I had a hard pregnancy – gestational diabetes had me poking my finger 4 times a day and injecting myself with insulin before lunch and dinner, and a lump in my neck that turned out to be thyroid cancer, had me stressed and struggling. I had been an infertility patient before I got pregnant and so having a baby was a joy and delight but I did find the whole process to be so stressful.

My daughter did an excellent job of dropping late in the 3rd trimester, and between her good position, lots of walk, and the fact that I took to a Pitocin drip like a duck to water, I had a remarkably fast labor. But the dropping also had another side effect: stretch marks.


My stomach is simply covered with silvery vertical lines from side to side. My abs aren’t taut together anymore – another side effect of being so short – and so my stomach is bloppier than it was before I got pregnant.

Obviously, it was all worth it. Every poke and prick, every injection of insulin, every stress about carb counting and worry about “ol’ lumpy”, I would do again for my precious girl.

But still: stretch marks suck.

My daughter is now 19 months and she is obsessed with belly buttons. She enjoys showing mine to me and I’m reminded each time that it looks rather different now than it used to. Somehow, I still don’t like the change.

As I have come to terms with the inescapable fact that I myself have changed because of the child I carried and birthed, I am at once grateful and chagrined and I recognize the privilege it is that I can be both. I have friends who have never been able to carry a baby, despite their deepest desires to do so, and I’m aware that I got the happy ending. And yet I’m still not thrilled about having a row of stretch marks, even as I recognize how ridiculous I’m being about them.

My husband has been nothing but supportive about ye ol’ bodily changes due to childbirth.

I am so profoundly grateful that I married my wonderful Canadian guy. But despite all of the “count your blessings” pep talks I’ve given myself and all of the “you’re beautiful” reassurances I’ve gotten from my husband, I’ve still had my own silly struggles with my silvery row of stretch marks.

If I’m honest, the one thing that has helped me is to remember the wounds of Christ.

We know that he bore our sin and our shame on the cross and died to set us free. We know that he was glorified and resurrected, that he is the first fruits of the resurrection that is our hope in him. And yet, even in his glorified and resurrected bodies he was still scarred and wounded. The nail marks and wound in his side were still visible, even after the resurrection.

Even more amazing: the wounds were what allowed Thomas to recognize Christ. Somehow, the glorified wounds were the proof that Jesus was he, himself.

Many Christian theologians have remarked upon this and believe that we, too, will bear the wounds we have taken for love on our bodies in the new Creation.

That is, I believe I will have stretch marks in eternity. But I also believe they will be beautiful, somehow, and glorified. I don’t know what that will be like, but if I give my ignominious stretch marks the dignity of being crowns of glory in the resurrection, I can’t find it in my heart to despise them. And isn’t that the kingdom, anyway? To hold up the imperfections that would be looked down on and then make them beautiful?

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My daughter is very attached to her lovie, named Lyle.

He is a lion friend with a mane of stubby yarn that she just loves to snuggle and he has been her constant companion. Her other two special friends, Bennie and Emily, play second fiddle to him at best. Lyle of often sucked on, cuddled, and squished and so he’s often very stinky and always a bit the worse for wear. But he’s real to our daughter, and to us. In my musings about my stretch marks, I’ve found myself thinking that, perhaps like the velveteen rabbit and Lyle, I too am becoming real.

Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’

‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.

‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’

‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.

The Velveteen Rabbit

My grandmother, who lived with my family starting when I was 6 until she died when I was 10, was on a ventilator at the end of her life. They took her off life support and read her the final chapter of the Last Battle by C.S. Lewis as her breathing became shallower and then stopped. Grandma died, her body had been broken by years of suffering with myriad medical conditions, and now she is better and whole.

I miss her terribly still, I had a medical appointment yesterday and I just wanted to talk to her about it. She, uniquely, would understand. She is with my sweet cousin Jackie, who died at 20 months, and Christopher Gregoire and the baby my husband and I lost. We rejoice that they are together and that they are with the Lord, but we long for the final resurrection and the New Creation. We will be made beautiful in our suffering then and all will be well.

Lewis had a beautiful vision for how we would experience the New Earth – that it would be more real, somehow, than this world is.

It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed and then cried:

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though U never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come farther up, come farther in!”

He shook his mane and sprang forward into a great gallop – a Unicorn’s gallop which, in our world, would have carried him out of sight in a few moments. But now a most strange thing happened. Everyone else began to run, and they found, to their astonishment, that they could keep up with him: not only to Dogs and the humans but even fat little Puzzle and the short-legged Poggin the Dwarf. The air flew in their faces as if they were driving fast in a car without a windscreen. The country flew past as if they were seeing it from the windows of an express train. Faster and faster they raced, but no one got hot or tired or out of breath.

C.S. Lewis

The Last Battle, p. 155

May we all become real as we go farther up and farther in.

A little child will lead them – farther up and farther in!

Joanna originally wrote this post a year ago, just a few months after suffering a terrible, life-threatening miscarriage. A few weeks ago, she and Josiah welcomed Talitha into their little family. She’s healthy and lovely, and now Joanna has even MORE stretch marks! Congratulations, Joanna!

Have you had to come to terms with body changes? What helped you? Let me know in the comments! 

Written by

Joanna Sawatsky


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Joanna Sawatsky

Author at Bare Marriage

Joanna Sawatsky has a Masters in Public Health and is a trained microbiologist, epidemiologist, and biostatistician. A Pittsburgh native, she headed north to Saskatchewan to marry her Mennonite prince charming, Josiah. After living in the far Arctic while running stats for the books, they now live with their two little girls in Alberta. ENFJ 1w2.

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  1. Tiffany

    Sheila, did you knit those adorable pink and purple sweaters on the little girls!?!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      No, I did not! Those were someone else’s creation. 🙂
      I haven’t actually done a lot of knitting, even for my grandson, because Rebecca inherited so many clothes. I think we’re going to knit him more things when he hits 3-4. And I didn’t knit anything for Joanna’s babies. I’m sorry, Joanna! 🙂

      • Joanna

        They were made by my husband’s aunt sherilyn! We are so lucky to have so many knitters in our our lives

    • Anna

      My pregnancy with my youngest left me with an umbilical hernia that, after trying to ignore it for 18 years, caused a strangulation of my small intestine, and a bowel obstruction that nearly killed me. It happened last summer, and I had to have emergency surgery to fix the hernia and construct a new bellybutton. I’m very thankful for my full recovery, but my abdomen is a mess with scars and an alien-looking navel. The child who caused all the havoc to my body was the one who stayed overnight in the hospital with me and helped me while I was recovering and walking after surgery. She’s a gem, and one of my best friends, but I do wish I had listened to my own dissatisfaction with the way my bellybutton looked for 18 years, and had the repair surgery BEFORE I nearly destroyed my kidneys from the days of dehydration that led up to the surgery.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Oh, dear, Anna! What a story! I’m so glad you got it fixed and you’re okay, but that’s a great reminder to all of us to take things seriously.

  2. Becky

    I’ll be honest, I’m still trying to figure this one out. I didn’t really struggle much with how my body looked after my two boys, probably mostly because I was more focused on dealing with some actual physical birth injuries that needed attention and therapy. But my body did “bounce back” fairly well after those two. The third baby is what really threw me. I had a very sedentary pregnancy out of necessity, because I was nauseous and out of breath the entire time. And then by the time I had recovered enough to really start taking steps towards improving my health, COVID happened and everything else in my life got thrown off. So now I’ve got this poochy midsection that I didn’t have before, and I’m struggling very hard with that. I know that there are things I can do about this, like exercise more, but I need to overcome some blocks about the kids letting me get time for it, and my attitude towards it. (Honestly, I hate exercising, except for hiking, and it’s hard to turn that into actual cardio with 3 kids tagging along. And attempts to exercise with a video at home usually end with somebody sitting on my face.) I also suspect that I have a diastasis issue, so I’m trying to figure out how to deal with that. I think the hardest thing was also that I had to get rid of a lot of favorite clothes recently that just don’t fit anymore, and I sew clothes, so this was extremely emotional. I’m trying to get myself excited about making new clothes, but I haven’t been satisfied with how several of my projects this year ended up looking on me, and then there’s the time to actually do it thing again… it’s a mess.

    • Natalie

      It may be for the best that you haven’t gotten back into an exercising routine if you have diastisis recti, even if it’s just a mild case. If you can’t make it to a PT, there are many good videos on YouTube about how to help heal diastisis recti. The biggest takeaway I got from watching those: START SLOW! One of the worst things you can do is jump right back in to the same level exercise routine you had before having kids, expecting your body to catch up. Be kind to yourself; your body will probably need some time to regain the strength and stamina it had pre-kids. (And when it comes to home workouts, I’m a huge fan of the Peloton app, though there are many other programs out there that are either less expensive or free. My husband & other friends and relatives use our family account too, so it works out for us financially).
      Everyone’s bodies are different, but I’ve noticed that my pooch (note: that’s different than excess skin which I do have too. It’s especially noticeable when I’m on all 4’s) was directly related to my diet, which was a standard healthy diet with lots of fresh veg and fruit along with protein and carbs. I’m convinced that the “mommy pooch” has more to do with diet than it does with how much and what kind of exercise a mom is getting. For me and my body, my pooch/bloat goes away when I eat keto/paleo/AIP. If I eat any other way, I’ll experience some degree of bloating and, thus, pooch. Maybe the same would apply to you? All you’d have to do is find which foods agree with you and which don’t. And since the body chemistry can change so much from childbirth, that may not be such a bad experiment to do anyway. Good luck!

  3. Kya

    For whatever reason, I didn’t get very many stretch marks with my pregnancy. Just a cluster of them right around my belly button, but nowhere else. I’m so proud of them, though, and as they’ve slowly faded over the past 3 years, I’ve thought a couple times about having a tattoo artist color them in so I can always see them. No joke. That might make me crazy, though!

    • Andrea

      I am convinced that if men had babies, they’d be showing off their stretch marks the way soldiers brag about their battle wounds, and the one with the most would be the biggest hero.

  4. Joy

    After my babies I got a different kind of societal pressure: a pressure not to care. Because of course you are still beautiful, you are still worthy and naturally your baby was all worth it, so if you care about the way you look you are vain and shallow.
    It took me a while to get over that one. For me it wasn’t stretch marks but my waist, which is obviously bigger than it was before I had children. Here is what I’ve learned of anyone out there needs to read this today: ITS OKAY TO CARE! It doesn’t mean you’re stupid, or not spiritual, or shallow. It doesn’t have anything to do with your husband, or societal pressure. It’s ok to have fitness goals, even though they may take a long time to achieve. In the meantime…it’s ok to wear spanks! If you want to, obviously. If this isn’t a problem for you then you go, girl.
    Also, learn to shop for your new body. It can be really fun and doesn’t have to be too expensive. The midi styles that are fashionable right now are SO flattering for a mommy pouch. A swishy fabric and a light print help, too. And if you’re comfortable, a bit of a heeled boot makes you look slimmer. It’s not vain to care!

  5. Wifey

    About to deliver my 2nd boy and this article made me tear up! It’s so much to work through- realizing that our bodies are a gift from God and that our stretch marks are a pale reflection of Christ’s wounds. Easy to understand in my brain, less easy to live out sometimes.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, I didn’t know you were pregnant, Wifey! My prayers and best wishes for a safe delivery. How exciting!

      • Wifey

        I just saw this, thank you Shelia! This labor was only 12 hours (induced @42 wks) after the last being 121 hours (natural) so major improvement. God was gracious! I love this article from Joanna. I keep referring back to it as I’ve dealt with even worse DR, the umbilical hernia, 6 months of colic from baby and I fell and broke several ribs and fractured my back. But my husband is amazing and these precious boys are worth all of the physical changes and challenges a hundred times over!


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