The following is a transcript of the audio. Transcript has been edited for clarity.
Laura: Welcome to another episode of Risen Motherhood. We are thrilled you all are joining us today. I’ve got my sister-in-law, Emily Jensen here with me. We’re talking about how the gospel impacts a mom’s everyday life, and specifically today, we are talking about how the gospel impacts postpartum body image.
Emily: Which is a little bit of a raw topic for Laura and I. We are excited to be discussing this although it is.
Laura: We’re nervous, let’s be real.
Emily: A little nerve-racking.
Laura: It’s a little raw but it will be fun.
Emily: Yes, exactly.
Laura: Emily, do you want to start off and just tell the listeners exactly where you’re at, where you’ve been, that kind of stuff?
Emily: Sure, and I’m going to imagine that you guys are all sitting across from me drinking coffee because it is just a little bit personal to talk about these stories that we have. I’ve had four kid in -
Laura: She can’t even count them all.
Emily: [laughter] - Three and a half years; under four years. I had a set of twins in there and I would say each time that I’ve had a pregnancy, I’ve definitely gained more than the recommended amount of weight. If you look on the chart, especially with my first, I gained at least over 35 pounds.
Laura: No shame in that girl. I will beat that.
Emily: When it’s your first, you’re like, “Oh, I want to try to be healthy,” and then you notice that you’re getting over that little margin. I had him a month early too. Then with the twins, I definitely gained over 50 pounds. I have one picture of myself in the hospital when I was in labor and I always tell my husband. “You can never show that to anyone because I look so huge,” but that was okay; it was worth it. With this last pregnancy, which I had my most recent baby in August, and definitely although I think I ate a lot healthier that pregnancy, I still gained around 35 pounds for a full-term 40 weeks.
Laura: In between babies, how were you with postpartum recovery and stuff like that?
Emily: Every time, so far, it has taken me a full nine months to get back to what I would call ‘my pre-baby weight’ and it’s definitely been a long process. I don’t think I’m someone who just springs back. I hit that plateau when I get back from the hospital and it’s like, “Okay, that’s all the weight I’ve lost until I…” It’s about six months out or five months out when I can focus on eating healthy again, and getting more exercise. It’s definitely not been an easy process for me.
Certainly, having so many kids in such a short amount of time has been a huge yoyo on my body, just from the weight gain and weight loss. It’s been up and down and up and down. Right now, I have not hit that nine-month out point yet, so I am still trying to find contentment where I’m at. I look different than I did when I was 21.
Laura: Don’t we all?
Emily: What about you Laura? What’s your journey been like?
Laura: I’ve had two kids for listeners who are tuning in for the first time. They’re about 20 months apart. My first pregnancy, I gained upwards of 40 pounds or close to 40, and definitely got the wrist slap from the doctor at 20 weeks who said, “No more gaining weight.” It was between Thanksgiving and Christmas and she said, “Please try not to gain any more weight until I see you next.” I mean, really? Does a doctor normally say that? I did switch doctors later for more reasons than that, but I was like, “Over the holidays, you want me to not gain weight? All of America does. Now this pregnant woman is going to as well!”
Emily: Side note, it’s totally unfair to go to that weighing and in the wintertime because you’re like… (Laughter)
Laura: Oh my goodness! I want to wear flip-flops to my appointments because those boots weigh a lot. (Laughter)
Emily: They’re always like, “Go ahead and get on. Get on the stand,” and you’re like, “I’m in my winter coat; this is so unfair.” (Laughter)
Laura: I’m always in summer clothes during the winter of my prenatal appointments. I want to be as low as possible for them.(Laughter) But yes, for both pregnancies, I gained far above the average. With my second, I gained close to 50 and so Emily, you are doing great with twins; at least you had that. But I feel like the first time after I had my son, getting back in the postpartum phase was easier. I think it always is with our first. By five or six months out, I felt different but generally back to what I looked at prior. Of course, things are rearranged and things are softer and there’s all those things that we all have experienced, but generally, I felt pretty good by that time, although still not exactly satisfied.
Then with my second, I feel like it took at least nine to ten months. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to work out and if you know me at all, I do not work out. It’s not something that I enjoy. I’ve never done it beyond some high school sports and college things like activities. That wasn’t my thing and like you said, “We’re not our 21-year old selves.” It’s definitely a little bit harder. The recovery isn’t naturally happening and so it takes a little bit more effort.
Emily: It does take more effort, I totally agree with you. One thing I was surprised about, and maybe you were too, Laura, is the fact that it hasn’t gotten a lot easier for me to deal with postpartum body image after each pregnancy. I get that, “Okay, I’ve done this one time. I know the drill. This isn’t going to affect my heart as much as it did the first time around,” but honestly, I can say this third time around, I have still struggled with it just as much as I did after the first time, if not more. I’ve had to counsel my heart and do some practical things to be content, where I’m at right now. I don’t know why it doesn’t get easier but for me, I think it’s been still a hard journey.
Laura: I think as women, we’re always going to struggle with body image. Whether that’s because we’re too thin or we’re too heavy or something just isn’t shaped the way we like it to be, it’s going to happen. But in the meantime, let’s talk about some practical tips. Probably most of you guys know this, but need a fresh reminder, or maybe it’s your first baby or you’re pregnant with your first. These are truths that Emily and I have learned.
My number one is, always buy clothing that fits. I feel like you just try to squeeze into those -not squeeze - let the maternity jeans sag off of you because you don’t have the right body shape but they’re comfortable still. But your butt looks way worse, let’s be honest, because the jeans just do not fit correctly.
Emily: Yes, or you try to squeeze into your pre-baby jeans and you’re like, “Well, they button but…”
Laura: Oh, they go up to my calf. (Laughter) I’m like, “I was so thin!” It’s not fun to put those back on. So just go to the store, spend the $30 or $60, or whatever you spend on jeans, and get a pair of jeans that you can wear in between, that you can button without feeling like you’re going to explode out of. You will feel a million times better, I promise.
Emily: I almost have this ‘in-between wardrobe. I’ve got my maternity clothes and then I’ve got a bunch of clothes that fit.
Laura: Oh, 'tweener clothes?
Emily: 'Tweener clothes that I probably wear for six to nine months. Then I’ve got, I want to say my normal clothes, but because I’ve been pregnant so much in the last few years, I don’t think I’ve gotten much use out of them. But I totally have felt better about the way I look when I’ve just invested in an in-between wardrobe, so I think that’s awesome.
Laura: There’s a phrase “nine months up, nine months down” so give yourself grace in between; mentally not downplaying what you just did. What you did was amazing. What your body did is a miracle and what it’s still doing is a miracle. Whether or not you’re nursing, you’re bonding with that child; you’re sustaining life and caring for it. I think that’s a huge thing of, just mentally remembering what an amazing work your body did, and that it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, even when it doesn’t look like what you want it to look like.
Emily: And some people went through traumatic deliveries. Others had C-sections or natural deliveries but for all of us, it really is hard on your body. I think we don’t realize how long it takes to recover from that. Then you also have all these hormones and everything else going on, and so it’s okay to wait and ease into it. Even though we get the thumbs up at six weeks out, every person needs to evaluate for themselves. If you’re not ready yet, don’t put pressure on yourself to try to make it to the gym, and start dieting and all those things, when you really still have a lot of complicated hormones and you’re maybe sleep deprived. You’re trying to get used to this new way of life. It can be too much pressure to add, “Oh and you need to get your body back,” on top of that.
Laura: I totally agree.
Emily: To hear the blessed comment, “You look like you’ve never had a baby.”
Laura: I know. Why is it that we want that so much? It’s like, “Yes, I did have a baby so I should look like I had one.”
We’re getting close on time here, Emily. We had more for you guys but we can’t make it through them all if we want to get into some of the other meat.
Emily: This is such a meaty topic and we’re just getting started. We want to talk about how the gospel applies and what we should be focusing on, which is the internal, the hidden person of the heart, the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which God says is beautiful.
We want to focus on that.
Laura: God’s version of beautiful is long lasting and the world's will change. Emily says to me all the time, that cultures have had different perceptions of beauty over all of time, and God’s version of beauty is long lasting; it’s eternal and it’s what matters. I think the biggest thing that happens when we’re in postpartum and we’re really struggling through not being happy with what we look like, or a certain area or whatever it is, is that we’ve misplaced where our worth and our identity is found. We’re starting to idolize that perfect image. Maybe that’s our pre-baby self, maybe that’s a supermodel or another woman.
Emily: Or just a friend, yes.
Laura: Yes, the friend that we all have that looked-
Laura: -amazing three weeks out. Good for her. We can be happy for her, but I think the thing that we have to remember is that, at least for me, I know when I got back to my pre-baby jeans, it still wasn’t enough. I still wanted to be thinner. I remember being six months out, trying to put on my pre-baby jeans and just being like, “I was so thin. Why wasn’t I happy with what I looked like?” I got there and I was not happy and that’s because I’m finding my worth in the wrong places.
Emily: And any time we put our hope on something other than Jesus Christ, it’s going to fall short. It’s going to fail us and it’s always going to be stringing us along to do more. I think that’s a great point, to not just say, “Once I hit this number, then I’ll be happy,” because that’s not true.
Laura: Exactly. It’s a lie.
Emily: In the meantime, it’s okay to have goals and want to be healthy as long as we’re focusing on contentment in Christ, and we’re able to have joy where we’re at. To not be doing a lot of this negative self-talk and just condemning ourselves and living in this weird place mentally of not liking who we are, and who God has created us to be.
Laura: And something specifically that Emily and I talked about, that we want to discuss is, the common lies that we think about postpartum, and how we can defeat that with truth. That’s something Em and I are going talk about in every show probably, Especially on postpartum, I think the battle is in our minds. Let’s just list of some of the lies Em.
Emily: I think one I really struggled with this last time is that my husband is not going to desire me anymore. Especially after the fourth baby, I could feel that my body looked different than it did before I had children. Not that everyone sees me this way but especially without clothes on, it looks different. It was important this time around for me to air that with him, and talk through that and speak truth to myself. Now, I feel like I’m in a much better place; a place that I can still be joyful and intimate, and free with my husband and not be worried about it. That was a big one for me. What about you Laura?
Laura: I think I definitely compare myself to that other person that had a baby and just say, “Oh my word, she looks so much better than me. Everyone’s probably comparing me to her.” No, I’m the only one making the comparison! Or thinking dramatic things like, “I’ll never be thin or beautiful again.” We can be really dramatic. What else?
Emily: I think we talked about fitting back into your old jeans and you’ll be happy again.
Laura: Yes, or just degrading areas of our bodies, like, “I hate my stomach,” or, “I hate my thighs,” or whatever.
Emily: Or just seeing a picture of yourself and thinking, “Oh, I look so fat.”
Laura: Yes, those are lies that are just brought into our mind by Satan. What we’re doing when we’re critiquing and criticizing ourselves is again going back to where we’re finding our worth. We’re forgetting who we are in Christ.
Emily: Absolutely. I think that the best thing I’ve learned to do in that situation is to transform my mind and input truth. As I focus on the truth, those lies get quieter and eventually go away, even if you’re still battling them over a long period of time.
Laura: What that practically looks like is you hear the lie, “I hate this. I don’t like that,” and then you have to stop at that moment, repent of it and live in the forgiveness that Christ has given, and then ask for a right view of yourself. Em and I pulled together some scriptures. I don’t think we have the time to go through them all today, but just a couple Em?
Emily: I think one that sticks out to me is 1 Samuel 16:7, “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or the height or the stature because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance but the Lord looks on the heart.”
I think that’s a big one. We talked about true beauty a little bit closer to the beginning, just like God is looking at our hearts and that’s really what matters.
Laura: Exactly. When we’re repenting of those negative thoughts, we’re asking Him to help us see ourselves as His true beauty; His real standard. That’s what it means to transform your mind or to take a lie and overpower it with truth.
Emily: And it’s definitely a process, a long one that Laura and I are still in.
Laura: Definitely. We totally did a flyover of this topic. I think we could have gotten so much deeper. We’re already over time so yes, we will put some more scriptures up on the show notes page, along with a couple of links to some other articles that have been really helpful; both practical and spiritual. As far as wrapping it up, let’s see. Next week we’re talking about gospel instruction for kids so that will be fun.
Emily: Yes, and if you guys benefited from this, or you want to start this conversation with your friends, go ahead and share this on social media.
Laura: We would love that. It’s a huge honor when you do that. We know so many of you already have done it.
Emily: You can leave us a rating or a review on iTunes. It’s a way for other moms to find this podcast.
Laura: I think that’s it.
Emily: See you guys.