Every day, we celebrate the hard-working moms out there who are kicking ass while juggling the many aspects of motherhood and being a modern woman. To celebrate Mother’s Day we want to give you something you don’t get enough of, the chance to get real and honest about the changes mothers experience through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. This year, we explored a more realistic and supportive message for new and future mothers than the celebrity postpartum weight loss images out there. Earlier this Spring, we connected with three women from our T&S Network. We reached out to model Stephanie, nurse Amy, and tattoo artist Laura and they were all excited to participate in our project on finding yourself during pregnancy and postpartum. We created our questions with the intention to initiate honest and thoughtful conversations around sexuality and body image during these times in a mother’s life. May their answers and this piece be one small step in the direction towards having plenty of different, empowering, supportive, and more realistic images of motherhood in our society.
If you’re a mother, we hope this piece gives you comfort. If you’re wanting to be a mother one day, we hope this gives you perspective. We want to celebrate all the mother figures out there more than anything on this day, but we acknowledge how hard today can be for some and our hearts go out to you.
We tweaked the questions below for each woman to accommodate their different personal journeys through motherhood. We hope you enjoy their individual explorations of identity and sexuality during pregnancy and postpartum.
How old is/are your kid(s)? / When is your due date?
Amy: My sons are 9, 5, and 4 years old.
Laura: My due date is soon, June 3rd! But I have a feeling this baby is going to come out sooner… let’s see if they will be a May flower or a June bug!
Stephanie: My daughter is 5 years old.
During pregnancy, what (has) helped you reconnect with your personal identity?
Amy: Alright so I’m going to be very transparent here… I really struggled to answer this question. I had suffered through awful periods of postpartum depression during and after each of my pregnancies, so I never felt that I was able to fully connect with my personal identity, to begin with. I was also a young mom, and I gave birth to my oldest son when I was 21. I hadn’t explored who I was, or what I wanted out of life, and I drifted further away from those thoughts because they felt selfish at the time. It wasn’t until years later and post-divorce that I gained a sense of self-love and identity outside of my children.
Laura: By trying to maintain my personal rituals as much as I could. As much as carrying life is a beautiful thing, it can also be very scary at times; the feeling that your life is about to change fully and that you will be responsible for another human being. It can be overwhelming. So in order to stay confident and positive, I tried not to change my daily life, routines, and personal pleasures. I kept working really hard because I love my work and tattooing, spending as much time with my husband, going on dates with him, seeing my friends, traveling… Making sure that I am not just “pregnant Laura,” but really staying fully myself, “Laura, who is also pregnant!”
Stephanie: After my first trimester, what helped me reconnect with my personal identity was looking for a job and working. I was no longer feeling constantly sick and was able to go back to my usual routine. This is when I was back to feeling myself and able to enjoy food again after losing so much weight.
What is/was the hardest challenge for you when confronting your changing body during your pregnancy?
Amy: I would say that my body no longer felt like “mine”. My youngest two boys are 13 months apart, and I remember finding out I was pregnant again and just sobbing because I wanted to feel normal again. It’s hard to think clearly when your hormones are just all over the place. I felt ugly, and uncomfortable the more my body grew and stretched. I wish I would have known the power of positive affirmations and meditation during those times!
Laura: My hardest challenges were to deal with my hormones, my crazy humor changes, and the fact that I got very sick during the first trimester. It was like having to live for the first time of my life with a completely new side of myself. I had a hard time finding the balance between who I was before and who I became through these personal challenges. It’s disturbing, scary even. I was nauseous all day long for 3 months. I was tired and going through deep mood swings to the point I didn’t know where my own self was or if I had become a new person. Asking myself, is this temporary? Even though I was low and hurt by this, I decided to fight and keep working every day. That's where I could see the positive and strong part of me, that's where I could think “ok girl. no worries you are still here, still yourself. This will pass.”
Stephanie: Everything changed—my breast size, my nipple size, my stretch marks, my skin coloring. I didn’t realize how severely my body would change. Now that I’m older, I see photos of how I looked and can say that it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was during the time. After giving birth I really thought that I was overweight—I wasn’t used to the extra weight at all. I think I was going to have a problem with myself no matter how thin I was. Because now I’m a confident size 12/14, and I look back at photos where I was very thin and I clearly remember feeling like I wasn’t thin enough.
How was/has your sexuality adapted during pregnancy and motherhood? Did you face any challenges regarding your sexuality?
Amy: Oh boy, it’s been quite the process! I once had a family member tell me that I needed to start dressing more like a “mom” when I was in my early 20’s. Now, can someone please tell me what the hell a mother is supposed to dress like?? I remember feeling so much shame and guilt for wanting to sport my cut off shorts or indulge in a cute crop top! I mean, God forbid, a woman embraces her desire for feeling sexy and comfortable in her own skin, right?
The standards and expectations society places on women can feel so heavy, and I felt those tenfold once I became a mom. But here’s the thing, women are allowed to be multifaceted. We want to feel sexy, powerful, and be positive role models for our children.
I’m constantly mindful of the fact that I am raising boys who will someday become young men. Ultimately it is in my hands to teach them how to respect and honor women not only for their physical appearance—but their strength, intelligence, and confidence as well. Every woman, especially one who has created a whole new life with her body deserves to feel sexy! Period.
This is who I am—a classy; full of grit; sexual being; and nurturing, badass mama of three <3
Laura: My sexuality has been… not at its best to be honest! I don’t know how pregnant women are keeping their sexualities up and well, this was not always my case. In the beginning, I was pretty nauseous and sick so it was not always easy to have the energy for it, then too tired (well... probably because I worked too much!), later on with my growing belly many positions became uncomfortable... Pregnancy can be tough! So I definitely have not been feeling my greatest sexual self, but I’m happy to have a very supportive and patient husband. We love each other deeply and even though it is not as often as we used to or as we wish, we are still able to give each other pleasure when I’m up for it.
Stephanie: During pregnancy, I didn’t have a problem with sex. My hormones were high during my pregnancy and I really enjoyed sex. However, after delivering my daughter I didn’t feel like I could—I wasn’t comfortable in my skin. It was like I put on a new body and when I looked in the mirror it wasn’t the same person. I hated looking at myself. Not only did I not like the way I looked in my new mom bod, but I was on birth control which made my libido lower.
What advice would you give to future mothers who might feel uncomfortable with their changing bodies?
Amy: Embrace it! You may have loved your previous body, and now you feel like you’re starting from scratch. But girlfriend… You created and brought a whole new life into the world! Yes, your body changes, (and that’s completely normal to be upset about)... but so does your heart and in the BEST way possible. It’s a beautiful experience and truly no one gives a shit about those extra baby pounds or stretch marks. You’re gorgeous mama, own it and embrace it!
Laura: Keep focusing on the positive things in your life and what makes you happy. Remember how much you wanted to become a mother, how much of a dream it was that this could happen to you someday. On the down days of pregnancy, it's hard to remember it, you almost start regretting it and don’t know why the hell you are going through this. So breathe, think about this little life within you, and that you are not alone. Every mother is going through this. Sometimes it’s ok to be tired, to be angry, and to hate yourself and everyone around you. I went through it. The good thing is that it's temporary, it does pass.
Stephanie: I’d say do whatever you have to do to feel comfortable. Whether that’s working out or accepting yourself the way you are. It’s not going to be easy, but nothing in life is. Find the joy in the little things. Don’t expect to snap back quickly like all these celebrities. That’s what I thought would happen, that I’d snap back. I eventually did, but it took me a year to feel comfortable again.
What did you find was the most nurturing personal time or self-care for you while pregnant? How did/will you continue to make time for yourself after giving birth?
Amy: Hmm, it varies at different phases of motherhood. One thing I’ll never underestimate is the power of washing my face, taking a nice long shower, and putting on fresh clothes. Very basic, but those are still my “pick me ups” to this day.
Laura: When I was too low I would force myself to do things I know make me feel pretty: put my best outfit on, do an amazing makeup look, go to the hairstylist, etc. Making myself feel pretty was ALWAYS the key to feeling great and now I can be like “ok I’m hot and awesome and I’m going to rock this and be the best mom.”
After I give birth I want to make sure to keep doing all of it. It clearly helped me so much, it seems so simple but the effect is radical. It gives you such a boost of energy and reminds you to take care of yourself! I’m lucky to have a husband who knows how important it is for my mental health (I guess for him too…! Happy wife, happy life, right?) so he will make sure I’m taking time off to do all my girly things, meet with my girlfriends, get a drink outside, etc. And I will totally be doing the same for him!
Stephanie: For my self-care time I would go to the gym. I was really focused on making my body stronger and feeling better with my energy. Carrying a baby around is not easy, so I wanted to be able to confidently carry the stroller up and down the stairs on my own.
Were you interested in lingerie that felt sexy during your pregnancy? Were you interested in lingerie postpartum? /
Are you interested in lingerie that feels sexy during your pregnancy? Do you think you'll be interested in sexy lingerie postpartum?
Amy: ABSOLUTELY during pregnancy, haha! I’ve always been a huge fan of lingerie and all the dreamy feelings a well-made piece can invoke. Breastfeeding, not so much—my boobs were scary big and felt so heavy!
Laura: During my pregnancy to be honest… not really. Many lingerie and outfits simply felt uncomfortable, I just wanted leggings and soft bras and large underwear… 100% not sexy. Since I also wasn’t sexual I guess it was the whole package! Though I am very interested in sexy lingerie for postpartum. Looking through what I’m going to wear after I give birth when I’m feeling hot and up again, it’s actually exciting. I was 4 months pregnant when I discovered Thistle & Spire while looking through sexy lingerie for postpartum online. I fell so in love with the brand that I bought my own Medusa Bodysuit. Oh my god, it’s so beautiful! I didn’t buy it thinking “it's for right now” but more “hell yeah that’s for my new fresh body soon!” Even though pregnancy might’ve stopped me from wanting to wear nice lingerie, I’m telling you it doesn’t stop women from wanting to buy ourselves something nice and sexy (even if it’s for later)!
Stephanie: I used lingerie as a way to feel sexy again after having my baby. During pregnancy, I never wore sexy lingerie, so coming out of it I wanted to have my sensual side back. I would choose lingerie that covered my stomach like bodysuits or high waisted panties because I really hated the way [it] looked.
What is your favorite part about being pregnant? What are you looking forward to about being a mother? / What's your favorite part of being a mom?
Amy: I would say my favorite part of being a mom is the unconditional love we give to each other. We have this rule at home, that no matter what kind of day it’s been we always exchange hugs and “I love you’s” at night. Sometimes, when they fight, I’ll make them hug for a solid two minutes. At first, they used to roll their eyes and complain. But, over the years they actually really started loving it and are usually cracking up before the timer goes off! I can say without a doubt, they are the best parts of me. The world became more vibrant and full once they were born. And although I gave birth to them, they give me life!!
Laura: I love feeling my baby moving, I love thinking about how the love of my husband and I created a new life. It seriously brings me to tears often (well, hello hormones!). I love the compassion and love from everyone around, they let you know that it’s ok to be tired, that you can rest, that you look great. People are more easily showing and telling their love to a woman who is pregnant because she feels more precious, and representative of the hope of new life. I have to say I do love it, it’s really appreciated.
Stephanie: My favorite part about being a mother is nurturing my daughter and building her self-esteem. I love watching her grow, listening to her jokes, looking into her eyes, receiving extra tight hugs because she wants me to know she loves me. There are a million things that I love about being a mom. But the one true thing about being a mother that I love is that she will always be my baby and I will always be her mom. Even though everything in life changes, that won’t.
If you had to describe being pregnant or motherhood in a simile or metaphor, what would it be?
Amy: Motherhood is beautiful and terrifying, like a heart.
You learn to live life with a new perspective because now, your heart no longer lives and beats just inside your chest. You wear it on the outside and it’s incredibly fragile and vulnerable. It’s beautiful though because it’s genuinely miraculous. Terrifying—in the way that you’re constantly trying to keep it safe from harm, and despite our best efforts, pain is inevitable and someday we will have to let go.
Laura: Honestly it might be cheesy but the first thing I’m thinking about is the transition from caterpillar to butterfly. It’s like knowing you are about to become something else, you don't know what it is yet, but you know it will still be you… just in a different stage of your life. So much more grown and fuller, discovering a new whole world and ways to love! But between those two there is the stage of the chrysalis. For me, it felt like a pause in time, a complete reexamining of myself, my past, my present, and my future. Chrysalises are so fascinating and fragile, they mark a transition and are about to become a beautiful, powerful, soaring creature: a butterfly or a mother, in our case. It’s the same image for me.
Stephanie: To have her is to have unconditional love; she taught me how to love myself.
It’s tough to confront your challenges and insecurities, especially about a role that we put so much pressure on getting right. These women are brave for getting so personal with us and their answers are beautiful. Today, we celebrate these women and all the mother figures in our lives. Furthermore, we applaud all of those out there who are trying to get more in touch with themselves. We’re proud of those out there who are sharing their truths and trying to let go of the fear of being judged; those who are trying to create more honest and deeper connections with themselves and those around them; those who are out there just trying to grow, love themselves, and be happy; and those who are trying to be easier on themselves and the ones around them. Don’t forget what you’re doing is brave, important, and hard.
Until next time, we wanted to remind you of a few big things. First, we love seeing you working on loving yourself without exceptions. Second, mental and emotional work are still work—they can be exhausting and time-consuming. Third, you’re gorgeous, inside and out. Fourth, what matters is that you’re doing your best, the best that you can do at that moment, and that you’re listening to yourself. And lastly, thank you for all that you do and have made possible. A mother figure's support and love can move mountains. Happy Mother’s Day, and stay fierce, lingerie lovers.