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Sewing For & Sharing My Postpartum Body

Postpartum diastasis recti & stretchmarks

I have only seen stretch marks in real life, on another person, twice. That is mind blowing, considering how common they are (anecdotally speaking, I couldn’t find any hard statistics to cite). [Reflecting on the responses I’ve received to the post, after a week of it being up, has blown me away. I’ve heard from many people that they look just like I do – which totally shocks me! And further makes me glad that I posted this.] I have, however, seen them countless times on tabloid covers, and cheesy ads selling snake oil. It’s a little disconcerting to realize you look like the ‘before’ pictures and after giving birth to my son, I immediately donated all my bathing suits. The unwritten rule that one must hide, conceal, or fix stretch marks was so ingrained it literally did not occur to me that I could still wear a bikini. How disturbing, right?

All throughout both my pregnancies I heard comments about my body (as many women do). Now, whenever I show someone my stomach, the reaction is usually an apology. Guess what? I’m not sorry. I’m not ashamed. I’m sharing my body at what many would consider “its worst” because 1. I think it’s pretty amazing to have created two human beings,  2. because I think sharing un-Photoshopped, diverse images of what mothers’ bodies look like is important, and 3. it’s connected to how sewing has affected my life.

Despite my jokes about taking ‘selfies’ in the clothes I’ve sewn, blogging has given me self-confidence in a way I didn’t anticipate. Taking my tripod & camera out into public places and posing is daunting. Doing it over and over has made me feel more fearless, less self-conscious, and bolder. Being able to sew empowers me – I’m not keen on the crop tops and flowy rompers in stores (I’m also trying to avoid fast fashion), but that’s not a problem. I can sew exactly what I want, to fit me how I want, in spite of what’s in style or for sale. I can sew one size for my bust and another for my sleeves without any issues, instead of sweating and leaking milk  while trying on a million different things in a fitting room with the worst lighting ever.

Body Positive Sewing

To be fair, I did not sew those jeggings or my nursing bra. But that’s me! In all of my asymmetrical, bumpy, scarred self. I have an umbilical hernia and diastasis recti, which means my stomach muscles aren’t playing nicely and refuse to come back together, in addition to the obvious extra skin and stretch marks. In spite of these irregularities, I am so proud that my body carried, birthed, and nourished two human beings.

Second Pregnancy

Me before my son, with what I thought was a very obvious bloated belly (ha ha ha), and towards the end of pregnancy #1 and then pregnancy #2. I gained about 25 pounds with #1 and 30 with #2, and still have 15 of them hanging around at the time the pictures in this post were taken. I’d like to think they’ll magically disappear thanks to breastfeeding, mostly because I don’t want to buy or sew new jeans.

Pregnant Stomach

It became clear quite quickly that I wasn’t carrying like an average woman. Top row is pregnancy #1 and bottom row is pregnancy #2. My first was quite painful – my skin was white hot and stretched thin. My son was crazy active in utero (and still is, at 2.5 years of age). My second was uncomfortable in the way I imagine most pregnancies are, but not painful since my skin was already all stretched out. My daughter was pretty laidback, thankfully, and only popped her limbs out in awkward ways once in a while.

Diastasis recti

This is what my body looked like after few months, before I got pregnant again. You can see clearly the deep gap between my stomach muscles. Now that I’m done being pregnant, I’ll have the umbilical hernia surgically repaired and am exploring physical therapy options for the muscle separation.

Diastasis recti & umbilical hernia

After my first I got in the habit of just ‘sucking it in’ because my lower back was sore if I didn’t. It’s harder this time, with more damage and more skin. I broke my back in college, with lots of soft tissue damage, a chronic problem that is exacerbated by the lack of core muscles. That face on the top right sums up how I feel about that!

Postpartum body positive

Stretchmarks

You can see the tiny extended stretch marks at the very top that are a brighter purple instead of faded silver – the only marks my daughter added to my collection.

Loose Skin Postpartum

The creative in me finds this skin beautiful. The star and triangle patterns remind me of a quilt or the sashiko stitched stars from this post.

Crepey skin postpartum

I find the topography of my stomach a little fascinating, pre-babies it did not make nearly as interesting of shapes and textures. My son likes to pet it; he has no idea this isn’t what women are “supposed to look like”.

I’ll be sharing some of the clothes I’m sewing for myself and my new shape over the next few months – first up were a few Grainline Hemlocks. It feels a little hypocritical to spend this time showing you my postpartum body and then sew patterns specifically hoping to drape over all of my lumps and bumps, but it is what it is. I’m always happy to show someone what being “all belly” looks like after the baby is gone, but I don’t enjoy being asked if I’m pregnant again on a routine basis.

I’d love to hear how body image intersects with sewing or crafting for you! Or maybe everyone will have clicked away, after those pregnancy pictures (they still make me cringe!).

Some other great reads:

Postpartum Sewing Stretchmarks Pinterest

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This Post Has 49 Comments
  1. This was a wonderful post! I too am someone that is proud of my body and what it did to grow my healthy baby. I hate the idea that we need to be ashamed because our stomachs aren’t flat immediately (or ever!) or there are marks on them. I’m proud. I may not wear bikinis (because I never did before), but I don’t need to hide and there is nothing wrong with having clothes that make our bodies look their best. Bravo!

    1. Ok maybe this is the comment you meant didn’t go through – I just had to approve it because you hadn’t commented here before! So, thank you TWICE for commenting, and I’m so glad you are proud of your body too 🙂

  2. You are my hero! I agree with you that we shouldn’t be ashamed of our post-baby bodies. Nothing gave me more confidence than carrying each of my children, so then why is it that once they were born I somehow lost that confidence in my body? Look what I just did with it!!

    Thank you for being awesome and setting the example for the rest of us to not be ashamed of our imperfections!

    1. I am so not a crier but your comment made me tear up, you & your kids are beautiful. It pains me to think you’ve lost any confidence in your body, because I too have seen what you did with it! Hope you can find it again 🙂 and thanks for leaving such a lovely comment.

  3. Thanks for sharing, I find the after of our bodies from pregnancy fascinating. It’s crazy to me how some of us get “battle scars” and some seem not to. I had twins and ended up without any problems with my muscles or skin in my waist, but extra skin and wicked stretch marks on top of my thighs and breasts. I thought it would bother me forever but I don’t really notice them anymore…just a new normal.

    1. Thank you for commenting! I find it fascinating too – my sister is my height with a thinner/lighter frame and carried twins without a single mark on her. I really like the phrase ‘new normal’, that’s sorta how my husband described his thoughts on my changed body when I was talking with him about why I wanted to write the post.

  4. As someone who has some chronic back issues, I cannot imagine what it would feel like not to have a strong core to compensate. It must be so painful at times!

    1. Yep. I was talking with a friend about the pros/cons of having the DR surgically repaired if I can’t close the gap with physical therapy and she didn’t seem to understand that it wasn’t about ‘not looking pregnant’ but that having no stomach muscles pulls on your back in awful ways, which unfortunately for me exacerbates old scar tissue, etc. I’m really glad my kids are healthy and hale but I often find myself wishing they weren’t such chunks, especially now that I end up wearing the baby for half the day while chasing the toddler! Anyways, I appreciate the solidarity. Back pain is the worst, and I am sorry that you experience it too!

  5. I gave away my swimsuits after my first too. I’ve made my peace since. It’s my body and they aren’t going anywhere. I tell my littles without wincing when they ask about my “stripes” that’s where mommy’s body grew to make room for you! I hope if I can ingrain in my kids that it’s part of the life cycle and nothing to be ashamed of I’ve helped a little 🙂

  6. You are very brave! Yes, those babies tend lay ruin to our skin, don’t they? I never wore bikini’s before, and I definitely don’t now. I had a little stretch marks with my son, but then with my daughter the loose skin and marks got worse. I gained more weight than you did, though, with about 40 lbs for each kid. Best of luck in losing the rest of the baby weight with nursing. It worked great for me, along with a healthy diet. Now I actually have to work hard to lose anything!

    1. I totally set myself up for disappointment because neither my sister nor my Mom got any – I think I ended up with both their share 🙂 and thanks! Last pregnancy I just stayed in the house because it was winter and I didn’t have anything else to do, but now my toddler wants out and about so I have to get (sorta) dressed. So it would be nice to fit into real clothes again 🙂

  7. I’m not sure how I feel about calling women brave for showing pictures of themselves in swimsuits or the like since it seems to carry the undercurrent message that we should be ashamed to reveal our imperfect bodies. But I guess I do want to say to you that I think this post is brave! I think the bravery comes not just from laying yourself bare physically but emotionally as well. It takes courage to recognize and lay bare aspects of yourself that make you uncomfortable, even if you believe/know that they shouldn’t. I’ve been trying to do the same with my #IAmAWIP blog series this year so I can relate strongly to this post, even if what I am baring is different.

    1. I am similarly conflicted about the usage of ‘brave’ – but I really like how you phrased it that something makes one uncomfortable even if you believe it shouldn’t. Thanks so much for leaving a supportive comment – I’ll have to go check out your series, I know I’ve seen a few blurbs on twitter but need to read the full posts!

  8. I loooveee your attitude! Motherhood is beautiful, before and after delivery. I have lingering diastasis from Everett -I carried him low too and that’s just rough on the body 🙁 belly binding did a LOT for rebuilding core strength, which in sewing world meant 16 inch yoga waistbands doubled over for extra support and core stability. As easy as yoga waists are, it might be worth a try!

    1. I hadn’t thought about that! I used a Belly Bandit for a few weeks but I have a short torso and it wasn’t particularly comfortable when sitting because it jammed up into my ribs. But I could totally do a yoga waistband one, I’ll have to experiment 🙂 Thanks!

  9. Thank you for sharing. Not many women look like the “ideal” (especially postpartum and/or as they age), so it’s great to see pictures of a real, non-photoshopped woman.

    As for the stretch marks, I wonder if women who are heavier when they get pregnant end up with fewer stretch marks (excepting women with special situations, like yours with your first).

    PS: I think you look great. Helping tiny people grow and nourishing them is HARD WORK. The marks it leaves on your body are the least of it. Thanks again.

    1. Thanks for commenting Bobbi! I honestly think stretch marks are unpredictable. My sister is my height with a smaller/thinner frame, carried twins, and doesn’t have a single one. It drives me nuts that there’s an entire industry selling people prevention creams and the like, when they occur at a lower layer of skin than could be affected anyways. You put it so well, helping tiny people grow and nourishing them IS hard work. I try to focus on the ‘feeling lucky I get to do it’ parts of my day but there are plenty of ‘I am so drained I have nothing left! When is bedtime!” moments too 🙂

  10. Your post made me realize I have NO IDEA what my belly looked like immediately post-pregnancy. I don’t know if I blocked the memory or if I avoided looking at it. 🙂

  11. I’m not a usual commenter on your blog, but I read it often. Thanks for sharing this post and your thoughts and photos! I have a similar experience and have worked with PT program Tummy Team and postpartum exercise Mutu to heal my core and improve my DR with great success. Best of luck to you on your healing and motherhood journey and thanks for bringing awareness to the importance of postpartum recovery that is so often overlooked!

    1. Hey Jen! Thanks for taking the time to comment, but even more so for reading often 🙂 I have read about Mutu, I’m glad to hear that you had a good experience! I’m trying to get in with a surgeon to see how my hernia affects things but am gathering options for once I know about that. So a personal recommendation helps a lot, thank you!

  12. Thank you! My belly looks exactly like this, and I’ve never seen it before on anyone. I also have DR and a hernia, and also have the stars and triangles. It’s wonderful to help make me feel normal. 🙂

    1. Hi Randi! I am so taken aback by how many people have commented here or on social media and said they look similarly. I’m so glad that I’m not alone – makes me wonder how many people I know or see in real life who might look the same too! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  13. I think you are brilliant. I just wish that I could be happy with my own body as I went from an 18 to a10 in just a few months and was thrilled. But then my medication was changed and now I am back up to18 to 20 and hate my body. I am only a novice at sewing, but at the moment, I don’t feel good in anything. I cannot exersize due to my mobility, and I cannot wait to learn how to make clothes to cover me

    1. Jo, I’m sorry, that sounds so frustrating to have your size fluctuate based on something you can’t control. I hope you can find some peace and happiness with your body though, it’s the only one you have! I really like the tips in this blog post, http://www.bakadesuyo.com/2015/05/how-to-stop-worrying/ I’m going to add it to the post too now. Are you in any Facebook sewing groups? Maybe I can help you find some that would have good pattern ideas or tips!

  14. I have split ab muscles from carrying 3 active boys too (not at the same time thank goodness!). I’ve gotten good at altering patterns and making patterns that drape well over my ‘mom tummy’. There are days I wish my body went back to closer to my prebaby shape, but then I look at my beautiful boys (9,7, and 5) and am less bummed by the new curves I have to work with.
    I applaud you for taking a very public stand about your own journey into motherhood and how it’s physically changed you and look forward to reading more!

    1. Lyndsey, it’s funny you say that – my sister carried twins, and is built like me, and her stomach suffered no such fate! It’s so funny how differently babies and bodies adapt. Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment!

  15. Wow! So brave of you to share and it is sort of amazing how we sort of know we aren’t alone in our struggles, yet we are still usually too shy or embarrassed to put it all out there. Body image after pregnancy… what a huge topic. Nobody ever gives you advice or talks about what happens after.. it’s usually all about during the pregnancy and the issues you go through. But there’s so much that happens after and ultimately the mom has to live with the changes to her body. I was totally shocked after my first baby… no idea what to expect and didn’t expect anything, so it was just all new territory. What is normal or not normal? I had no idea. Really there is no normal! Hah! Thanks for inspiring and I continue to say you are brave, because I’m still too shy to talk too much about it. Can’t seem to shake it!

    1. Oh man, the actual postpartum recovery, like the gory bits, totally shellshocked me. That is definitely outside the scope of my blog, haha, but my dear kidless friends all got a reality check earful from me about it 🙂 Glad this post resonated with you!

  16. I really want to commend you for showing the real you. You’re body has grown to little people. It’s a miracle that I still can’t get over every time I see my now 31 year old daughter. While in my 9th month with her she kicked me so hard she broke one of my lower ribs. She was 2 weeks late and I didn’t have a thing to wear any more and I was so tired all I wanted to do was cry. Then when it was all over and they handed her to me, none of it mattered. I still have stretch marks, but unfortunately since becoming disabled, I’ve filled them in a bit. I hope that the physical therapy helps the muscle separation, the core strength will help your back. This is what it is for a real woman, not the Barbie dolls in Hollywood, who say that they workout to get their bodies back in shape. But we both know that there is a lot of corseting and shape wear involved and lipo and tummy tucks.

    1. Oh my goodness, she broke your rib! That is crazy! I feel the same way – and frankly I have no interest in the shapewear or surgery 🙂 I need to post an update to this, and will soon, thank you for your kind words though!

  17. Just… Thank you!
    There is so much about pregnancy/ delivery/ postpartum that is kept under wraps… Thank you for being so honest and open about it!

  18. We have the same kind of belly! I always thought that they way I carried was because of my muscle issues, but no one ever confirmed it. But my stomach looks *exactly* the same as yours! Did you ever have your hernia repaired?

    1. I did, just this past Christmas actually. I got worried about the healthcare legislation changes and all that and figured I’d just get it done, though I was nervous about doing it when my toddler was still nursing, but it worked out fine. Right now I’m in physical therapy trying to close the muscle gap, so far I’m down from 5/6 fingers to 4, wahoo! I have previous back injury trauma that I’m hoping to avoid aggravating if I put the work in now to semi-repair the core muscles.

  19. Hi, although this post has been up quite a while I’d like to thank you from the bottom of my heart! My post partum belly (2 kids) looks similar and, honestly, I’m still coping with it. I mean, I totally agree with you about accepting our changed bodies since they (we!) did an amazing and incredible and altruistic job in carrying, birthing and feeding our children. But despite this I’m still shy… Your post is a huge encouragement – thank you so much! Sina

    1. Hey Sina! I am so glad this post is still connecting with people, and that you connected with it! Every once in a while I randomly think, did I really put pictures of myself half naked on the internet, why did I do that, and then someone leaves another comment and reminds me why it matters 🙂 Solidarity! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment 🙂

  20. I found your blog because of this post, in 2015, while I was carrying my daughter. Thank you for sharing your story. Accepting my postpartum body was made easier because of women like you, willing to be real. How are you feeling? Were you able to get the hernia fixed? I only have a tiny bit of separation and doing pelvic floor exercises has made it possible for me to do planks again 🙂

    1. I’m so glad to hear that! Yes, as I said above, my hernia was fixed. It was relatively small, so they could do it without mesh which I preferred, and the recovery was easier than I anticipated. I should have taken some “along the way” photos… but didn’t think of it until it was too late. I keep meaning to take an updated shot now, two years later, but want to sew a bralette to wear in it first! One of these days 😉 Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  21. I know three sisters who have all had children. The eldest has a figure that got better with every child. The second one seemed to retain a few pounds each time, and is now quite heavy. The third one used to have curves, but is slim now…sort of boyish, especially comparing her to her eldest sister.
    I’m glad I know all three of these sisters. Helped me to understand there are variables we have little control over.

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