Three months after my first child, Brendan, was born, I weighed less than my pre-labor weight. I was like Woohoo!
What Kelly Ripa said is true, breastfeeding is the key!
Breastfeeding makes all of your baby weight go away!
The baby literally sucks all of the fat out of you!
It just makes sense. Mother nature you are the best!
While my body definitely wasn't shaped the same as it was pre-pregnancy, at least I had lost weight to the point that my friend Gloria was a little concerned because my face kept slimming down and my collar bones became more and more defined. I was satisfied with my weight loss and figured I would moisturize the hell out of my stretch marks, do some crunches and maybe just maybe, one day I would be able to wear a bikini again. So every morning I lathered my belly, but somewhere between working, taking care of an infant, getting dinner on the table and managing other family and social relationships, those crunches just never happened.
By the time I was ready to come out of my baby hibernation, rejoin the world, and start working out again…surprise, surprise…I became pregnant with my second love biscuit, Grayson. Almost everything with Grayson was easier. I was still seeing the therapist I had to start seeing after I gave birth to Brendan, so I knew what to expect. And this time around, my body healed much faster.
But there was just one problem – my stomach.
Every morning I'd stand in front of the mirror in my underwear, and sometimes I would make it a point to identify a positive aspect about my appearance. Although this was a routine I'd been doing since high school, when I was around 4 months postpartum, I started to realize that I wasn't slimming down like I had done after my first child. I now had an outie belly button, a pooch that made me look about 3 months pregnant, and a chandelier of excess skin hanging from that outie belly button. I thought,“maybe I just need more time to recover."
During this time, I remember every magazine cover at the grocery store being about celebrity moms' rapid weight loss after having children, and I started to feel like there was something wrong with me. That I was doing something wrong. I should be eating healthier. I should be working out.
Two more months passed and there was no change in my body. And I began to realize that I had lost all the baby weight I was going to lose. I found myself sucking in my stomach and smoothing out my skin in the mirror every morning. My husband and I would try to figure out how I could fit in a run or a workout, but between being a teacher (which means I also have homework), my daily commute, and really wanting to spend quality time with my children, we just couldn't figure out how to fit it in. I tried some workout videos OnDemand and did crunches sporadically, but ultimately I just became super frustrated with the constant cycle of feeling bad about my body, wanting to change it, and yet having no time or energy to do so. Trips to the grocery store only added fuel to my frustration.
I wanted to see a celebrity mom with a pooch, stretch marks, saggy boobs, anything! But all I got were smooth bellies, pushed up boobs, spanx, photoshop, and myths about how I too could look perfect like that.
My frustration soon evolved into anger. I was pissed that I allowed the media to make me feel bad about myself. I was furious that society had gotten to a place where women's bodies aren't honored for bringing life into this world, but are instead expected to “snapback" to their pre-baby figures.
What kind of backwards shit is that?
Are we rubber bands?!
As a black woman who grew up constantly having to refute Eurocentric ideals of beauty, I am aware that the lens which I view beauty through is counter to dominant American culture. Dominant American culture views my nephew as a potentially dangerous thug, and my afro as wild unkempt mane.
I view both as magnificently beautiful, and I needed to view my post-baby body in the same way. I needed an outlet, a sanctuary, somewhere I could receive affirmation that other mothers look just like me. Because while this whole time I was fixated on a physical change, what I truly needed was a change in my way of thinking.
Naturally, I started where everyone starts when you want to explore what is out there. I Googled “post-baby body," but a majority of the results were just multiple workout blogs. There was one blog that had pictures of natural, post-baby bodies, but the pictures were just of women's bodies without their heads. I found another blog that took pictures of women's post-baby bodies across the country, but they were predominately white women and the pictures were in black and white.
What I needed was a site and community for mothers of color who were on the same journey of owning their bodies and their beauty again. I wanted beautiful media that counteracted every sexist magazine cover with a celebrity “rubber band" mom on it. So you know what I did? I created that community.
With the support of my family and my best friends, last August I launched MyPostBabyBody.org!
The goal of MyPostBabyBody.org, is to help women feel good about their bodies especially after having children. The site features vibrant photos of women of color showing off their post-baby bodies and sharing stories about their new self-love journey. There is also a blog portion where I bring attention to body positive stories and other women/body issues.
As I have put myself in this body-positive blogger position, it has pushed me to lead by example, and really work to adapt a body-positive attitude for myself. I still suck in my belly occasionally in the mirror, but I make it a point to appreciate my body, and remind myself that hating my insecurities only plays into the sexist, capitalist and other systems of oppression designed to keep us from focusing our energy on tearing down those very systems.
I still have a ways to go, but I know one thing…
I have been every size between 0 and 10, and I am more accepting of my body now than I have ever been before. Watch my story below:
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Whoopi Goldberg discussed her experience with endometriosis on The View.
During the segment on November 8, the co-hosts were joined by Hillary Clinton, who is an executive producer for the documentary Below the Belt, to raise awareness about endometriosis.
Goldberg expressed her grievances with the health care system to properly diagnose women with the condition after an untreated urinary tract infection led her to discover that she had the condition.
“It drives me berserk that we are still constantly having to beg for health care,” she shared candidly.
“We pay taxes. Women pay taxes. I don’t understand why, when doctors go to school forever, they’re not taught about a woman’s body. And then you have all of these people making these comments, and you know [they] have no idea how this works,” she added.
Endometriosis is a common and often painful condition that occurs when the tissue similar to the lining inside the uterus, called the endometrium, grows outside the uterus. It often affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining the pelvis.
The Sister Act star went on to share that she considers herself to be “lucky” to have caught her endometriosis at an early stage, emphasizing the importance of addressing such health issues promptly.
“I was lucky enough because I had a urinary tract infection that I did not take care of. Note to people: don’t let that stuff go. Because stuff happens in your body, and I ended up with what looked like - and I don’t mean to gross you out - but suddenly there was a smell, and it looked like cottage cheese, and I didn’t know what was going on,” she said.
“And I was lucky enough to get to somebody who said: ‘This is called endometriosis,’” Goldberg continued. “They were able to treat me with antibiotics, but that’s because somebody knew what they were looking at.”
As the conversation around endometriosis begins to grow, it is important for women to continue to share their symptoms and educate others about the diagnosis. Goldberg is just one of many celebrities who have used their platform to discuss the condition. Chrissy Teigen, Tia Mowry, and Monica are among those spreading awareness that can empower other women to seek early diagnosis and potentially prevent more severe, long-term pain.
Featured image by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images