We’ve all heard the saying “a picture is worth 1000 words “… well, in my case, that picture… the picture…is worth way more than that.
6 months ago, just minutes after our third daughter was born, my husband snapped a photo of me. A photo that would change me. It would change the way I recovered from childbirth. It would change the very thoughts in my head. These changes would be profound, but I had no idea the impact this photo would have at the time.
This is the photo…
Before we talk about the photo, we need to go back in time a bit. I have three daughters. Ages 5, 3, and 6 months. During my first pregnancy I didn’t workout, I ate what I wanted (helloooo donuts), and I felt miserable by the time I was about to give birth. I was puffy, uncomfortable, and was embarrassed of how I looked. About a year after she was born I still wasn’t “back” to pre-pregnancy weight and it was then that I decided enough was enough. I started working out and eating healthy. I ended up in the best shape of my life, at the age of 28, 2 years after her birth. It was then that I became pregnant with our second daughter.
This pregnancy was completely different than my first and I was determined it would not be like last time. I worked out up until my due date, I ate better (with the exception of donuts every now and then), and I felt great! Everyone kept telling me, “You are amazing! You are going to bounce right back!” Well, the truth was, I didn’t bounce right back and I hated my body for that. I hated the extra fat I had. I hated that I still looked pregnant. Why wasn’t I bouncing back?! Everyone said I would! I hated that I struggled to lose the weight. I compared myself to all the other moms I knew and other mom’s from the Insta-world. On top of that, healing from childbirth took much longer than it did the first time. It was draining.
My recovery, along with my complete lack of “bouncing back” led me down a slippery path and I developed postpartum depression. I tried talking to my doctor about it, but I didn’t seem “sad” to them and I didn’t fit the “depressed” stereotype. My depression was manifesting itself as anxiousness and anger. I knew I should explain more to the doctor, but I had a hard time advocating for myself. My doctor saw a woman smiling, so I must be ok, or maybe just tired. I shrugged off the visit and tried to bury everything I was feeling deep down inside. It isn’t easy to admit you are struggling. It’s not always easy to ask for help. I went out of my comfort zone and asked for help but was always told, “You will be just fine.” Because of this, I didn’t receive the help I needed. And let me just say- I needed it!
It wasn’t until my second daughter was about 9 months old that I realized how depressed I had been all those months. I had a moment where I was playing tag with my oldest and I felt joy. Pure joy. It instantly hit me that I had not felt happiness in a long time. It was a scary moment. A moment I will not soon forget. Luckily, the tables turned a couple months later, my hormones evened out, and the depression did go away. THANK. GOODNESS.
Fast forward to my pregnancy with our third daughter. You guys…I…was…terrified! Not of labor, not of caring for my baby, but for the depression. I was scared of endless months of sadness and anger. Of feeling out of control. And lets be honest here, I was scared of adding another 15 pounds to the 15 pounds that still hadn’t “bounced” off my body after my second pregnancy.
Cue labor… and then…the photo.
The photo was taken minutes after our third daughter was born. After my husband took the picture, he sighed. To be 100% honest, I was nervous to see it. How tired would I look? How many chins would I have!? Would my face look super swollen and puffy? Yes, I was thinking all these things, despite holding our brand new baby. He sent the photo to all our family and I didn’t see it until the next day. I was too tired at the time to care he was sending it to everyone. When he showed me the picture the next day (again I’ll admit it) I saw my flaws. BUT, before I could say anything, my husband said, “This is literally the most beautiful photo I have ever seen of you. It’s not edited at all and it doesn’t need to be. You look absolutely gorgeous!” My husband and I have been together for 14 years. I’m not exaggerating when I say he has seen thousands of pictures of me, but there was something about this photograph that stood above them all. For the first time (I think ever) something changed, and I was able to see myself through his eyes.
I did look beautiful, despite tired, puffy, makeup-less eyes. I did look beautiful, despite all the extra pounds pregnancy had added to my body. But the thing is, I didn’t just think I looked beautiful in the photo, something changed within me and I can honestly say I gained a brilliant confidence in MYSELF as a whole! I am 31 years old and for the first time in my life I am confident in my own skin. I am confident despite the extra baby weight. I am confident despite the dark circles under my eyes when I am up all night with one of my three kids, or all of my three kids! I am confident when I am tired, un-showered and in pajamas. I actually get sad as I look in the mirror and see the dark line down my belly fading, a representation of the life I brought into the world- NOT a flaw! I laugh when my daughters squeeze my jiggly belly. I have found joy and confidence in being present and happy in my life now! No, I still haven’t “bounced back” from this pregnancy, but honestly I wish we could throw that saying away! Why are we trying to bounce back when we should be looking forward?
Am I confident 100% of every day? Heck no. I don’t think anyone is! I totally have moments where I wish X, Y, or Z was different. But what is important is I have found a new perspective that leads me right back to what is truly important… and for that I am incredibly grateful!
My wish is that everyone out there can find their “photo” that brings confidence into their life. And not just any old confidence that comes and goes, but a brilliant confidence that helps them shine even in the darkest of times.