There are streaks of discoloration that now trickle down your belly and excess skin that now sags over the waistline of your pants. The breasts that once bounced braless now lay against your chest (and sometimes stomach), and the cellulite, oh the cellulite. If any of this stares back at you when you look in the mirror after having a baby, you are not alone. Add some dark circles under your eyes from sleepless nights and maybe a gray hair or two and you have officially acknowledged the impact your pregnancy(ies) have had on your body. Some may call these pregnancy badges of honor, and we think you should own and celebrate them! But also know, not every badge can be seen.
Those Badges of Honor Aren’t Just Physical
As Black women, pregnancy can be an incredibly scary experience. We are 3x more likely to die during pregnancy than any other group of women and exponentially more likely to have a preterm delivery or intervention that is not medically necessary. Because we are more likely to experience complications, this journey can cause fear, anxiety, and emotional trauma that doesn’t end once our baby arrives.
Like all birthing people, we may experience some form of postpartum depression after delivering and the emotional scars from a traumatic birthing experience do not always get addressed or diagnosed. When we go through a challenging pregnancy, labor, or delivery and ultimately deliver a healthy baby, the focus is almost immediately shifted to the positive result. But the fact that you may have experienced an emotional trauma associated with your delivery and the impact of that trauma deserves just as much attention as that beautiful baby.
Your incredible strength to keep going, feed, nourish, care for, and love the child you have just brought into the world is a true badge of honor that you must wear with great pride. And getting all the support you need is a great way to honor that invisible badge.
Address Your Needs
Whether you are addressing the visible impact of your pregnancies or that which you cannot physically see, every badge of honor should be celebrated and acknowledged. And part of honoring those badges is making sure you address them when necessary. If you aren’t happy with your scars, dark circles under your eyes, or loose skin around your midsection, do what you can to make yourself feel more confident. This isn’t about “bouncing back” to what you looked like before you created another human being. Instead, it’s about loving yourself and feeling strong, powerful and secure. Find the oils and lotions you feel help diminish your scars; seek natural remedies and advice from your village; ask for help so you can sleep and exercise. Keep your own cup full so you can fill the cups of those who rely on you.
And just as you apply products to your body, apply the same amount of energy to your emotional and mental wellbeing. Find sources of comfort – friends, family, mom villages, and professional support to make sure you have the outlets you need to give space to your feelings, acknowledge the emotional impact of your experience, and allow yourself to feel that very normal and expected range of emotions. One day you may feel relief, excitement, and pride, and the next you may feel fear, anxiety, and disappointment. Give space for all of that as you process your journey and the impact it is having on you.
Find Comfort in CommUNITY
Regardless of the pregnancy and birth experience you had, many find themselves boasting similar pregnancy badges – physical and emotional. Yes, every one has their own story and every experience is unique, but there is no doubt that pregnancy leaves similar marks on each of us. There is so much comfort to be had and learning to be done from each other and those who have been through it before us. Often, when you seek support and share your story, you discover that you are much less alone than you may feel. Motherhood can be isolating, but it doesn’t have to be!
Mae is here to create a community for women – during their pregnancy and beyond. We hope you will continue to be part of this village and we hope to continue to support you. Visit our blog to read more and join us as we work to create a safe space for Black women on this journey.