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January 23rd, 2013

My miraculous body and the flap

justina-and-ida

So, I think I’m finally ready to talk about my post-pregnancy body. I should probably start off by saying that I am very confident in my own skin.  I am not the type of person who spends hours (or minutes even) nit-picking at myself in the mirror–in fact, there are no full-length mirrors in the jungalow at all. When I hear women beat themselves up about their weight, cellulite, their bulges or their wrinkles I often wonder how I escaped the self-loathing trap–I’ve never been too hard on myself about these things. I probably have my parents to thank for this. It could also be a cultural thing–growing up in a family that is Black and Jewish there is a certain appreciation for–he-hem–zaftig ladies and so maybe it has something to do with that.

Okay. Now that all of that is out of the way–I must say this: WHAT IN THE HELL HAPPENED TO MY BODY!?!!

The day after Ida was born I felt puffy and sore and out-of-it and elated and all of those things that one feels after twenty-six hours of labor, abdominal surgery, caring for a newborn baby, learning to breast-feed and not sleeping for three consecutive days.  I hadn’t given any thought what-so-ever to my body until this happened: the doctor came to unstick the bandages from my C-section wound, and to check for infection. She came to explain how the stitches would dissolve on their own and how I was to care for the wound once I got home. It was then that she said something to me that I won’t ever forget: “You’ll have to be extra careful,” she looked me square in the eye and stated plainly “because of the flap.” It took me a minute to understand what she was referring to–until, gasp–I realized she was talking about my belly. Tears actually welled up. My belly had a new name. Just days before it was this magnificent sphere housing my daughter–and now, it was…a FLAP. A flap!?! A flap that drooped down and covered the C section scar, putting me at greater risk of infection (not to mention self-esteem issues).

My goodness.

I’ve always had a belly. A cute little belly that pouched over my jeans just a bit–but this? How am I to get used to this? It’s been almost six months now.  I have stretch marks that surround my bellybutton like bulls eyes. My boobs have assumed a new shape–a couple of sizes bigger and a couple of inches lower than their former residence. And yes. My dear flap is still a lingering souvenir of my pregnancy.

I didn’t know. This came to me as a shock. I thought that if I put on the stretch-mark cream everyday that I would not get stretch marks. I thought if I ate healthy and stayed active during my pregnancy that my body would be ‘back to normal’ in no time.  I gained the ‘average’ amount of weight during my pregnancy (22 lbs) and, in fact, I am almost back to my pre-pregnancy weight. But my clothes still don’t fit–not because of the extra weight but because I’m a different shape than I was before. Things shifted around in there. And I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to exercise post-pregnancy either. I am not kidding when I say that I wear three bras when I take Ida on walks around the reservoir. And the flap?!? No one ever told me about the flap?! The flap shocked the hell out of me–it truly did. And I am beginning to suspect that my frenemy the flap is gonna to be ‘hanging’ with me for a while.

Of course I’d do it again in a heartbeat–trade in my cute, soft, size 12 self for Ida.  I don’t in the least bit regret anything. But that doesn’t mean it’s not hard–and I think about all those women who don’t have the self-confidence that I started out with, and how they must feel post-pregnancy. One good thing about being a new mom is that I am, for the most part, way too busy to dwell on what I look like.  But I’m not too busy to dwell on what I feel like–and I’m ready to feel comfortable in my own skin again. I’m ready to feel good in a bikini. I’m ready to be proud of my body–this miraculous body that brought a baby into this world. Flap or no flap, stretch marks or no stretch marks I’m ready to own it, work it and love it again.

69 Responses to My miraculous body and the flap
  1. Cat says:

    You, are, phenomenal. <3

  2. Catherine N says:

    wear and tear
    n.
    Loss, damage, or depreciation resulting from ordinary use and exposure.

    The post-pregnancy body has had extraordinary use before during and after baby so wear and tear is inevitable but it does feel like one of our society’s best kept secrets, somehow you’re never really prepared for your new self.

    The bottom line – I’d do it all again because of my amazing little boy my body worked so hard to give me.

  3. angie fox says:

    Hi,
    I have just had my 5th baby, 1st cesarean. And I have come to realise that my body (and yours) can return to normal. breastfeeding breasts are temporary,, and mine will return to their Bcup long before I want them too! We just need to give it time. it can take at least a year but thats ok. don’t allow the doctors inconsiderate comments to get to you. Its a massive thing for your body to go through but you’ll get there. At least you are focused on what matters, your boomba. Good luck
    Cheers Angie xx

  4. Bailey says:

    You’re very inspirational. It’s rare to find a woman so confident in her body, and what you’re feeling is only normal! :) Focusing on your beautiful new creation and that you wouldn’t trade anything is so important

  5. HM says:

    Hang in there! Give it more time – lots more! By the time my oldest was over a year and I had been done breastfeeding for six months everything started to feel more like normal. I know that sounds like a long way away right now but it will fly by! It is one if the truly amazing things about having a baby – your body grows the baby, feeds the baby after birth and somehow goes more or less back to normal – amazing!

  6. emily says:

    this is wonderful, you very RARELY hear things about POST pregnancy, i am due here in 10 days, and i am worried about how i will feel afterwards. but this helps, i need to remember those last words of this blog. thank you.

  7. Noelle says:

    You are so beautiful! I had 2 C sections and I had the flap after both of them. I wish I could say my body is back to normal. its not. but the flap is no longer hanging over the incision line. It does go away as your skin and all it’s layers tighten up again. My breasts are back to normal – finally. but I am a different shape for sure. Our bodies are amazing and powerful. Embrace that! You have the rest of your life to tighten up. our little ones are only little for such a short time. and they don’t even notice the flap, or stretch marks, or bulges. They only feel the love that radiates from us.

  8. Ruthyfeedz says:

    Hang in there Justina. I am 47yrs old have had two c-sections and yes I too am curvy. A Puerto Rican with Ethiopian roots. The good news is that you begin to love and accept your flap. My son when he was 4 referred to my flap as the kangaroo pouch. I too think of the flap as my pouch a reminder of when my now 24 and 16 year old where part of my body.

  9. Maria says:

    I really do understand… I’m also curvy and unfortunately cannot say I am as confident as you are about your body… but a flap?!?!??!! really?!?!?! a flap?!?!?!?! I think no one is really ready for a flap ever!!!

    I agree, we have to love and care for these magnificent body of ours that created another human life, and the most wonderful of al… our daughters/sons life. But it is hard to get used to the new body we own… even when we go back to our pre-pregnancy weight… we’re moms now, and that makes us different from what we were before!

    Love your post
    Maria

  10. sarah says:

    five cheers to you for this post justina, i loved it! you are such an inspiration to me. xx

  11. Mandy says:

    Oh Dear Mom,
    I am the mother of 4 babies in 5 years. My middle 2 are twins that weighed 6 lbs each. I started my first pregnancy a size 2/4. I am now 15 lbs heavier and a 6/8. With my first and last, I stopped looking at the scales when I hit a 50 lb weight gain. I am assuming it was around 75 lbs. I put the least amount on with with twins 36 lbs. However, they did a number on me. My skin HUNG!! When I say HUNG it was more like a cape than a flap. After my 4th, I had it removed and it was the best thing I have ever done. No matter how much exercise and good food I ate, that skin was going no where. I wanted to feel good in a bathing suit and clothing. Although I am a mom, I am also a woman and I want to feel sexy and attractive. I still have a bullseye of stretch marks around my belly button but they have faded. I work out to be healthy and active with my children. Our bodies have done amazing things and for that we should be proud. However, do what you need to do to feel like you again. It is so true, when mama is happy, everyone is happy. If you feel good about you, it is one of the best things that you can do for you, your daughter, your husband and family. Blessings!!

  12. Bronwyn says:

    Hi Justina, thank you for your beautiful words and honesty – so refreshing! I have long struggled with the changes in my body post pregnancy. Even last year I had people ask me when I was due and my response would be “6 years ago!”. I have gained strength in the knowledge that I am as active as I can be running after my kids and that I eat as healthy as possible, if my body is supposed to remain this way than I have a women’s body and not a girls. Unfortunately we live in a society that celebrates the teenage body as the ideal. My husband is from West Africa and is constantly praising my curves so that helps too. One more thing that you may want to look into is something called Diastis Recti. This is the seperation of your abdominal muscles due to pregnancy. If you have this then doing regular ab workouts (like crunches) makes it worse. Google diastis recti to find out how you can check to see if you have it and then what exercises you should be doing to heal it. I only discovered this about 6 months ago but it has made a big difference. Good luck

    • Justina Blakeney says:

      I had someone ask me when I was due *today* no joke. Ugh. Thanks for sharing the knowledge about Diastis Recti–I will look into it–although admittedly–doing regular ab workouts aren’t really my problem right now–if you know what I mean. ;P

  13. <3

    I second those who mention that your body has gone through something fundamental and it takes a while for it to return to "normal". Or at least a new normal.

    Same weight, different distribution is how I described it!

    Oddly enough, it was pregnancy that seemed to cure me of all the bodily insecurities that haunted me through adolescence and my early 20s – and they haven't returned since. I respect my body a lot more now, you know? Even though my breasts are 3 cupsizes smaller and far more gravity stricken. Even though my vagina is different (and not in like a bad way, necessarily, just, …that's not how it was before. Weird.) even though I feel like I have less control over it than I did before.

    Also, Ida is the cuteness.

  14. Stacey says:

    Hello fellow flap haver! The flap, it’s terrible. I have two children and after my first one, because of the c-section, that flap was there. It never goes away, I’ve lost 60 pounds and the flap is still there, just thinner. The reason why you can’t fit into your normal pants is because it takes about a year for your pelvis to get back into its normal position and size after carrying the baby for 9 months, you literally are wider from a skeletal stand point, not just because of weight. The stretch marks will fade over time too, but never go away. I think of mine as a badge of honor :-)

  15. Tonia says:

    You’re still beautiful and I understand how you feel and my baby is 20 y/o

  16. holly says:

    DeaR Fellow Flapper,

    Much Love To You. I Also Call My Hardworking Milk Producing Tatas Flippy Flap Jacks. 4 YeArs After My 1St C Section…I FINALLY felt Normal…Then I GotPregnantAgain…..Lol C Section #2….7 MonthsAgo….My Flap Is Staying Strong!

    Love…..Fellow Flapper

  17. susan says:

    I wish I had your confidence Justina, thank you for sharing. It is great to discuss these “taboo” things…and I have a TWIN FLAP. It’s not pretty. Of course I have ana amazing husband who loves me, flap and all, but I am having a hard time. But I also didn’t start out with great self esteem, and actually I was more confident pregnant than ever before, so I miss that. As you know, whenever I look at my babies I forget about my vanity.

    • Justina Blakeney says:

      yes so true–we got great husbands in common–and with your twins!?! I can’t imagine what that must have been/be like. You are one tough momma!! ♥

  18. Sarah J says:

    Thank you

  19. Suzy Kraintz says:

    Girl you’re so real I love it!! I had a C section with my first Eden and then a vback for Jude.. And the flap and stretch marks are still there

  20. Anne-Marie says:

    Ah yes, I too had a c-section, worked out my entire pregnancy, gained 28 pounds and also have the lovely flap. =) I think it’s just a ‘thing’ but I’ve made several girlfriends show me their lack-of-flap years later and they assure me it eventually does go away.

    Loved this post; very brave of you. It accurately conveys the emotions and thoughts I had about my body, after the first baby. I’m pregnant again and imagine I’ll feel that way again in just a few months.

  21. Deana says:

    Just as having a child changes our life forever, it changes our bodies. I have had three the first being a c-section. I was always petite but always with thunder thighs and a round belly. I carried my babies high and had large babies, one over 8 pounds. Being barely over 5’1 there was no place to go. So with each kid my narrow rib cage spread and with each kid my muscles actually split down the center. Short of surgery their is no getting them completely back. Breasts, well forget about those, they broke down with nursing and without support the nips pretty much line up with my belly button. TMI I know. As you said though I would do it all again. I do struggle with body issues but not to a great degree. I think part of it is counting our blessings and looking forward, being and dressing who we are now, amazing mothers of amazing children.

  22. niki says:

    i had a c-section with the birth of my son and my doctor gave me a belly band almost immediately after and told me to wear it daily to help put things back in place. i’m sure you can find something similar online. as far as the stretch marks i’ve read that bio-oil works wonders for lightening/getting rid of them.

    best wishes to you!!

  23. thanks for your brave and honest post. I wish there were more of these when I had my son Charlie – I felt so alone with my breastfeeding issues, postpartum depression, weird body, and other health issues. My son is now 2 yrs 3 months, and I still have 10 pounds to loose (in part b/c of a thyroid disorder I developed postpartum, but no one else knows that). I was lucky to have my baby vaginally, so I didn’t have a flap but my body is still totally different (I’d call mine a pooch). And my boobs… I had super cute, super perky, small c cup boobs. 2 years later, they are deflated, saggy, and DD’s though they look much smaller. I miss my boobs. Like, alot. I think if I could have prepared myself for the loss of my body (no one told me about this either, and living in LA you see so many actresses bounce back after like a month and get this totally unrealistic idea of how things can/should/will go) it would have been fine. I’d do it all over again, of course, but it would have been nice to know ahead of time! And another thing I wasn’t ready for? How quickly everyone sort of forgets about you once the baby is out of you. I think that makes it a bit harder to adjust to everything. That, and hormones. The three things I wish I knew ahead of time: your body will stay weird for a while, maybe for always, people won’t realize you need help if you don’t tell them, and hormones are a bitch.

  24. Eunice says:

    Thank goodness for a true and honest post. I am so happy you posted this and i WISH someone told me this after I gave birth.

    It was the strangest thing. My boobs became non-existent after I weaned my kids, my stretch marks never go away. Even after exercise I will never be the same shape or thinness as before and my belly looks like a little bum… it literally has a line going through the middle…. I didn’t know how to express myself or to be ok with how i am for a long time.

    So i am very glad you wrote about this.

  25. [...] off I have to thank you all for your overwhelmingly supportive, open and honest responses to yesterday’s post. I love this community so much. Thank you thank you thank [...]

  26. June says:

    Hi there!
    Just saw your tweet. You are right, I don´t think anything prepares you for the post-baby body shock. They are very stressful moments, and on top of the baby-caring, you have to somehow learn quickly to be gentle with yourself, to try to forget that your favorite jeans won´t fit for a while…
    Anyway, it’s still VERY EARLY for you, you had a complicated birth, trouble nursing… Just keep with the healthy lifestyle, and all will be good, or at least 90% good.
    Such a refreshing post to read, I commend your guts and honesty. Thanks for keeping it real.
    June

  27. I think the key for me was letting go of my pre-preggers clothes. Dress for your body today, there are a lot of skeletal changes that take place with that rapid gain of weight. After two pregnancies (never carried the second one to term) my shoe size has changed forever–that arch collapsed and my feet splayed out. I didn’t have a C-section, but have all the stretch marks to act as my badge to motherhood. There’s a pooch too, which never went away no matter how many crunches I did. So now I just try to be my most stylish at my current body weight and size. I thank my stars that I can walk for miles without panting (running with these huge tatas is out of the question!) :) and that my beautiful, healthy body can handle just about anything I throw at it. After that a larger jean size or stretch marks don’t really matter. :)

  28. what a lovely post. i love your honesty and your confidence.

    my second pregnancy was twins and i was so terrified of what would happen with my body, as after a year with my first i was pretty much back to normal. but i was sure that wouldn’t be the case this time. i gained 60 lbs. when they were born i lost 70 lbs (from my start weight), it was all water, i had actually lost weight while pregnant! but because i carried around that weight my joints stretched, because i had twins, my uterus stretched. i ended up with knee and abdominal surgery the first year of their life. for along time i thought i brought it on myself by worrying about it. like the body gods were like “oh, really? you don’t want any stretch marks? fine how about a torn meniscus?! how about a bunk uterus?” now i don’t dwell on it so much but i still think how silly i was to worry so much about the outside – of course i’ve gained some weight back a few years later and i worry about that now. when will i ever learn?!

  29. Camille says:

    Such a wonderful and endearing post. I too had, um, have the flap. I remember vividly the doctor having to lift up “the flap” to check my incision at my postpartum check ups. So weird. Mine is getting higher, meaning it is not hanging below my scar anymore but it is still there. My scar is like a line of demarcation: pubic area – scar – then flabby belly. Obviously, you are a confident women and I know your flap will start shrinking. That sounds so funny. I’ve been taking my sweet time losing the baby weight. I want to do more but then I get home from work and want to play with my baby more than I want to workout. The drive is just not there yet. Your thoughts are so what is in my head. Here’s to us complicated women!

  30. Sarah says:

    It’s all so true… my first baby is 4 months old now and it’s not so much the wight gain as the shape change that you notice! I don’t weigh much more but you’re right, none of the clothes fit! This could get very expensive, needing to replace an entire wardrobe…

    I guess all we ever see is pictures of models and movie stars in their bikinis a couple of months post birth, and I know I’m no model but somehow you just aren’t quite prepared for the extra sag that’s goin on…

  31. mary dietrich says:

    as idas grandma I am so happy that she has this gorgeous woman for a mom
    she keeps things real in crazy LA

  32. Lacey_Conley@Hotmail.com says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience! My fourth child (in five years) is due next month. Since the births were in quick succession, I’ve never gotten back to my original size or shape. Like you, I have not suffered from overly micromanaging or criticizing my body. I don’t look like a pinup girl, and I’m not turning heads any more. In some ways, this has been its own blessing. There has been a welcomed reduction in being objectified and awareness of my physical self. I was in the Army before the birth of my first child, and from that experience I learned to appreciate what my body could do. I am looking forward to having my body to myself again… for myself. Thanks again for the great post!

  33. malia says:

    so happy you wrote this post. im on my 3rd pregnancy the first two, and this one will be a c-section. def. have the flap, and this pregnancy, i am really frustrated with it. it def. wouldnt have stopped me from having my boys, but it would have been nice to be a little more prepared mentally.
    thanks so much for this post. nice to know im not the only one!
    -m

  34. Yetunde says:

    don’t worry mama, you’ll get it back…don’t know if the flap will ever go away though. My oldest is 11, youngest is 6, and I still have the flap. And I didn’t have any c-sections. If I was more diligent about the crunches I could probably get rid of it, but meh…
    Yes, the post baby body was quite a shock. but you will grow to love your womanly shape in time.

  35. Goldammer says:

    Having my third baby with me for six days now, I know what you are going through but never thought about it much. As always I have to loose about 30 kg to gain my pre pregnancy weight and that will take a year or more, so I am prepared. But with your post, I remembered something you might like to hear. When I was little and saw my mother’s body after three pregnancies, I considered it the way a woman’s body should look like. I found the mother of pearl and purple lines on her belly really beautiful and loved how they were going with the shape of her belly. I also liked how her breasts looked like, soft and a little saggy. I never thought that you could consider another shape more beautiful. So while my teenage self who hates my big thighs and my freakishly long toes struggles with the lost perkiness of my breasts (I don’t have any stretch marks to “complain” about), in a deeper going way my child self feels somehow complete with them.
    By the way, my mother hated her body that way, she told me that after my first pregnancy. So I guess, what I am trying to say is, even if you are never completely comfortable with your body shape ever again (which I doubt, because you probably find more important things to worry about), showing Ida your body the way it is, will probably make her very comfortable with hers later.
    I wish you all the best! (And sorry for my strange English, it is not my mother’s tongue.)

  36. Victoria says:

    Thanks for your honest post! I have toddler. It’s pretty refreshing to read someone else with similar issues! I’m so happy with my baby and with the fact that my body is able to do this but…wow…the after-effect is a bit depressing and unexpected.

    I was always very thin and fit and had great abs. I gained 25 pounds, and then, like you, had a rough delivery that ended in an unplanned c-section.

    I don’t have the flap, but postpartum I am thin all over with a pronounced pooch on my belly, even though my weight is the same as pre-pregnancy! I’ve been asked when I’m due, too.

    The reason is that my rectus muscles (the two running down your belly on either side of your belly button from breast bone to pubic bone) divided in pregnancy and never closed. This is called “rectus diastasis” and you can check for it easily.

    The only thing that helped was to work my “transverse” muscles in my abdomen. They’re the ones that are like a girdle that hold all the muscles together. You sit up straight and suck in your abs up and back and hold them for a few minutes. You can combine with it with a kegel exercise for a full pelvic floor workout. Easy and you can do it while watching a baby no problem.

    Since I started doing this my stomach feels a lot stronger and the muscles have gone back together more and my back posture is better too.

    But it will never be the same. I know now that it’s about adjustment and GRACE for your body, for what it’s been through, for giving life, and for being healthy. No one needs to look like a model in a catalogue. There are so many different versions of beauty, thank goodness.

    I think you are very beautiful.

    Cheers!

  37. Sassafras says:

    Girl, you are gorgeous and the source of daily inspiration! Your confidence and candour will get you through these changes, temporary and permanent. You have reminded me that i’m also beautiful with or without the baby weight. Thank you and check out this great video about our ugh-mazing, adaptable bodies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfOBGQpG9fA&sns=em

  38. Silkie says:

    I love this! Being British there was no mention of possibility of “the flap” after I had a c section with my first.. So in the absence of an official title I affectionately named mine ” the blimp”! It’s still with me to this day, an old friend I suppose, I’m just a little more strategic with the undies I choose! Real women rock!

  39. [...] couple of weeks ago I discussed my miraculous body and the flap with you. Among the many awesome comments, a long-time reader friend recommended  I get rid of all [...]

  40. This is so beautifully put….I hear everything you are saying. It is a shock. I didn’t know, either. My chest was one of my better features and now, after nursing 2 little gals, just….will. never. be. the. same. sigh….You absolutely will be in a place where you feel better about all of it. Just more time, like with everything. It always makes me wonder, if when people says things like “the flap”, do they KNOW how long it will stay with you? Couldn’t they take 5 more seconds and pick a better word? sigh. I applaud your self confidence and of course, it goes without saying, that you look absolutely beautiful. You will be back to “workin it” in no time! :)
    xo
    Melissa

  41. Joyce says:

    Greetings Justina,

    I have such a similar story so far away.
    I have two beautiful children via c section.
    Both like you Black, Italian and somemore stuff!
    My little size 12 self did not flex back into its original form…in fact for years as each child grew I gained the amount of weight that the youngest weighed…around age 5 for my second child i not ony had baby weight but i had the same amount of weight as him perfectly padding my flap in place!!! HA! A few times in the past 10 years i have lost and gained once even dropping to a size 8 coming from a sze 16-18…i have leveled off a decade later to my original 12ish self.. My post c section body still leaving secret hideaways that i secretly hide away..i have found comfort in control tops not just to smooth out an outfir but to keepit together underneath. It dosent matter tho..i have drawers and drawers of clothes for whatever size i become…I like you cannot bear the thought of loosing any of my collection of clothing whether they are career wears of earth mama digs im holding on to them..who knows i may end up back in those 8s ones day.. Enjoy your little one and yourself..thanks for the inspiration!

  42. cindy says:

    I just found your blog and have to say, you have great body perspective- so refreshing.

    Now, as I read comments I see that a common element coming from moms who had c-section. The flap diminishes but doesn’t go away. That was my experience and wanted to add that the reason for it is the cutting of the abdominal muscles during c-section. I understand that there is a method to incise and access the uterus without cutting ab muscles but it is a newer technique and still seldom done.
    I had my last caesarian 8 years ago and while I didn’t gain much weight (my son was 8.5 wks early) and didn’t have a “flap” per se, once the swelling went down you could see that my abdomen was flat below the incision and I had a little pod above. Over time and with some weight gain, my pod above the incision has grown and still remains flat below. Sucks!
    the ab muscles act like a girdle but once they cut through, it’s like you’ve rolled your girdle down and are letting you belly hang out above. So, while I have gained since my son was born, I wouldn’t look so pauchy if my ab muscles were intact and doing their intended job- basically holding your guts in for you ; )
    Fair warning to expectant moms, if you are having a planned c-section or even if your not, it’s worth a discussion with your ob-gyn about their methods.
    Just love your attitude! I think I will have to adopt the term kangaroo pouch- it’s apt and more appealing than flap!

    • Justina Blakeney says:

      Thank you for this cindy! I WISH my OB had discussed post-body ‘flap’ stuff with me beforehand so I knew what I was getting into! Now that I hear about the flap phenomenon it makes sense but before writing this I thought it was just me!!

  43. [...] and holds in the girls *way* more than most tops, and the peplum style helps to hide that pesky flap. (I got it last season at Anthro but here is a kinda similar [...]

  44. [...] C-section, which I feel like is one of the main causes of my body-issues right now. That f***king flap is still ever-present and, the worst part is, as I do lose a bit of weight here and there the flap [...]

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