Brie Jepson knew her body was going to change when she had a baby, so she put a positive spin on it: she signed up for the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, a photo documentary by Ashlee Wells Jackson that celebrates the postpartum body. We talked with the Surrey, BC, mom about her postpartum body and why she feels it’s so important to project a positive body image for her daughter, Olivia.
CS: Why did you decide to participate in the 4th Trimester Bodies Project?
BJ: Before I even found out I was pregnant, I came across the 4th Trimester Bodies Project’s Facebook page, and I thought it was a wonderful idea because I have friends who have kids and all I ever heard was “When am I going to get my body back?” and “I miss my body.” I knew that I was going to have some of those “I miss my body” moments, so it gave me something to look forward to knowing that that was coming up.
CS: How did your body change physically after your pregnancy?
BJ: I didn’t really gain much weight for my first two trimesters—all the weight suddenly came on in my third. And I had so much swelling that I couldn’t really be active by then. I was also working night shifts, so that didn’t help. When my third trimester came around, I kind of felt like I’d let myself down. But I was loving being pregnant.
You know everyone says when you start breastfeeding the weight falls off, and that didn’t happen—they don’t tell you that! You feel so bad, because you think, “Why am I the one person on the planet not losing the weight?” But really you’re not. I knew that once I had her I wasn’t going to look the same right away—it was dealing with the idea that it was going to take longer than expected. And I had an emergency C-section too, so that complicated matters a little bit more.
How did you feel about your body image before and after your pregnancy?
BJ: Before I was pregnant, I always struggled with body image—it’s something that, as women, we tend to have that thrust upon us. I’ve always varied from being underweight to being 10 or 20 pounds overweight. While I was pregnant, I wasn’t too concerned with how I was going to look. The baby belly was just fantastic! I actually wore tighter clothes than I would’ve worn previously. There was just so much beauty in having that belly—I loved it.
After I had my daughter, for the first couple of months I didn’t want to leave the house without my baby because that way, at least, when I was out in public and somebody saw me, they would think, “She looks heavy—oh, wait, she just had a baby.” Even now, every once in a while, I like going out with her because then people know that I just had a baby.
How do you feel about your body today?
BJ: I’m struggling, but I’m definitely learning to be comfortable with it. I want to improve to be able to be more active for her. I want to not feel so self-conscious that I won’t go out and go swimming when she wants to. Mentally, I’m getting myself over it. It helps that all my other mom friends struggle with the same thing. Even my C-section scar—I couldn’t care less about that scar. A lot of women get the stretch marks and say that’s their pride—for me, I’ve got a C-section scar.
Having had a girl makes me much more aware of how accepting I need to be of who I am and the body that I have so that it doesn’t influence her when she grows up. My mom has always been cautious about how much she weighs and how she looks, and that fell on me. I don’t want her to grow up the same way, focused on the number on the scale, and that really helped me accept the change. We’re our own worst enemy when it comes to weight—either we don’t weigh enough or we weigh too much.