Postpartum body: Learning to be OK with the belly hang

Samantha Garcia Gagnon opens up about learning to love and appreciate her body after having kids.

Samantha Garcia Gagnon with Estelle and Joseph. Photo by 4th Trimester Bodies Project, 4thtrimesterbodies.org

Samantha Garcia Gagnon radiates joy—it’s in her voice when she talks about her kids, Estelle and Joseph, and her work as a birth doula. And you can see it in this happy moment captured by photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project—a photo we featured on our May 2015 cover to celebrate and the beauty of the post-baby body. We chatted with this gorgeous mom from Pitt Meadows, BC, about the changes in her body postpartum and how she’s learned to accept the belly hang so many moms have.

CS: Why did you decide to participate in the 4th Trimester Bodies Project?

SGG: After becoming a mom, I went through quite a transformation, and there was a lot of self-growth and a lot of trying to learn to accept who I am so I could be a better mom for my son. I had seen one of the photos from the project and it really appealed to me—they made me feel more normal.

CS: How did your body change physically after your pregnancies?

SGG: After I gave birth I got the belly hang. Even though I was always bigger, I’d never had a big belly. All of a sudden, there’s this hang that goes over my underwear. When I started working out again, I lost everywhere else, but still not that hang. So I’m just learning to accept that that hang is OK.

CS: How did you feel about your body image before and after your pregnancy? 

SGG: I actually felt better. I grew up in the Philippines. I’m Filipino-British, but I’ve got the British body structure, not a petite Asian frame, and so I was always the “fat one,” even when I was a size eight. I never really was happy with my body. Then I got pregnant and I felt like I was one of the most beautiful people in the world! I just really, really loved it.

After I gave birth, I had the belly hang, but I actually felt better about myself. When I reached six months postpartum and my son hadn’t had a drop of anything but breastmilk, I just thought, “This is amazing! I grew this baby with my body, I birthed this baby with my body and I’m keeping this baby alive solely with my body.” I became a birth doula last year, and I think that’s what made me even more comfortable with my body. Being able to watch women birth their babies and go through this transformation is really amazing.

CS: How do you feel about your body today?

SGG: I still don’t like the hang, but I’m really not that worried about it. I’m not going to pretend I wouldn’t like to be smaller and I wouldn’t like it to be gone—I don’t love it, but I’m OK with it.

In a general sense, my photo was recently featured in an article online, and I made the mistake of reading the comments. It was awful. I was just shocked because I hadn’t had any negative comments from anyone else about my photo—everyone’s been so supportive. I was feeling really bad, and then I took my kids to a nearby farm, and we were playing with the horses—it was just such a great morning.

I’m glad I was able to step away from the computer because I looked at my kids and thought, “Why do I care what these people think? I don’t care what they think!” I feel bad for them that they look at these photos and they don’t see the beauty in the message. I sort of went through a big transformation where I realized I don’t actually care what people think. How can I not love this body that gave me what I love most—my family?

Read more:
Body beautiful: Celebrating the postpartum body
A love letter to my postpartum body
#HeyBeautiful: Celebrating the beauty of the post-baby body

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