Kayla Tumangday struggled with body image before she had her son, Henry, but during her pregnancy she began to love and appreciate her body, despite health challenges. That appreciation led the Oshawa, Ont., mom to participate in the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, a photo documentary created by Ashlee Wells Jackson to celebrate the postpartum body. We talked with Kayla about body image, her health and her feelings about the scars left behind by pregnancy and an emergency C-section.
CS: Why did you decide to participate in the 4th Trimester Bodies Project?
KT: I was at a point in my life where I needed to heal, because a lot of stuff happened with my son’s birth and my body, and it was difficult in the NICU. And I didn’t quite like my body before I got pregnant, but afterwards I was really starting to appreciate how magical my body was and how it does all these amazing things. The project was a good way for me to heal, and I did.
CS: How did your body change physically after your pregnancy?
KT: I had a hard time keeping some of the weight off. I was already diabetic, but it was controlled with exercise and diet. Then, early in my pregnancy I became insulin-dependent. I still haven’t quite been able to wean off that. I also developed high blood pressure, and I still have high blood pressure, even though I do my best and eat really well and exercise.
CS: How did you feel about your body image before and after your pregnancy?
KT: Before I got pregnant, I had this love-hate relationship with my body. I think I felt it was supposed to look a certain way, like the models I saw in magazines. I was supposed to be this certain weight and certain size, and wear these things, and that would make me pretty and acceptable to society, and when people looked at me they would appreciate what they saw.
But when I got pregnant and then had my baby, what I was left with was beautiful. Not everybody can have a baby, not everybody can give birth or get pregnant, and these changes happened as a result of that—it was just magical and beautiful, and I loved my body and I still do.
Now I go to the gym two to four times a week, not to change my image, but to control my blood sugar and to keep my heart rate and blood pressure down. I have this appreciation for the human body.
CS: How do you feel about body today?
KT: I feel that my body’s strong. It’s amazing—I think it’s really magical. It’s amazing what your body can do. I feel really great. I do have the C-section scar, and I’m probably one of the few people who appreciates having very little feeling around it because I have to give myself insulin injections. But as far as it looks, it doesn’t bother me; scars are scars—they tell a story, and I embrace that.
I did have a lot of acne when I was pregnant—all over my body, all over my back—and it scarred. They say your stretch marks are your tiger stripes and you earn those for being a warrior, but I also have these awesome leopard spots on my back, so I feel double fierce.