Start Googling “post-pregnancy…” and the top suggestions for completing your search are belly, workout, and diet—i.e. all searches focusing on ways to change your body after having a baby.
If you believe the internet, post-pregnancy body confidence is not a thing. But according to Lisa Ann Jersey—a Nevada-based stay-at-home mom who works part-time teaching life skills to newly released prison inmates (yeah, she’s a badass)—mothers should be feeling more self confident, not less, after pregnancy.
She would know. She’s been fielding uncomfortable comments on her 48 DDD chest since she was a little girl, but having two little girls of her own is what finally helped her fully step into her confidence.
“I tried really hard to wear my busty nature as a badge of honor.”
“For quite some time—until I had children probably—I tried really hard to wear my busty nature as a badge of honor,” Jersey says. “I sort of linked it to my identity in a way.”
Motherhood, though, has readjusted how she defines her identity and has helped her develop a deep sense of self love that isn’t dependent on what others have to say about her. To help you unearth that kind of self-esteem, we’re teaming up with Target to share the personal journeys of inspiring women and the better body-image lessons they’ve learned along the way.
Keep reading for 4 powerful post-pregnancy body image truths that mothers and non-moms need to hear.
1. Tune out the haters
Step one of loving your body (post-pregnancy or otherwise) is to block out the commentary—especially if you’re prone to internalizing comments other people make about you (so, if you’re human).
A substitute teacher used the word “busty” to describe Jersey when she was in third grade, before she even knew what it meant, leaving her feeling confused and kicking off a long history of men, store clerks, female friends, and more labeling her by that attribute.
“Honestly, my body has amazed me at what’s it’s capable of.”
“Even though sometimes it was meant as a compliment, that entire process of how they looked me over has always turned my stomach,” she says.
Overcoming incredible challenges as a mother (more on that below) has inspired Jersey to shrug off that label. Her advice? If you feel good about yourself, ignore the unwanted input and focus on the attributes you’re proud of. “Honestly, my body has amazed me at what’s it’s capable of,” Jersey says, “so finding positive things isn’t as difficult as it was when I was younger.”
2. Your body will surprise you (if you let it)
You know that feeling after a 5K run or hot-yoga class when you initially doubted you could finish without turning into a human puddle—and then you crush it anyway? Motherhood gives you that feeling tenfold.
Jersey’s self-doubt and negative feelings about her body went out the window after enduring a rough delivery with her first daughter, Fiona, and complications while trying to breastfeed.
“Somewhere along the way […] I realized how powerful my body was.”
“I distinctly remember one of my first thoughts about pregnancy being that my breasts were too large to nurse and I kept envisioning that my large chest size would inhibit it or even harm her,” Jersey says. But she dug in her heels and was determined to breastfeed.
After undergoing two surgeries and resolving other issues with doctors, she was finally successful. “Somewhere along the way […] I realized how powerful my body was and how if I just kept trusting it and treating it right, it would do its thing,” she says. “I tell myself every day that my body, my busty body, made two perfect angels, and I love my body for that.”
3. How you talk about yourself affects others
Whether you’re a mom, an older sister, or a mentor of any kind, how you talk about your own body has a ripple effect on the women in your community.
Being a mom to two young daughters has inspired Jersey to swap self-deprecating comments about her body for encouraging affirmations. “I really want to be a good role model for them and try really hard to only say positive things about my body,” she says.
To start the positive reinforcement early, she constantly reminds her daughters—Fiona, a 3-year-old fierce swimmer, soccer player, and a beauty pageant winner; and Faith, a 10-week-old, always-chill cuddle bug—of all the reasons they’re incredible.
“My husband and I tell our girls daily how strong and beautiful they are,” she says. “And we emphasize characteristics that aren’t physical, like how smart and kind they are.” Building those character affirmations early on can go a long way toward making self love more of a given and less of a struggle.
4. Embrace change
There’s no denying that pregnancy comes with physical changes to your body, but Jersey’s advice is to embrace them, instead of focusing on how to fix them or cover them up.
“Trust your body, listen to it, and respect it,” she encourages. “Your body gave you a baby, and that’s the most beautiful thing it can do. You’re absolutely blessed, so love and embrace whatever scars, marks, or changes that blessing left behind.”
Part of her journey of embracing her body has involved shopping for undergarments that make her feel beautiful—like Target’s Auden line of inclusive bras, made for women of all shapes and sizes—but that hasn’t always been her experience.
As a teen and into adulthood, bra shopping has made her feel left out because of inconsistent and unavailable sizes. But when she tried on the Target bras, she was pleasantly surprised.
“I love that they fit! I was so skeptical because I’ve never had affordable bras even come close to fitting me,” she shares. “The Superstar bra is totally my favorite and well-named. The [Racerback Bralette] is something I wouldn’t normally even try on, but this one fits and is super cute. For me, this will be a bra that I lounge around in and that will keep me feeling sexy instead of frumpy.”
Being able to shop for well-fitting bras in a variety of sizes and styles means everything to Jersey—and gives her hope for a bright and empowering future for her daughters. “Bras are a right of passage,” she says. “Which means girls come to it during a time in their lives when they’re emotionally fragile and the last thing they need to feel like is a loner.” Right on.
SHOP AUDEN BRAS AT TARGET
In partnership with Target
Top photo: Getty Images