When Mel Rymill, a 33-year-old mom from Australia, went to her first session with a personal trainer after having her first child, she didn’t think too much about what the trainer would think of her body.
But when the personal trainer took one look at her and remarked, “Obviously you want to get back to your pre-baby weight,” in what Rymill describes as a “statement” not a question, Rymill realized that she was one of millions of women who have felt the pressure to “get their bodies back” after having a baby.
But unlike many of us who either shrug our shoulders and accept it or hit the gym extra hard and diet like crazy, Rymill decided it was time to fight back.
Frankly, Rymill said, in a Facebook post now gone viral, the way her trainer treated her “pissed” her off. So she took to the Interwebz and posted a picture of herself in her underwear, with no makeup on, for the world to see.
In her Facebook post, Rymill described how she corrected her trainer immediately by explaining that her goal in hiring a trainer was simply to “regain my core strength and endurance … I’m not worried by how my body looks, only how it functions … it can be pretty badass.”
Her experience, Rymill wrote, got her thinking about all the ways people, and postpartum moms in particular, are pressured to look a certain way to be valued.
“Post pregnant women are told they look good if they return to their pre-baby body quickly leading to the assumption that they look bad if the keep the extra weight. Skinny people are envied for their lack of fat or shamed for apparently starving themselves. Voluptuous women are either labelled fat and shamed or they’re labelled brave for being comfortable in their own skin. There is always pressure.
No one is comfortable in their own skin 100% of the time. Constantly labelling people and piling expectations associated with these labels on them is harmful to everyone … including those doing the labelling.
What we should be worrying about is if people are ok, not what they look like.
So here I am. I may not be magazine ready, my nana undies and bedtime nursing bra are certainly not going to be rocking a runway anytime soon, my hair is greasy, I have no makeup on, my body is squishy and plentiful, I’m not even sure I’m totally ok.
But I am strong. My body is healthy.”
Along with her inspiring words, Rymill asked others to join her by posting their own #badassundies pictures, a physical representation of how “badass” our bodies can be. Rymill later laughed when her Facebook picture got reported for nudity, but that didn’t stop #badassundies from spurring on a movement of its own. Women all over the world (and in one instance, a man wearing an unfortunate flamingo thong that I can never un-see) are posting their own inspiring postpartum photos. Like Stephanie Lunday, for instance:
“I think it’s super important that we love our bodies,” Lunday told me. “Women try all sorts of things to get back to our pre-baby size, sometimes taking unhealthy measures to do so, and it’s all because society makes us feel we have to be thin and pretty. We need to be comfortable in our skin no matter what. I haven’t always been, but I work hard everyday, reminding myself that my body is worthy of love. Society needs to see real bodies to love them.”
“This is for the woman who isn’t comfortable in her own skin,” posted @leannemayta. “It’s for the first time Mom that has been shamed for not losing the baby weight fast enough. For the girl who can’t fight off those negative thoughts about herself from her mind. For everyone that has felt the pressure to look a certain way after having a child. We are all built differently … It’s been over two years since I had my daughter and my figure is different. Where my skin used to be smooth, there are now tears from the inside out. I have lumps, bumps and excess around the middle. But every lump, bump and mark came from growing and carrying that baby. How can I hate something that provided safe keeping to my daughter for 40 weeks? I don’t know if I’ll ever be 100%, but I sure hope to get close. You’re enough.”
What I love about Rymill’s post and the resulting #badassundies movement is that her message is very focused on what are bodies are capable of, instead of what they are lacking after birth. Instead of lamenting about not having a perfectly flat stomach, Rymill was taking steps to first, realize that we don’t have to simply accept our bodies are “ruined” after birth and second, go as far as to hire a personal trainer to re-train her core, something very few women I know in real life would actually do. That shows that she is valuing herself — and her body’s strengths and limitations — to a very real degree.
Her message, to me, feels more empowering than simply posting a postpartum selfie to show what a “real” mom’s body looks like, because by now, we all know they can look very different. Instead, Rymill’s message shows moms like me that we matter, that strength matters, that taking steps to move forward in our new bodies and that valuing what we are capable of, instead of what we look like, will always, always matter.
And if all else fails, at least we will have #badassundies.