Moms

Balancing Act: Video looks at postpartum body pressure

Mom of three Nanette Hosenfeld shares mothers feelings about postpartum body pressures in her short film.
Mom of three Nanette Hosenfeld shares mothers feelings about postpartum body pressures in her short film. Getty Images/iStockphoto

When the public radio station in her hometown of Salt Lake City announced a short documentary contest, Nanette Hosenfeld immediately had an idea.

"My little sister had a baby in April," Hosenfeld, 32, told me. "A week after she had her baby, she told me, 'I still look pregnant. What is going on?' I said, 'Jenna, you had a baby a week ago. You should not even be worrying about that.' "

Her sister showed Hosenfeld an Instagram account she had been following. It was filled with photos of women displaying their postpartum bodies, which showed nary a trace of having grown, carried and delivered a small human recently.

"Half of me was like, 'This is ridiculous,' " Hosenfeld, a mother of three, said. "And the other half was like, 'Why don't I look like that?' "

A documentary was born.

She and a friend tracked down women who had recently given birth and interviewed them about their bodies post-baby.

"Was your postpartum body a surprise?" "How long after birth do you allow yourself to look 'postpartum?' " "At what point does the pressure to 'get your body back' kick in? Immediately? A few hours, weeks, months, years?"

Her video didn't win the documentary contest. But it's a fascinating look at the ways women internalize the pressure to erase any evidence of childbirth from their bodies.

"After about a week, I was getting frustrated."

"It's kind of hard to look in the mirror right now."

"People talk about 'Oh, it takes a while. This is a real woman, this is a beautiful woman' and stuff. But then when you see your friends and they snap back into really fit bodies really fast and all of that, then you feel the pressure."

Hosenfeld, who works as a meteorologist for Utah's Bureau of Land Management, has a 6-month-old baby and daughters ages 3 and 5. She said she relates to everything the women in her video were saying _ and sort of resents herself for it.

"I wish I could just appreciate my body and accept it," she told me. "I can go for a run, and I can go for a hike, and I can go for a bike ride, and my body can do everything I want it to do. It's ridiculous that I don't love my body."

I love her honesty, and I think any of us who've watched our own bodies change for any number of reasons - childbirth is just one - can relate to her words.

"I try to convince myself that I shouldn't compare my body to other people's," she said. "But I haven't figured out how yet."

I suppose it would be easier if other people's bodies weren't served up to us on Instagram and Facebook and a dozen different magazine covers in the checkout line, often accompanied by tips for achieving bikini-worthy abs, whatever that means.

Hosenfeld's video, http://trib.in/2bhd9Sw, is an antidote.

"I want moms to watch this and feel OK about themselves," she told me.

Hers is the sort of voice we should be listening to. Not the ones who tell us we're not worthy of bikinis, as if sunshine needs to be rationed and doled out according to body type.

And the theme of the documentary contest? "The Body Is a Temple."

It really is. Regardless of its shape or size.

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