Postpartum Snapback Culture Is Toxic, So Modern Latina Moms Are Doing Away With It

Getty / FG Trade/Illustration by Aly Lim

Growing up, I didn’t feel beautiful, and that was primarily due to how I felt about my body. I was a chubby kid, and my family didn’t hesitate to make comments about it, with some calling me chunko-city. They insisted it was all out of cariño (love) and not meant to be harmful, but their words made me feel even more insecure about my body. I’m glad I can laugh about it now. But, when I gave birth to my first child at the age of 30, I still carried those body insecurities with me, and that little chubby girl came out of the shadows.

When I entered college at 17, the baby fat was shedding and what was exposed underneath was an hourglass frame often associated with “the stereotypical sexy Latina.” My small waist, big hips, and bubble butt started to attract attention from both men and women, and I liked it. Up until then, I was the little cute chubby one in my family. As I shed that image, I never wanted to return to it. But I did, and this time it was even more mentally taxing and so much harder to shed the physical weight I gained. After all, I had given birth to a baby and the transformation my body went through was something I was not prepared for at all.

I was 30 years old and had just given birth to my first child at a birthing center – no drugs and all-natural. Although I was in labor for 27 hours, having my little girl was the most beautiful experience I had ever had at that point in my life. It was the first time I had an out-of-body experience, which set me on a journey deep into my spirituality. However, I wasn’t prepared for what pregnancy did to my body. The emotional toll was deep. All the insecurities I had as a little chubby girl flooded my mind, and I slipped into depression. But with a beautiful newborn in my arms, I wasn’t supposed to be feeling anything but joy and happiness, right?

As I balanced being a first-time mother, who breastfed my baby girl for the first year of her life, I was also figuring out how to love myself in this new, wider, softer, and heavier frame.

It didn’t help that some people in my family still had comments, just as they did when I was that little chubby girl. During one family visit shortly after I had my daughter, my grandfather greeted me by laughing and saying, “You look like a Christmas tree.” He was commenting on how my waist and upper body stayed slim, but my hips and butt had widened more than ever before. I won’t ever forget how much his laugh hurt my feelings, and even though I snapped back with my little indirect dig about his big belly, it didn’t make me feel any better.

I was an entertainment reporter at the time, which included writing many stories about celebrity women bouncing back physically only weeks after giving birth. The stories I had to write about celebrity women walking the red carpet with snatched waists and nice butts two weeks after having a baby were so toxic for me, and I’m sure for other women reading the stories as well. That’s why writing this personal essay is so important to me now. I want women to know they are not alone, and that the snapback culture portrayed in the media is not realistic. And it turns out I’m not the only Latina who’s struggled with this.

Stephanie Ferreira shares with POPSUGAR that she too experienced body image issues as a child, which affected her during and after pregnancy. While the weight gain during the pregnancy was challenging to deal with mentally, Ferreira says she did find the transformation of her belly beautiful. The real struggle came for her after the baby was born, and social media didn’t help.

“You have certain expectations because of the many women that post about their body postpartum and it looks like their bodies didn’t change,” she says. “I still looked pregnant. I was very swollen from my C-section. It was very difficult and I avoided the mirror the first few days to not fixate on it too much.”

In addition to self-imposed pressures, the stress of snapping back to her pre-pregnancy weight was coming from all directions – society, family, and friends. But most of all, the societal constraints of what a Latina should look like really impacted Ferreira’s self-image.

“I was consuming content about pregnancy and postpartum bodies,” Ferreira says, which created a false image of women’s bodies not changing much postpartum or bouncing right back to pre-pregnancy weight weeks after giving birth.

While she says her family and friends were more supportive, they too made comments about simply working out to lose weight or accepting that her body would always be what postpartum created it to be.

Ferreira is taking her time and being kind to herself in the process of losing the postpartum weight. Like many working moms, she is trying to find a balance in her life between caring for her daughter and prioritizing self-care.

“I am not currently happy with my weight,” she admits. “I am trying to be graceful and give myself time. I know I can get myself there when I’m ready.”

It took me four years to shed the weight after I had my first child. Eleven years later, I gave birth to twins at the age of 41. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I did pre-natal yoga almost daily. I thought this would prepare me for more success in getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight after I gave birth. I was wrong. The strength I built from the pre-natal classes proved to be good, but only because I dealt with so many complications following my scheduled C-section. Birthing the twins was a completely different experience than with my oldest. I was in a hospital hooked up to a bunch of machines and I delivered them via C-section as opposed to vaginally, like I did with my first child.

Due to some post-surgery complications, I was released two weeks after the twins were born. I returned home in what felt like a stranger’s body with a huge scar spanning the front of my lower abdomen where they did the C-section, and I weighed nearly 200 pounds. I’m 5’2″, so the weight was painful to carry around with me all day. I felt it in every movement, not to mention my insides feeling like they were going to fall out as I recovered from the C-section. Just like with the first pregnancy, I slipped into a deep depression about my weight, and on top of that, I was now also experiencing postpartum depression for the first time. This caused my mind to flood with the most awful visions. The postpartum depression lasted for 16 months. During that time, I breastfed the twins. Imagine holding two footballs, one tucked under each arm. That’s how I breastfed them multiple times during the day and night.

I went on to get certified in yoga and Reiki. I deepened my spiritual practices like meditation to help me heal from the insecurities I was feeling.

Like Ferreira and me, Giselle Castro also gave birth via C-section. So, right from the start, she knew self-care and self-love were going to be extremely important during her recovery.

“If you’ve had a C-section you know the recovery can be a tough process after having seven layers of your abdomen cut open and stitched back up,” Castro says. “It’s literally a big surgery that requires proper rest and care.”

Castro didn’t struggle with body image issues the way I did, but she still had to get used to her postpartum body.

“I remember being shocked at how swollen I was postpartum,” she says. “Sometimes, I have bad body image days, but I’ve learned how to manage those thoughts when they creep into my mind.”

Practicing a neutral body image approach over the years is what Castro credits for feeling better about navigating her postpartum frame. Her experience in fitness helps her focus more on regaining strength and muscle loss during pregnancy.

“Additionally, I’ve been seeing a pelvic floor therapist who is teaching me about mobilizing and massaging my C-section scar and helping me strengthen up my core since I had a mild case of diastasis recti,” Castro adds. “This is very common for most women to have postpartum since your ab muscles are bound to separate as your belly grows during pregnancy. But it can be rehabilitated with help from a professional.”

Castro is now just a few months postpartum and is taking the approach of slow and steady progress as she shows herself a lot of love.

“I’m aware that my belly looks different than before and still has some swelling,” she says. “It took me nine months to grow a child, so I’ve accepted that I can’t expect my body to change overnight.”

Today, my twins are 6 and my oldest is 17, and I feel healthy and happy in my body. My weight fluctuates easily, but I know now that feeling beautiful comes from the inside out. I do my best not to let societal constraints, indirect digs, or even my little boys’ innocent comments saying, “Mama, you are so squishy,” make me feel insecure. But it took a long time to get to a place of confidence in myself at any weight.

Not all women will experience a huge body transformation. It is important to remind yourself of that so you don’t compare your journey to another mom’s. For Carolina Contreras, founder of Miss Rizos, the shock was in how her body adapted after giving birth.

“I didn’t carry big and was shocked that just a few days after birth my body looked very similar to my pre-baby body,” she shares. “Just five days later, I had the same weight. I also didn’t get any stretch marks.”

Contreras gained weight when she began breastfeeding her baby, and that is when she started to feel the pressure of snapping back. But at six months postpartum, the pressure is coming from herself.

“I definitely feel the pressure from myself to get back into shape,” she confesses. “But no one has made comments about my body and I haven’t received any external pressures, thankfully.”

Modern Latina moms are loving themselves in inspiring ways, even on the not-so-great days when accepting your postpartum body is difficult. But it’s all about perspective. You could look at your new stretchmarks and see something negative. You could also look at them as a roadmap of your life and the journey to motherhood, which has its challenges but also holds boundless gifts, joy, and love.

The goal is loving yourself at every stage of life – babies or not.

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