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Snapback Culture Made Me Resent My Post-Baby Body. But I Fought Back

When I was pregnant, I dreamt about being a cool mum. To me, this looked like a bright-eyed and fabulous woman who danced energetically in sexy garbs and donned red lipstick. She took care of the home and made sure the kids were clean, fed, and happy, but she also took time for her own self-care and self-pampering — including satisfying her sexual appetite. Desired, she still kissed her lover passionately and shared with those around her the same lively love she conjured within. But snapback culture taught me that this idea I had of a cool, self-loving, and sensual mum could only exist if my body returned to what it looked like before I became pregnant — and one year after giving birth, it hasn’t. 
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Snapback culture refers to the celebration of a new parent who is able to quickly reshape their body into what it looked like prior to having a baby, someone who is able to astonishingly regain their youthful beauty, slimmer figure, and sex appeal in months. The snapback mums never had any obstacles on their postpartum journey and were all seemingly lucky to have gone through their body healing with their abs and their mental health intact, or so it appears. This isn’t my story, and it took unlearning snapback culture, which is perpetuated everywhere from the media to barrio conversations, for me to stop living for the expectations of everyone’s version of motherhood and beauty and create my own. 
This unlearning didn’t come overnight, though. When I became a mother, the cool mum aesthetic seemed far from reach, and the daily and sacrilegious emotional and physical duty of balancing both the societal and familial pressures of motherhood almost took me out. While in the trenches of postpartum depression and dealing with a health scare due to postpartum thyroiditis, I had to make some brave and life-saving decisions about how I would find my groove back to my health, my sensuality, and my sanity. My healing journey took much longer than the few months I was told to anticipate, and as much as I wanted to believe the affirmations on the mommy blogs that tell us we are magical and powerful, I felt like shit. 

"Snapback culture is just the newest sexist, fatphobic, and ableist way of pressuring women to fit into yet another identity box by subscribing to an exhausting standard of beauty after literally risking our lives to birth another one into this world."

Melania Luisa Marte
Making matters worse, snapback culture was everywhere I looked on social media. The mummy pages and forums were all inundated with tips and tricks to lose the bloat, the pouch, and all the weight gain that comes with carrying life for approximately nine or so months. And I was partaking in it by studying how to get back what I had seemingly lost: my much thinner body and much thicker jar of self-esteem. I understood the idea of wanting to feel strong again after going through a life-debilitating experience, but what I couldn't wrap my mind around was how starving myself while breastfeeding and beating myself up mentally while still healing from a cesarean operation and performing all of the around-the-clock duties of keeping a baby alive was the healthiest and most loving way to revive my self-esteem. It didn’t make sense to me because it’s nonsensical. Instead, snapback culture is just the newest sexist, fatphobic, and ableist way of pressuring women to fit into yet another identity box by subscribing to an exhausting standard of beauty after literally risking our lives to birth another one into this world. 
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Still, like many new moms, I internalised snapback culture. Two months post-birth, I was overwhelmed and losing the little bit of self-esteem I had left when I had an anxiety attack after stepping on the scale to check on my post-baby weight loss. I had only lost 11 pounds after the birth of baby Rio. I couldn’t understand why the pounds weren’t dropping the way they were for the mums on Instagram. I remember thinking in my own melodramatic episode that I would never get back to feeling as good in my body as I did before. My hormones didn't want to release the weight as easily as they packed it on. Even more, I felt like I had failed because my body was not doing any of the things I was told it would easily be able to do after giving birth, like having endless energy to balance motherhood with my work, personal, and home lives. Instead, I was sluggish, stressed, and sleep-deprived. 
Instead of trying and failing to obtain an unrealistic, and unhealthy, ideal, I called it quits. After I stopped beating myself up for still being 40 pounds heavier than my pre-baby body, I started doing things to make me feel good in my new body. I found a trainer to help me strengthen my ailing back and gain back some of the muscles that had atrophied through the months of bedrest. I went shopping for clothes that made me feel sexy and free in my new thicker and curvier body. I asked my family for support so that I could free up one day of the week to be with myself, pampering and adoring my body as it is, through massages, manicures, pedicures, and hair styling. Moreover, I stopped apologising for feeling good in a body society deemed as bad. 
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"There is no need to snapback because I never went anywhere."

MELANIA LUISA MARTE
This approach drastically changed my relationship with my partner, too. Like many women post-birth, my sex drive was low. There are so many reasons for low libido. To start biologically,  after birth, we experience a drop in oestrogen, which can cause low sex drive and vaginal dryness that may make sex painful. Also, people who breastfeed experience a rise in a hormone called prolactin, which stimulates milk production and further drives down oestrogen. Then there are the many societal pressures that make it difficult to have a healthy sex life postpartum. There is this expectation that mums are able to do it all: They should be able to keep a home clean, get enough rest, stay healthy and fit, please their partners, and also be happy and loving every day of the week. But here’s the thing: Only a robot has the capacity to make this happen within a 24-hour day. It is nearly impossible and it’s definitely not sustainable. Still, this expectation to always have it together is why I struggled to feel sensual. Sensuality for me only comes when I feel balanced and healthful. 
I then had to relay this information to my partner, because sexual communication is key to sexual pleasure. Something that we discovered and had to unlearn together was that our sex life would not go back to how it was before our son arrived. Just as our relationship has changed since becoming parents, our sex life would, too. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean that our new sexual relationship isn’t as good as it was before — it’s just different. Time is not what it was and neither are our bodies; as a result, nearly all aspects of our lives have altered in some way.
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With this new understanding, we were able to rekindle our sexual flame and I was finally feeling sensual again after many dry months. While this looks differently for everyone, for us, re-exploring our sexual relationship meant having more date nights and adult-only outings. As a parent to a one-year-old and bonus parent to a six-year-old, I'll admit there was a part of me that felt guilty or thought I was a bad mum for needing time away from the kids or wanting to go party with folks my age. But those moments away, no matter how small or short, are blissfully invigorating and necessary. It refueled us and helped spice up the intimacy in our marriage and within myself. 

"Being a cool mum doesn't mean sacrificing to fit into a mold. Cool mums dance themselves out of the mold and make up their own rules as they go." 

MELANIA LUISA MARTE
For me, the most important part of being a so-called cool mum is knowing when to take a self-care break so that you are able to be as loving, caring, and patient as you need to be for your children — and you can't do that when your self-esteem and rest have been run to the ground. I am grateful for the lesson that my body has taught me on the road to healing: We are only as whole and healthy as we allow ourselves to be. 
After a year since giving birth to baby Rio, I no longer aspire to be the woman I was before getting pregnant; I feel better and badder than ever. There is no need to snapback because I never went anywhere. I now stand firm and confident in my body, accepting and flaunting all of its beauty and curves. By releasing my body from the stress of losing the baby weight or fitting into an impossibly thin box, I now feel light as a feather. I soar knowing that I am living proof and a prime example that being a cool mom doesn't mean sacrificing to fit into a mold. Cool mums dance themselves out of the mold and make up their own rules as they go. 
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