You’re reading How To Get Off, our series celebrating bodies, pleasure and fantasy.
From ads about how to lose baby weight, to discussions over whether Meghan Markle got her ‘pre-pregnancy body back’ as fast as Kate Middleton, the pressure on looking good after having a child is intense, to say the least.
For many parents – particularly mothers, of course – the reality of what happens to your body after having children can be a shock to the system, as you find yourself battling with stretch marks, weight changes and even hair loss.
But there’s another side to life after children – for some, the confidence gained through becoming a parent leaves them feeling sexier than ever. After all, they’ve been through the pain of childbirth, sleep deprivation, breastfeeding or juggling a work-life balance – and made it through to the other side.
Here, seven HuffPost UK readers tell us how they channel their inner sexy.
‘I have a ‘give no fucks’ attitude!’
Claire Boyle, 38, has two children: Edie, 5, and Otis, 3.
“I care so much less about how I look now and it’s liberating. My identity shifted after having children and I think more about the decisions I make. Every time I shave my armpits or fret about my appearance, I’m giving my daughter and son a message or expectation, and I need to think carefully about what that message is.
“I’m a stone heavier than I was before. Pre-children, I would’ve felt upset about it. But now, I have more of a ‘give no fucks’ attitude, which means I have more confidence in most aspects of my life. A knock-on effect of that is that I feel sexier. Having a baby – and I don’t just mean the physical act of pushing the baby out, but the whole package – changes the way couples view each other. Seeing my partner with our children makes him more attractive.
“Perhaps the reason people don’t think you can feel sexy after children is more to do with what their perception of ‘sexy’ is. After having kids, you realise ‘sexy’ can be many things. It’s not just lingerie and candles, it’s seeing the other person in a whole new light and loving that for what it is – not what you thought, or were told, it should be.”
‘Life is too short to wear clothes that don’t make you feel good’
Nicola Emmett, 39, has two children: Luke, 3 and Alex, 10 months.
“After having my first child, I suffered from postnatal depression and turned to food for comfort. I was lucky I didn’t have long-lasting physical effects from the birth, but I did have stretch marks. Towards the end of my pregnancy I got really itchy and my skin had scarred. The second time around, I had a much better birth and I also saw a women’s health physio. She said something I hadn’t known before: it takes nine months to have a baby, and another nine months for your body to recover.
“So, I gave myself a break. It’s not about getting my ‘pre-baby body’ back, but having gone through labour and birth – and having two little ones to care for – I get less stressed about things that aren’t important. I’ve binned a load of jumpers thinking, ‘Life is too short to wear clothes that don’t make you feel good’ and I’ve bought colourful clothes, because I feel confident and happier. I don’t mind being noticed. My legs and arms are so much stronger. I still have a tummy, but if someone snapped their fingers and said it could go away, I don’t know if I’d want it to, because it’s a reminder of who I am and what I’ve been through. Becoming a mother has made me.”
‘I feel sexier in a bikini now than I did in my 20s’
Gemma Walmsley, 38, has two children: William, 7, and Pippa, 6.
“My body massively changed when I fell pregnant. After my first child, I got back into shape quite quickly because I did Pilates and aerobics during pregnancy. I fell pregnant again soon after, but things didn’t spring back as quickly. It was also difficult to juggle being a parent with my busy job in PR, so I gave up work and retrained as a personal trainer.
“While doing that, I was studying physiology and knew I needed to be a good ‘role model’ for my clients. I didn’t have a long work commute anymore so I spent time in the gym. I changed how I ate and thought about the food I was putting into my body. I got into marathon running and that changed the shape of my body, too. Plus, as a mum, it was really the only time I got on my own.
“And the benefit of all that? I feel a lot more sexy in a bikini now than I did even in my 20s. I’m in better shape now than I’ve ever been – I’m now able to run ultra-marathons and take part in 30-mile races up mountains. When you focus more on training and you set yourself goals, your mindset changes too. Age, experience, being a parent and the confidence I get in being able to achieve huge distances with my running definitely affects how I feel about my body.”
‘I’m more comfortable with my ‘new’ body’
Sarah Lang, 35, has four children: Rory, 11, Rowan, 9, Frances, 5 and Harry, 2.
“For me, it took time to get where I’m at now. I feel more sexy and confident than ever before. I’ve become more comfortable with my ‘new’ body and worry less about what other people think.
“I never used to take time out to look after myself – it was only after I had my third child that I started feeling like me again. I took more of an interest in fashion, makeup and experimenting with different styles, and that’s helped me with my body confidence and self-esteem.
“I’d advise any mum who’s not feeling like themselves to take a step back and go and find your ‘sexy self’ again – because you can definitely be sexy as a mum. It’s all about self-confidence and body positivity, not what your body should look like.”
‘I love everything about this body’
Megan Nichole, 30, has two children: Michael, 3, and Maya, 4 months.
“Before my first pregnancy, I felt happy enough with my body. I wished for a bit more muscle tone but overall, I was mostly content with how I looked. I didn’t really focus much on my body during pregnancy, but towards the end – as my stomach started getting large – I started to worry about stretch marks and whether I’d lose the weight. After giving birth, I remember going to the hospital bathroom by myself. I lifted my shirt up and saw my stomach and stood there, with my mouth open. Nothing prepares you for seeing your body in the mirror for the first time after you give birth. It was mortifying.
“Over the next few weeks and months, I forgot about my body given that I was in the throes of first time motherhood. Three years and another baby later, I’ve grown to love my body. I’m five months postpartum now and the weight hasn’t fallen off like it did with my first child. But I am so much more confident and happy with my body. It’s finally sunken in what my body is capable of. I love everything about this body. I’d say I feel ‘sexy’ about 50-60% of the time. If I actually have time to do my hair, put on real clothes, and apply a bit of makeup, yes—sexy it is. But I feel confident in my body about 90% of the time now.”
‘I feel strong and self-assured as a result of going through labour’
Hannah O’Donoghue-Hobbs, 28, has a daughter: Cora, 2.
“I’m so passionate about body positivity and acceptance. When I found out I was pregnant, I was in full wedding mode – I was obsessed with the scales, the gym and my measurements! I was at the gym a lot until I went into labour, but not as a weight-loss thing. It was more because it was my routine. It was one thing I was able to control when everything else was changing.
“Since I’ve had Cora, I have lumps and bumps – some down to her, and some down to my passion for curries and her leftovers – but I feel strong and self-assured as a result of labour and having my girl, and I think with that definitely comes sexiness!
“I grew up worrying about my frizzy hair and my big teeth and glasses – but not anymore! Of course, we all have our wobbles, but when you have little eyes watching you, you have to snap yourself out of it sharpish. I do think that feeling ‘badass’ comes from inside you.”
Women aren’t the only ones who gain body confidence after having children. Here, one dad shares his story.
‘I don’t have an issue taking my top off anymore’
Chris Mullan, 39, has two children: Lola, 9, and Tilly, 5.
“Before I had kids, I’d got into a routine of working hard, drinking and eating too much. Then I had children, and settled into mundane life. I was content, I didn’t want to change. But one day I looked at myself and realised I was overweight. As soon as I admitted that to myself, I wanted to do something about it – so I started running. I was working for a charity helping disabled people and signed up to run a marathon to raise money for them. At that point, I was 20 stone.
“The more I ran, the healthier I became – and the happier I was. I started to feel sexy. I don’t have an issue with taking my top off, now – whereas for years I did. I’m quite a stocky guy, and it’s a fine line between ‘moobs’ and pecs! I started getting attention from other people – more ‘likes’ on Instagram, comments from the opposite sex – and it made me feel good about myself.
“I feel amazing now. I feel very confident, but I haven’t forgotten what I was like before. I know that if I’m looking good, I feel good. And I also feel sexier when I’m exercising, because of the endorphins.”
How To Get Off is our answer to Valentine’s Day, celebrating bodies, pleasure and fantasy – whatever your relationship status. We’ll be exploring what really gets us off in 2020, looking at sexual awakenings, toys and erotica, and real-life experience.