My Honest Experience With Post-Baby Skin Changes

About 29 years ago, I stole my mother’s boobs. At least, that’s the story my sister and I have been hearing since we were old enough to understand we could be at fault. Her boobs didn’t stand a chance against us being born, she’d say, regularly reminding us that we “ruined” her breasts—me most of all. Though my sister and I were both breastfed, only I adopted the self-soothing habit of grabbing at my mom’s nipple like a nipple bandit. I’d roll it between my fingers to fall asleep, and when the nipple was no longer available to me, I replaced it with my dad’s ear lobe. And when my dad’s ear couldn’t take the pinching anymore, I was given a rag doll with a round nose (her name was Cassie, and I ripped her nose to shreds).

By the time my sister and I were done breastfeeding, my mom’s already-small chest was practically flattened out—a fact that we’d spend the next almost-thirty years hearing about on repeat. “I don’t have enough boobs for this dress because of you guys,” my mom would joke while getting dressed, calling the two of us boob thieves. “You didn’t get that chest from me,” she’d say while we tried on bras (she, of course, had no need for a bra anymore, thanks to us).

As I thought about all the things that could negatively impact my daughter in her life, I didn’t want my body changes to be one of them.

Growing up, I would always roll my eyes at the comments. Sure, it sucks that your body looks different, but that’s part of being a mom, right? Change is a natural part of life that you get over and accept. I couldn’t understand why she was still hung up on her body so many years later. So when I got pregnant with my first child—now a six-month-old ball of energy—I made a mental list of promises to my future daughter: I vowed to always love and support her; I promised to be softer and more affectionate than the parents I saw growing up; and I swore I would never blame her for any physical changes I might experience because of her.

Pregnancy is such a beautiful, transformative thing, yet it’s bogged down by the negativity surrounding its impact on a person’s body. Social media and snapback culture have conditioned society to think that the changes associated with pregnancy are bad, rather than empowering and natural. Sure, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to getting extra padding on my stomach or stripes on my butt, but it all comes with the process, right? As I thought about all the things that could negatively impact my daughter in her life, I didn’t want my body changes to be one of them.

Of course, it was easy for me to stand by these beliefs when I was pregnant, just as it was easy to dismiss my mom’s remarks as “mom stuff.” I hadn’t yet experienced birth, or motherhood, or the wild ride your body goes through afterward. In fact, during pregnancy, my skin was clearer than ever, my hair was the longest it had ever been, and beyond that, I had never felt happier, calmer, or more secure. And as for the mythical “pregnancy glow”? I really did have one, and I loved crediting my growing child for it to anyone who would listen.

But then I actually gave birth. And now that I’m well into my fourth trimester, I can fully admit that I naively underestimated the postpartum phase. When you get pregnant and have kids, a lot of shit changes. It’s a reality that my mom (and every other mother in history) clearly understood way before I did. My laissez-faire energy throughout pregnancy led me to believe everything would be peaches and cream when my child arrived earthside. However, I can now say with my whole chest that my daughter, whom I’d go to the ends of the earth for, has forever changed my life.

Before my daughter was born, I considered anything less than an eight-hour sleep to be a physical and mental catastrophe. Now? I haven’t slept for more than three consecutive hours since September 30, 2023. My semi-busy days have become a chaotic blur of over-stimulation and exhaustion. My cherished alone time is long gone, replaced by a constant stream of friends and family vying to be in my baby’s presence. Don’t even get me started on breastfeeding—arguably the most challenging part of my postpartum experience—which, ironically, has also turned my boobs into jello. But the one change I didn’t plan for as skincare-obsessed editor? A set of puffy dark circles permanently etched into my skin.

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When I got pregnant, I anticipated the stretch marks, the extra weight, and the boob changes. But my face? That was one part of my body I felt confident I could control. As a beauty editor who has dealt with acne, hyperpigmentation, and PCOS for most of my life, I’ve spent my entire career getting my skin to the relatively smooth and clear state it was in before I got pregnant. It took tons of products, facials, peels, and cosmetic injectables, but I finally had my skin so locked down that even pregnancy hormones couldn’t touch it.

Despite all your best efforts and promises, you are truly faced with a new version of yourself after having a baby.

Yet here I am, six months postpartum, and I feel like I’m back to a slightly worse square one: Blackheads and whiteheads have become routine visitors; hyperpigmentation follows each breakout; and my under-eyes are zombified. I already know the products I could use and the appointments I should make, but clear skin takes time and commitment, both of which are currently impossible when caring for your first child.

When I sit and think about how I got here, I can finally empathize with the women in my life who have complained about their boobs, cellulite, tummies, hips, and skin after having children. Despite all your best efforts and promises, you are truly faced with a new version of yourself after having a baby. You’re the happiest you’ve ever been and the most exhausted; you’re proud of what your body did, but wish you could have left all its new physical ailments at the front door. Your entire life suddenly becomes a tale of multiple truths, which can feel like a never-ending lucid dream.

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Now, I understand why—almost 30 years later—my mom’s boobs still come up in conversation. Witnessing everything in my life, especially my own face and body, rapidly change without my control is something I’ll never just “get over.” Watching my belly shrink, or seeing my hairline vanish, or living the first six months of my daughter’s life with perpetual dark circles are memories that will never leave me. Having children literally changes your brain chemistry; the process is forever embedded in your memory and who you are moving forward. You watch this little person grow before your eyes, but you’re growing and changing, too—and often without the recognition or understanding that’s deserved.

My daughter gave me dark circles; I stole my mom’s boobs. But as any mother knows, these physical changes represent so much more than just “mom stuff.” They’re a permanent connection to those critical months postpartum, when you realize your life—and often your body—will never be the same. They’re one of the first milestones that come with being a parent, and one of the many sacrifices that I think only make you stronger.

These are the memories and lessons I plan to share with my daughter as we grow together. Yes, having a baby did give me a tummy pouch and dark circles that I could definitely do without, but it also changed me for the better. As the past few months have taught me, there’s an unexplainable beauty and nuance that comes with motherhood. My eyes can look sleepy, but they also afford me the greatest joy of watching my daughter grow and learn. I look forward to the day I can remind her that she’s the reason I require three eye creams now—because I’ll make sure she knows that becoming her mom is still the best part of my story.

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