As much as we love our babies, nothing can really prepare a new mom, or any mom in general, for the postpartum body that it brings. From weight gain to visible stretch marks, childbirth and age can take a toll on our physical appearances, and even our self-love.

As the adage goes, “Love yourself before loving others.” This is mainly true for moms who have sacrificed a lot of who they are for their families, and, sometimes, forget to appreciate themselves and their bodies.

Artwork by Ariana Maralit

Three moms share the ways they learned to love their bodies again, and, slowly but surely, see their beauty that was already always there.

Monique Manuel-Joaquin, former beauty queen and mom to three-month-old Oxana
If anyone knows what it means to preach about self-love, it’s Monique. As a former beauty queen, Miss Earth PH Eco-tourism 2014, she understands the challenges behind overcoming public opinion and developing true confidence. As a first-time mom, she says that there are instances when she feels overwhelmed by the demands of motherhood. “We are so immersed with our babies that we tend to lose ourselves in the process which includes indulging in self-care.”

Monique wants to remind moms that “a mom who is well rested, eats a healthy diet, gets plenty of exercise, maintains close relationships with friends is far more equipped to be the best mother she can be—and all pertains to loving yourself.” For her, coping well as a mom includes caring for oneself, and realizing this early on in one’s motherhood journey is important to also ensure we can raise happy kids.

In adjusting to motherhood postpartum, Monique shared that she had to be intentional in shifting her perspective to appreciate how amazing her body is. “After handling childbirth and breastfeeding afterwards… it’s all about perspective and body positivity.” She focused on her self-confidence, love and acceptance, “[imagine], you just gave birth to a tiny human being that could make a difference in this world.”

She adds, “We live in the real world where real mothers have an emotional and roller-coaster mix of emotions and feelings, finding yourself and seeing the beauty in everything makes a difference.”

Kris Lumagui, vlogger and mom to three-year-old Liam
According to Kris, “sacrifices are inevitable.” Particularly for her, she considers it a form of love language for her family. She reminds others to “never forget yourself. Don’t completely give up everything for others, but show up for yourself too.” She believes it’s important for moms to “refuel our love tank so we can continue to serve our family,” and that starts with self-love.

Currently, she is struggling with what she calls “second puberty.” Since giving birth to her healthy baby Liam three years ago, she mentions “I completely lost the woman I loved pre-baby.” Recognizing that motherhood is just another chapter of her story, it’s a constant learning opportunity for her “to accept the role and love (or at least try to love) everything that goes with it.”

“It’s not easy.” She opens up that she’s still on her journey. Her latest vlogs are actually centered on a series she refers to as “#TheNanayGlowUp” on her Youtube channel. In these videos, she is completely open with the realities of motherhood that are not always seen on social media. “I allowed my fellow nanays to see me at my worst, and, hopefully one day, see me at my best.”

Moms tend to feel guilty for taking care of themselves, and she strongly urges that moms never ever dwell on such self-hate. “Kasi nga di ba? You cannot give something you do not have. Paano mo tuturuan magmahal sa sarili ang mga anak mo or susuportahan ang asawa mo, kung wala ka lagging tinitira para sa sarili mo?” This is a powerful statement that encourage other moms to decide to pursue and love themselves!

Pat Balsamo, lawyer and mom to seven-month-old Hezekiah “Zeke”
Pat confides that “sometimes, a mom’s underlying purpose of wanting to give more is to fight the feeling of inadequacy.” She finds herself falling into the trap of believing that giving only a piece of herself is not enough. “It’s a constant battle of wanting to give more, when I’m always running on empty, and taking a pause to rest and uphold myself.”

Seven months into raising her son Zeke, she has learnt a lot about herself and motherhood so far. “I realized that it’s not sustainable for me to keep giving away when I don’t replenish.” She has since made more effort to “allow myself to be comforted, appreciated, affirmed and loved. Otherwise, I’m going to burn out.”

She recalls a phase in her life after first becoming a mom when she was “lonely, insecure, and desperate to find and feel something familiar.” During that time while nursing her then one-month-old baby, she called out to God and expressed things that she says “a new mom should not say.” As she was crying her heart to God was when she said “God met me. He impressed on my heart that the Pat I knew never left. I’m still Pat, I’m just in a different season. Same Pat but with greater capacity for things.” Thus, when she looks at herself in the mirror and see the changes postpartum, “I always go back to that moment to combat insecurities.”

Self-love for moms is truly a never ending journey of getting to know oneself again and learning to appreciate ourselves. It is also a mother’s power, and when we are able to harness this, we are happier. And a fulfilled and cheerful mom is the best thing we can be for our families. Let this be a reminder to never forget ourselves as we continue to care for our loved ones.

Source: Manila Bulletin (