It’s not news that a large percent of woman struggle to accept their bodies after having a baby. But all we ever hear about are the stretch marks and excess weight. I wasn’t prepared for what I would really hate about my postpartum body.
I knew that my body would change, still, I never knew how much and how permanent those changes would be. I bought into the lie that woman can bounce back, and that with time, you will feel like yourself again. While I’m only 6 months postpartum, I already know that is a lie that woman tell themselves, and then they tell each other.
Upon leaving the hospital I expected to look 6 months pregnant, and I did. I expected to be sore, and I was. What I didn’t anticipate was that I would feel so different. I truly went into pregnancy, and labor, thinking the changes were merely physical, and temporary. Naively, I thought that if I just gave it time, I would feel like myself again.
Two weeks postpartum, I decided to take a look, real talk ladies, I know you, at least, thought about it. Needless to say, I was devastated. I convinced myself at that point that I was ruined. I felt disgusting, and spent, like my body had served its purpose and was no longer useful for anything other than birthing babies. This self talk destroyed me, I cried daily for weeks. I actually told a friend one time that I felt sorry for my husband because he was stuck with me now.
Things improved, obviously. As time went on though, instead of feeling restored, I felt desolated. I was healed by medical standards, I had lost 50 pounds (my pregnancy weight and then some), and my stretch marks were hardly noticeable. On the outside I did appear to have “bounced back”. I would get a lot of comments about how I don’t look like I’ve just had a baby, but I absolutely felt like I’d had a baby.
I always responded by saying “I’m getting there.” I didn’t want to bombard people with my postpartum insecurities, but I also didn’t want to keep feeding into the lie that after 6 weeks, you can resume life as you knew it. That just wasn’t the case for me. Not only did I still have a lot of physical recovery left, psychologically the experience had taken it’s toll on me.
I became insecure about not just the physical changes pregnancy had caused (bigger hips, breast changes, pelvic floor damage, and extra skin on my stomach, to name a few); but the emotional changes as well. I wasn’t ready for the new person I would become through all of this, and I wasn’t prepared to lose the person I was.
This new me loved differently; more intensely, and therefore was hurt more easily. She was bold and fierce, which was difficult to express at first. She cares less about what people think, and more about people. And that felt like a bigger burden to carry, in a way. There is a fearlessness, and a drive that wasn’t there before. I thwarted her because, quite frankly, I was afraid of her.
These changes scared me at first because I had, what I now call, growing pains. I channeled this new energy in a negative way. My newfound boldness and intensity came out in the forms of anger and disaccord. I became more confrontational and combative. I’m sure breastfeeding hormones are largely the culprit of this. Paired with just having come out of something as equally traumatizing and magical as child birth, it’s not surprising that woman find themselves with an overwhelming amount of emotions to sort through.
Change, even if it’s for the better, is still uncomfortable. I had identity issues as a new momma. I had to learn that this new version of myself, was necessary for my baby. I needed to be capable of a stronger, more passionate, kind of love for this child. The boldness was so that I could protect him, and advocate for him in a way that I never could have before. My heart expanded for the world around me, because this was his world now too. The drive was propelled by the fact that I had to keep going; even on the hardest days, and the longest nights, giving up isn’t an option when a small, helpless human depends on you. I had to learn that just like my body needed to change to grow this baby boy, my mind had to evolve and mature so that I could raise him.
I looked in the mirror one day, like I have many, many times during this journey, and walked away because I didn’t like what I saw. I went into my usual thought stream of negative self talk, and then I stopped myself. It all clicked in my head in that moment; how could I look at this body that had done something so miraculous, and pick it apart for not putting itself back together perfectly? How could I hate a person who has stayed awake for countless nights just to nourish and care for this child. The person I was before never could have done that; she loved her sleep, and was far too selfish.
I realized that these changes, both physical and psychological, weren’t going away. I would never be “back to normal”. I decided that I had 2 choices; to embrace it, or to deny it. The problem with denial is that you don’t have to believe it, for it to be true. Denial is what I think so many woman have, unfortunately, chosen whether consciously or unconsciously. I have been here. It shows up in ways like: hiding the parts of your body that you’re insecure about, pretending to be fine when you are exhausted, holding back what you really feel and think. All for fear of what other people will think if you didn’t get back to a size 2 in 3 months, or fear of looking like a bad momma because you didn’t love childbirth and sleep deprivation. Mommas! You can still love, love, love your littles with all your heart, and admit that it was hard. You can still be a strong person, and a beautiful person, even if this experience changed you.
Today I’m choosing to embrace. I am proud of the person I am becoming, even though it was a long road to get here. And I am proud of my body, it has grown and nourished my baby boy for 15 months and counting (9 months of pregnancy and 6 months of breastfeeding).
It doesn’t mean that insecurities won’t try and creep up, or that on the next baby I won’t have a whole host of new changes to explore. What it means is that I can chose every day to hate myself and deny my evolvement. Or I can chose to love myself, and grow into the wife, momma, friend, and individual that the people around me deserve, that I deserve, and that God knows I can be.