I’ve always had a unique relationship with my body.
Sometimes I’ve loved it, sometimes I’ve resented it, and most of the time I’ve been self-conscious in it. Hiding parts that didn’t live up to the expectations of others (or at least what I thought those were). Partaking in crazy restrictive diets and intense workout programs, and praying the scale would go down when I’d weigh in.
The subject of body image is so relevant, regardless of if you’ve had children. But having had multiple babies, I have encountered an unhealthy body image subculture — an obsession with getting back to that pre-baby body. Where the pressure is on to burn those calories with the hopes of zipping up your favorite (non-maternity) jeans in record time after birth. Where women compare one another on social media with hashtags indicating how many months they are post giving birth. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an incredible accomplishment and no easy feat. And it’s wonderful that women are comfortable in sharing their journey and inspiring others to feel their best after the life-changing event of having a baby.
But I want to recognize an alternative journey.
One that I find is not discussed as frequently as the ideal of the pre-baby body, but it’s equally enlightening. It’s an effort to normalize and truly value the postpartum body. The journey of reveling in the organic and raw state, celebrating each stripe and sag, and finding beauty in the softer or fuller areas in our skin. Learning to develop a healthy relationship with the new form our bodies take, and having a profound appreciation for the body’s capability of creating, carrying, and bringing forth life.
Honestly, it took some time for me to cultivate this mindset and level of acceptance. But I have found such satisfaction in this space of gratitude. Self-reflection and positive affirmations helped me strengthen my connection with my body. And, in turn, this has helped me redefine my identity — and find myself.
I am comfortable in my postpartum skin. Getting dressed to go out is fun. Wearing a swimsuit is comfortable. Being naked is relaxing. And having sex is enjoyable. My confidence came when I ditched the scale and invited myself to slow down in a world with unrealistic expectations and pressures on new mothers coming from every angle.
The whirlwind of motherhood can be overwhelming and difficult to process. My lack of desire to shed the pounds or eliminate the cellulite is not a disguise for laziness; instead, I have learned to welcome rest — both mentally and physically. It has been life-changing to shift my perspective, making the conscious choice to enjoy my femininity (whatever that may look or feel like). Why do our bodies need to be what they used to be? Can we not be satisfied with how they are now? All of us women deserve bragging rights — our bodies are amazing.
I am currently pregnant with my third baby, and with each pregnancy I have learned a little more about my body, listening to it while softening the voices of outside forces.
Putting trust in it, respecting it, appreciating it, and making it my friend, not foe. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses and buying the newest “lose weight fast” products or “quick fit boot camp” programs, I will be making a conscious effort to remain present and continue to move forward, embracing my new body. This body that has tirelessly nourished and snuggled my babies.
I have no intention of “bouncing back” to my pre-baby body. I invite you to make space for a new narrative when discussing postpartum bodies in the hope that societal standards will shift and empower women to make decisions that work for them and make them feel their best.