Disclaimer: I want to recognize the reality that is infertility and infant loss. It is a horrific and unbearable experience that my close family and friends have gone through. We are frequently told to love ourselves after the physical experience of having a baby, but I wholeheartedly understand there are so many women out there who would quickly take the body of a woman who just gave birth. These ladies would have every inch of themselves covered in stretch marks, and the extra weight that accompanies pregnancy, if it meant they could hold their very own child.
If you have undergone this traumatic experience and need support, it is immensely beneficial to seek someone to speak with to help your healing journey. NO ONE can tell you how to heal, how long it takes, etc. This is YOUR journey, not theirs. This article may have some triggers as the topic is about dealing with a postpartum body.
I feel like this is such an exhausted area of writing in our lives. It seems everywhere I go there are articles featuring “How To Love Your Body After Baby!” including ways to exercise with your baby after birth and cleared by physician, what to eat, when to eat, sacrifice your sanity to the bikini body gods, etc.
Do these people know how f*cking hard it is to love yourself after a physical transformation like that? I just grew and housed another human being for the past nine months. My uterus is as wobbly as a waterbed, my vagina is on fire, it’s scary to pee, my boobs leak constantly, and now I’m told how to ‘get my body back’ and love myself again. Has anyone actually gone through the feelings you have when you stare into a mirror after your first shower without a baby filling your abdomen? Well, buckle up, because it requires all the feelings.
My baby is the most beautiful gift I could have ever asked for. She is my husband and my pride and joy. But I look at my old photos of me pre-baby and my heart sinks at times when my mental strength isn’t at its peak. How do I deal with this? Do I accept what I am? Maybe I should work out more, and eat less, to fit back into my jeans. Or is there a happy middle somewhere? Surely this is part of another life stage that society can accept? I mean I grew an embryo. That embryo multiplied itself to become a full and tiny human.
There are so many things about the physical body after birth no one tells you about. Along with the obvious weight and stretch marks, I dealt with hair loss for eight months. My menstrual cycle took a full 14 months before it was regular again. That is one of the harder things for me since my cycle was clockwork before pregnancy.
My ability to be gentle with myself was challenged to great lengths. I always thought that I had the whole ‘loving myself’ bit down to a science. I took bubble baths with a glass of wine at the end of long days and practiced yoga regularly. Meditation and breathing exercises were frequent. My vegetarian diet involved eating in moderation. I am a lover of all humans and animals. I read for leisure and educate myself on current events, policies, and all things STEM (I’m the biggest STEMinist out there; feminist + STEM lover).
I am the person telling everyone ‘F*ck them if they can’t accept you for who you are’. I’m intrinsically ready to pounce and defend anyone who is in need.
Anyone except myself, apparently.
The Shame Spiral
What I call the shame spiral is a doozy. This is where I (or perhaps you as a new mother) feel guilt associated with being able to have a healthy baby. However, in talking with other women, no experience is unworthy of feelings.
I’m also having my own experience, especially as a first-time mom, navigating how to take care of this new body, how to dress it, and how to feel comfortable in it. Quite honestly, I feel as if I am going through the second puberty of life – the awkwardness, the newness, and the insecurity associated with it. There are good days of confidence, and there are bad days of me comparing myself to either how I look prior to pregnancy, or at other women who seem to have postpartum bodies all figured out. You know where your mind goes when it’s looking to compare…
- Celebrities on magazine covers
- Yogis who are 100% vegan and live a career that doesn’t require sitting for hours
- Workout buffs who somehow have the energy to motivate themselves to hit the gym every spare moment they have
- The list could go on and on!
Honestly, I applaud those women!
What’s important to remember, as difficult as it may be, is that these are women going through the same daily challenges as any human. I cannot let them make me feel less, just the same as others cannot make them feel less. We are all humans. We are all experiencing amazing and tough changes.
What I want to tell the ladies who are having troubles morphing into their idea of perfection that we are in this together. Your support system is right here.There is no shame with speaking your thoughts or insecurities, as its almost guaranteed someone else has had the same thoughts. We are not ashamed of being mothers.Rather, we have become conditioned to act as if pregnancy never affected us. We are conditioned that pregnancy is only beautiful while a child is being carried in the womb. We don’t acknowledge the beauty of pregnancies aftereffects.
You have got this. WE have got this.