Accepting Our Postpartum Bodies
New Year’s Resolutions. That means ditching the sweets and hitting the gym. For mamas with new babies, weighed down by those postpartum pounds, even more so. Shed that weight, ladies! Lest you spend 2014 looking in the mirror, calling yourself the dreaded “f-word.”
After the birth of my son, I was heavy laden with postpartum shame. I sat sullen on the couch, nursing my babe, sadly, softly repeating these words in my head...
“I’m so fat.”
This adjective made my world grey and my body a prison. I was ashamed and defeated. Because I hadn’t shed the weight as quickly as expected. Because breastfeeding didn’t melt the pounds away. Because I didn’t leave the hospital having dropped double digits. Because I was one of those moms. The ones that still cart around the baby weight while carting around their baby.
I tried to eat healthy and work out, but I just couldn’t find the time between naps and feedings. After a few months, I finally “dedicated myself” to getting back in shape. Around 10 months postpartum, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. But I was still disappointed, still ashamed of myself.
It had taken too long. Longer than I felt was acceptable. And even though the number on the scale was “the right one,” my shape had changed. I wasn’t fitting into my pre-pregnancy clothes. More disappointment, more shame. How embarrassing! A year later, to still look different, to still look like I had had a baby, to still not have my “body back.”
I was bombarded with “Body Back” propaganda. The pinnacle of achievement for a new mom. To return to the shape and size I once was (or better than before). It was in books, blog posts, magazine covers, before-and-after pictures. The hustle, focus, drive, the pressure to look better than before the baby was even conceived.
It came up in conversations with every new mom I knew. When she found time to work out. What low carb snacks she ate. What program she was in the middle of. How much she had lost. How far she had to go. How much better she would feel, happier she would be, once she had her “body back.”
It came up with every pregnant woman, too. How hard will it be to lose it? Will it take a long time? Plans and purchases all geared toward losing that dreaded baby weight when the time came. Before having experienced the demands of motherhood, demanding of herself, that she return to “before” and look as if she’d never been pregnant at all.
Losing the baby weight, losing the baby weight, losing the baby weight.
This time around, my second pregnancy, it’s as if a veil has been lifted. I suddenly saw it all differently, heard the conversations and comments with new ears, recognized the lies I had whispered to myself the first year of my son’s life.
I felt free. I wish I had felt this freedom with my first pregnancy. Freedom to slow down. Freedom to be sedentary for this season. Freedom to just snuggle. Freedom to be fat and not let it sting like a curse word.
I didn’t worry for one moment during this pregnancy about what my postpartum body would be like. Because this time, I really felt the truth. That my success as a mom has nothing to do with numbers on a scale or slipping into pre-pregnancy pants in record time. That I was beautiful before, during, and would be after my pregnancy. Because my beauty, my identity, my worth has nothing to do with my pants size or pounds or percentage of fat.
My first pregnancy, there were many tears shed over my postpartum shape, but this time there hasn’t been even one. I look at the pictures of me and my toddler and his tiny twin sisters, and I smile instead of wince. Because I know I’m healthy and so are they. And I look good! Not because of my size or shape, but because I’m enjoying my family.
I’m not ashamed to be fat. I’m proud of these pounds that brought me two healthy baby girls. I’m even proud that I’m still carrying these extra pounds 4 months later. I have spent day after day nursing and caring for my babies, playing games with my toddler, parenting alongside my husband, and there hasn’t been time to obsess over my looks like I've done in the past. I’ve been too busy smiling and laughing and occasionally crying in the midst of all these challenges and blessings.
I won’t be this weight forever. I can’t. Not because it’s shameful or disgusting, but because it’s just not healthy. And, truthfully, it doesn’t fit the picture I have in my head. Not one of those “after” pictures we so often see. The picture I have in mind is of my family, growing closer through time spent together, playing tag or hide and seek, chasing each other through the park, practicing soccer or playing tennis, going on hikes and exploring nature. I picture myself as a mom healthy and active enough to participate in family adventures. To enjoy food with my husband and kids without self-loathing or regret. To be present and happy and proud of who I am regardless of my size.
As I get older, my metabolism with slow, my hormones will fluctuate, my body won’t ever stay the same. I don’t ever want to give my daughters the impression that the pinnacle of my beauty was some time before they were born. I don’t want to feel that way about myself!
Truthfully, I think my most beautiful years are yet to come. The years that God spends continuing to mold my character and make me more like Him. The years when His refining work shines through me, sparkles in my face, my smile, my words and deeds. The years when I am most comfortable in my own skin. And if I carry a couple of these postpartum pounds for the rest of my days, so be it. If I’m healthy, both physically and spiritually, I can be happy and proud of the woman I have become postpartum.
As I sit here in my bed, with my (nearly 4 months) postpartum rolls rolling every which way, I glance over at the larger-than-I-once-wore maxi dresses and yoga pants in my closet, and you know what? I smile. No pressure. No tension. No quick shedding of pounds and bouncing right back into skinny jeans. Just a deep breath and sigh as I snuggle into motherhood, wrapping my babes around me like a blanket, comforting them with my squishy postpartum pounds.
Marie Osborne is a wife, mama, and blogger who loves Jesus & large non-fat lattes. You can find Marie on her blog encouraging, challenging, and laughing… under a pile of diapers.