I am one of the countless women going through the process of learning to love my postpartum body. It’s a delicate process and I would like to kindly ask that you don’t interfere by adding your own commentary.
This should go without saying, but for some reason, our society has an obsession with a woman’s figure and a postpartum body seems to be in the spotlight in a unique and untimely way.
Have you ever noticed how we tell a woman how good she looks at the end of her pregnancy as if she needs us to assure her that she’s beautiful? And then we secretly keep an eye out on how long it takes her to regain her figure after giving birth? Why do we think this is our business?
These unsuspecting comments or glances are particularly difficult if you’re like me and already have an almost constant flow of negative commentary within her postpartum self. This time for me is mentally, emotionally and physically exhausting as it is and the internal battle to learn to love my new body can be a bit much. However, I, like you, am stronger than I feel. I am determined to love the woman I see in the mirror because she is meant to be loved.
Let me explain what this time can feel like for a new mom.
Recently I nuzzled up in a giant red, velvety chair in the hallway of a restaurant I was at with my family. I felt like royalty sitting there for a moment- a rare feeling for someone who has felt like anything other than beautiful or royal these days. My two-month-old was cozied up in my arms. I rested my head on the tall-backed chair for a moment while waiting for my husband and son to come out of the restroom.
For a moment I felt beautiful.
For a moment my confidence returned.
For a moment I felt like my old self.
Every once in a while this happens.
I imagined a photo of me being taken in that giant red chair with my sweet sleeping babe in my arms. I liked the colors. I liked the way I felt. I imagined my husband walking out of the door and thinking I looked pretty in that chair. I felt good in my own skin- saggy tummy, new proportions and all.
For a moment…
Then she came up to me.
And with bold proclamation, a young woman I had never met, the stranger who had no idea who I was or the constant dialogue that goes on in my head each day in regards to my changed body, put her face up to mine and with an unsuspecting smirk asked me,
“Are you pregnant?”
The insecure pain that I’ve carried around these last months as I try to accept my new postpartum body forced itself back into my moment of comfort. It felt like embarrassment and defeat all balled up into one giant curveball to the gut.
I can feel it even as I write. There was some shame mixed in there because I know better than to struggle with my self-image, but it’s been happening nonetheless. My body is different and it’s been hard to look in the mirror and embrace the woman I see. I am not proud of this and it is a very sad reality. So, right there, at that moment, a stranger swept in and pulled me under once again.
My moment of comfort was short lived.
“I’m sorry, what?” I asked in return. My face was welling up with red embarrassment.
“I was wondering if you are pregnant? Are you pregnant? Because I just wanted to say congratulations if you were!” She asked this about ten times, not seeming to care what my response was. I could tell her intentions were not that of kindness. A stranger who had a few too many cocktails was picking on me.
“No.” My face became hot. My flushed cheeks started to give away my false cover of confidence.
Can’t she see I have a newborn in my arms?
My speech was a bit slow and reluctant now. Clearly, she doesn’t know how postpartum bodies work. But it was true, and regardless of her intentions, I did look pregnant and she reminded me of that by commenting on my body.
Me, the woman who is struggling to accept the changed figure of her amazing body that not only grew and gave birth to but also continues to sustain this incredible baby in my arms- it was my body that she commented on that day.
My husband and son came out of the restroom to find me weeping in that big, red chair that night. I cried harder than I wanted to and I couldn’t stop it. But I was hurt and insecure and I still looked pregnant even though I wasn’t. I tried my best to focus on my smiling baby in my arms.
Her comments haven’t been the only ones. I am constantly aware of my changed body. I am learning to accept it and love it, while others are right there to glance or to comment or to ask questions of it all through the process. Most often the comments are quiet and seemingly harmless. Never ever are they ill intended as that woman’s were, but they are comments about my body in some way and that is a sensitive topic for me right now.
I choose health over a perfectly fit postpartum body. I know better than to push my body to be something it isn’t meant to be right now. But then I see someone with a baby younger than mine looking ridiculously fit. Or someone just has to say something about a part of my figure that has changed.
And I need to start all over again.
But I choose to start over again. Each time. I choose to look in the mirror and embrace the woman I see, even when it’s hard. She wants and needs to be embraced. I’m ashamed that I’m so easily swayed and challenged in this right now. This requires a great amount of bravery each day.
This is not a script on how to conquer insecurities and how to face these challenges in just the right ways because I’ve learned this is a battle we all need to face in our own ways. We all are seeking our own new healthy outlook on our bodies and this doesn’t always look the same for each of us.
This is, however, a post about me saying, “I get it and I know it’s hard”. Even though you are, you don’t need me to say you’re beautiful. Because just as I am learning with myself, you too are learning that that truth comes from within you. (And from a lot of snuggle time with that sweet babe of yours.)
So, because of that, I’m going to ask those of you who are curious about a woman who has just given birth to not comment on her body. Honestly, there’s no need to comment on any woman’s body. For even commenting on how good she looks won’t change the journey she’s on to learn to truly love her incredible self. That happens from the inside out.
Instead of turning to the outer form of a woman- in whatever state it’s in, why not talk about the one thing that she really needs to talk about?
Because we all know that comments on our looks are fleeting, but what is truly helpful is the one who cares to look inside us and ask,
“How have you been feeling?”
Now that’s something I’m happy to talk about.