Oh boy, this is the thing that is hard to ask, but am I vain because I am not always in love with my postpartum body? I go through waves and cycles of thinking, wait I have a life giving, life sustaining, powerful, beautiful body! I think this in the shower, that my new wider (permanently wider) hips are like Beyoncé, and that my curves are sexy. Then I whip back the shower curtain only to be confronted with my full length mirror and I think, oh no, no, no, not at all.
I have always been good at gaining weight and gained almost 20 kilo’s with my son. But baby weight seems to be different because it comes with so many expectations attached, like it should be gone by the time I leave the hospital. I kept hearing, don’t worry, you’ll lose it and finally I started saying HOW? And if I heard “Just nurse!” one more time I was going to lie down in the bin freezer at the grocery store and never get up, just freeze to death, because I was nursing and it didn’t seem to make a difference.
But below are some things I have heard and thought that have made me feel better. When I think something negative about my body, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad, seriously, I don’t. Julie Andrews knows her stuff.
1. There is no statute of limitations on maternity wear
My friends and I are talking about biting the bullet and having another baby. My one friend says, “I did not like having a newborn, but I loved being pregnant.” My other friend says, “Oh, yuck, no. I hated being pregnant but loved the pants. Still wearing my maternity pants right now, and my son is 5. I’ll never stop wearing my maternity clothes.” So keep on doing your magic supportive panel forever and ever. We can all use a little extra support.
2. Some women’s bodies hold on to fat in order to breastfeed
I love my doctor, so much that I send her thank you notes after our appointments. I love her because she is a mom and therefore normalizes everything I ask her about without trivializing my issues. And one such issue was why am I so slowly losing my baby weight, no matter what I do? And she told me that nursing as weight loss is a myth and for many women, their bodies will hold onto fat while nursing. I had been googling how to lose the baby weight, only to find 1 million articles entitled “How I Lost My Baby Weight Without Trying and You Can Too!” which invariably all said nursing was the answer, but it was not the answer for me.
3. Give That Beautiful and Amazing Body Some Time
It will take at least, again, at least, a year for your body to recover from giving birth. And because we are not all the same person that amount of time might be different for you. There is no expected or normal amount of time you should lose your baby weight by. It might take 6 months or 6 years. And I know it is so hard when your life has suddenly turned upside down that not even your body, your constant lifelong companion, has stayed the same. But all of this transition is temporary and will shake out to a new normal.
When I got the go-ahead from my doctor to resume exercise after my son was born I started exercising 6 days a week and really watched what I ate. Nothing happened, I lost no weight. So I got discouraged, stopped exercising so much, and was eating pints of Ben and Jerry’s in a weekend. Nothing happened, I lost no weight, I gained no weight. And I think honestly that my body was like, Woah, let me adjust, let me find the new equilibrium of having just given birth, nursing, adjusting. It is easy to want this to all normalize fast, but let that amazing body of yours take its time, heal, and regroup before you place heavy judgments or criticism on it.
4. The journey from Maidenhood to Motherhood Should Not be Erased
One day while looking at my son, I thought how could I ever feel bad about anything that brought you to me? And so while self-deprecation lurks around the scale in my bathroom, or lack of love of my body hangs in my closet next to some clothes that are still too small I remember all that I asked my body to do. I remember all it actually did do, for me, for my son, for our family. I made the trip from Maidenhood to Motherhood and I am very proud of that. And if there are traces of that forever on my body, I am proud of those too. Why would I not be? I gave birth, and that is amazing.
5. You Are Never So Beautiful as When You Have Young Children
I am at a party, but not really because I am in the back room nursing my three-month-old baby. My husband will drift by occasionally, smiling and happy to be with other adults, bring me a plate of food that he ate most of on the way back to me. I am worried if it is still too loud this far away from the party for my baby? My stomach sucking in tights have rolled down, my nursing-friendly shirt is impossible to unbutton one-handed, and here I sit. Motherhood is new and yet I feel old and beat to hell and back already. I am trying to be in the moment with my sweet baby, but I feel very much alone and very much like I miss myself, my body, my life before this little bundle of unknown expectations came my way.
And then this older woman pops in and comes to sit with me. She brings me a full plate of food, a full glass of water and sits. She asks “How old is your little one, oh so sweet.” And then she looks right at me and says, “You ok? This is hard, hard, hard. I had three and looking back now I can think oh it was magical, but you know what it was very hard too. And as I sit here and look at you I am reminded that women are never so pretty and beautiful really as when they have small children.” And I start to laugh, feeling like a bloated feed bag and she says “No, really it is true. When you have little children you are love personified, you are pure giving and pure, true love and there is nothing so lovely and beautiful as that. And when I look at you you are radiant and so very lovely.” And with that, she patted me on the shoulder, said: “Keep up the good work” and was gone. That was the best party I have ever been to.