post-baby bodies2:30:00 PM
I have a confession to make. Before having a baby, I interpreted all those posts about how much women love their post-baby bodies as phony attempts for women to deal with their discontentment. I thought it was a forced front, or their way of trying to be at peace with a different and potentially less attractive body. I read those posts and while I would find them moving and interesting, in the back of my head I would think, “secretly I'm sure she wishes she had her old body back.” I figured they were written by women who had recovered poorly, were never able to lose all the baby weight or whose bodies were now riddled with stretch marks – leaving them bitter and frustrated. I knew they had good intentions and wanted to encourage positive body image but I was sure their words were an attempt to make themselves feel better.
After having a baby, I feel silly and embarrassed that I ever had those thoughts. When I hadn't had a baby, the idea that any woman could be so at peace with such a drastically changed body seemed impossible. Now, I see how wrong I was.
I've been blessed to have a fairly seamless recovery. The physical pain of having a child lasts quite a while but I feel like I've bounced back fairly quickly. After just a few days I was able to button up a couple pairs of my jeans - not my skinniest and not very comfortably – but buttoned nonetheless. I'm not the thinnest I've ever been but I'm at a weight I've been at before and have been since I stepped on the scale about a week after baby boy was born. I'm not saying this to gloat, I say this because even though my body looks basically the same, the changes are much deeper. I used to think weight was the only major thing that changed about your body during pregnancy. And so, in my mind, recovery meant getting back to your pre-pregnancy weight. Again, I was wrong.
Pregnancy changes everything. My body became a home. And I think that is so beautiful. Ribs and hips spread to make room for a growing baby – a tiny human (!!) and our bodies sustain that human and provide all the essential nutrients - in and outside the womb. That's incredible. Pregnancy changes things that seem completely unrelated to growing a baby. Many women develop carpal tunnel when pregnant. The baby can press on nerves -one movement or kick causing sharp, shooting pains. Organs move. I came out of labor with a sore tailbone and bone-deep aches, some women break bones. Everything can change. Most things move back, bones realign and the pain goes away (so I've been told) but the body has undergone a sort of metamorphosis that no amount of weight loss change back. And I guess, through this whole process, I've come to realize that we're not meant to go back. Childbirth is such a spiritual, intimate, Godly miracle that just the thought of going back seems outlandish and juvenile now. What could there be to go back to?
I used to think that the reason women didn't mind the changes their bodies underwent was because they loved their children. Because they would never trade their old body for their new baby. And while that is totally and completely true, there is so much more to it. I wouldn't change my body because I love what my body has done and if nothing else, the whole process was worth it just to see what beautiful and great things I am capable of.
Soon after I had Jeremiah, I remember walking into the hospital bathroom to shower and really seeing my tired, worn, changed body for the first time. My belly still looked six months pregnant. My feet were more swollen from the delivery than they had ever been during my pregnancy. Everything was swollen, for that matter. My eyes were puffy, my hair was unwashed. But I distinctly remember feeling so beautiful and so proud of my body. I don't know if I had ever felt that type of beautiful previously. I marveled at what my body was capable of. I felt (and continue to feel) so grateful for my body for being so strong and reliable and for doing something so hard. Of course there are days where the adjustment is difficult. I'd be lying if I said there isn't sacrifice involved – women risk their lives and venture far into the unknown to bring children into this word. My body is new and different even though it mostly looks how it did before I was pregnant. And even if it didn't look the same way, I would welcome the change because it goes far beyond physical appearance. The most prevalent changes occur at a bone-deep, invisible-to-the-eye level. And I can't imagine ever going back. I imagine that even if my recovery was awful and my body less attractive by conventional standards, I still wouldn't take it all back because the change -in my body, mind, and spirit- is so valuable, so precious to me.
I guess all I'm trying to say is that I understand, now, why all those women wrote posts about their bodies and the changes they've undergone – because I have never loved my body more.