I have a circle of friends. They are beautiful women. Strong women. They are mothers. Every single one of them has given birth in the past year, some for the second time. We are wading through the postpartum experience together.
These women come from all walks of life. Our backgrounds are varied, our interests wide. We learn from each other, and lean on each other. We find commonality in our diversity. We celebrate the things that make us unique and embrace the things we have in common.
Recently I found myself in the midst of a discussion about our postpartum bodies. There was a general consensus that no one felt “right”. We all had parts of us that had changed, weight that we carry now that wasn’t there before. The lamenting was not unfamiliar; I had heard similar complaints amongst other groups of women.
As I listened I got to thinking, why did these beautiful women feel less-than? Why did they crave their pre-baby bodies so badly? Why did I see gorgeous mommas and they saw shadows of the women they used to be?
As women, we are told that there is a certain ideal of beauty. Generally it is tall and thin and unattainable for 99% of the female population. Yet, we strive for it. We watch what we eat and we wear impossibly high heels. We deny ourselves cravings and we turn to surgical options when all else fails. We are bombarded with images of taller and thinner women. We are told we are not good enough, that we do not measure up.
As a pregnant woman, we are given a little bit of slack. We are expected to gain weight, just not too much. Not too little either, you don’t want to look like a complete narcissist. And, as soon as that baby is born, we need to look just like we did nine months prior. We are to pull up our pre-pregnancy jeans and walk out of the hospital glowing, baby in our arms.
Rarely is the reality of a woman’s postpartum body ever shown. Celebrities are shown on the cover of glossy magazines looking better than they did before the baby. What we do not see is the team of stylists and makeup artists. We are not shown the Photoshop masters who manipulate reality into something that’ll bring a profit.
The reality of a postpartum body is nothing like those magazines. Bellies stay round, weight clings to new curves. Breasts swell with milk and stretch marks line our bodies. The reality is nothing like the magazine cover.
It is better.
The reality is that our bellies stay round for a while because it takes time for our wombs to shrink back down. It takes time for the space where our children grew and formed to retreat into our pelvises. Our bodies hold onto extra weight that clings to our new momma curves. It stays there to insure that those newly engorged breasts will always have the resources they need to produce milk for our growing babies. The lines that form from our overstretched skin are a reminder of the utterly amazing feat we have accomplished.
We created life.
It is true; our bodies are not the same as they were before the baby. Pregnancy changed it. It changed us. We grew life with this new body of ours. We kept our little ones safe and nourished. We gave birth to them. This body. This new, different, changed body. Maybe we will never look the same, maybe we will hold onto these new curves and lines forever. But that is ok. That is beautiful. No Photoshop is needed when our children run to us for comfort. No stylist or makeup artist is needed when they look to us for love.
I see you gorgeous mommas. I see your curves and your round belly. I see you tugging at your shirt, unsure of your new body. I see beauty and strength. I see a mom and I see courage. I see love and I see the future.
I see you beautiful mommas and I hope that one day soon, you see you too.