If there was ever a time to be self-congratulatory, it’s after you've birthed a baby. Is there anything more amazing than accomplishing that feat of physical prowess? To me, no. And still, I couldn’t beat myself up more after becoming a mom. All of a sudden there were so many new things to fail at. The most obvious one was staring back at me from the mirror every day. Who was this still-pregnant-looking version of myself, holding that baby? I was not prepared for my own image. Disparaging thoughts about my postpartum body occupied too much space in my new mom brain. I wasn’t prepared to be so unprepared when it came to the emotional roller coaster that many women, myself included, ride throughout the postpartum period.
When you’re pregnant, you don’t think there is anything you need to be concerned with other than the baby (once it comes). It never occurred to me that there were so many other things I needed to (and should have) prepared myself to deal with. For example, it’s quite shocking to go from being pregnant to non-pregnant in a matter of a day. I had trouble adjusting to the change, and most of it had to do with looking like I was still pregnant — a look that lasted for several weeks. Why didn't I know about this?
Having dealt with negative body image issues my entire life, it was a significant challenge to live in a body that fell short of my postpartum expectations. Wasn’t I supposed to be shedding pounds from breastfeeding? And once I eventually lost the baby weight, shouldn’t all my clothes fit me again? The fights I had with my postpartum body were, in hindsight, truly absurd. I was relying too much on my own warped idea of what was “right,” in terms of my appearance, and letting that dictate my feelings about motherhood. I wasn’t being fair to myself, or to my body, which had done an incredibly job gestating and birthing a healthy child.
It took me until after I had my second baby to make peace with my postpartum self. I still have negative thoughts about my body and set unrealistic goals for how much space it should take up in the world, but every day I work to lower the volume on those negative voices that reside in my head. It’s a process, but I’ve come a long way from having the following ridiculous fights with my postpartum body: