As a proud feminist who fights tirelessly against what our culture has attempted to convince women is "beautiful" or "attractive" or acceptable "for a woman," it's somewhat difficult for me to admit that I really disliked my postpartum body. In fact, it took me a very, very long time to come to terms with all the changes my body experienced thanks to pregnancy, labor and delivery, and how those changes have forever altered the skin I'm in. Thankfully, I know that it's perfectly OK to dislike your postpartum body, because how you feel is how you feel and there's no denying how I felt after my son was born.
I vividly remember looking down at my postpartum belly, no more than 24 hours after my son had been born, shocked and less-than-thrilled at what I was seeing. I was taking a shower, getting ready to leave the hospital, and I was sore and exhausted and unable to recognize the very same body that, less than a day prior, had accomplished something truly extraordinary. I wanted to love my body — and a very large part of me did, because it gave me my son — but I didn't like how it looked. I didn't like that I still looked pregnant; I didn't like that my skin was loose; I didn't like that my breasts were so large and had stretch marks; I didn't like that my hips were now slightly wider. I looked in the mirror and I didn't recognize the form I was starting at, and it was unsettling. I didn't feel "at home" in my own body, and that was disheartening.
While I can appreciate the movement that encourages and urges mothers to love their postpartum bodies, I think it's just as important to acknowledge how women feel regardless and even when they don't particularly like their postpartum body. We shouldn't make women feel like something is "wrong" with them if they don't have good-time feels about their body, especially when that body has gone through so much change and may be, to them, slightly unrecognizable. So, with that in mind and in the hopes that new moms can simply be supported in whatever it is they're feeling, here are just a few reasons why it's perfectly OK to not like your postpartum body.
Your Feelings About Your Own Body Matter...
If you don't feel warm and fuzzy feelings about your postpartum body well, then, you don't. That's all there really is to it.
Your feelings matter and you shouldn't deny them in the name of feminism or body positivity or anything else. If you don't allow yourself to feel whatever it is you're feeling, you're essentially keeping yourself from being a human being.
...And Are Valid
After going through pregnancy, labor, delivery and either a vaginal birth or a c-section, how you feel about your postpartum body isn't only allowed, it's valid. No one has the right to police your feelings about your own body, especially after it has done something so wondrous and so taxing. No one should tell you what you're feeling is "wrong" and no one should try and tell you what you should or shouldn't be feeling, even if they have the best of intentions and are just trying to be supportive. After all, you're the one who went through the painstaking process of growing and birthing another human being.
Getting Used To So Much Change Can Be Difficult
I had a hard time loving my pregnant body, only because it was constantly changing and growing. The same can be said for my postpartum body, especially because that change happened in an instant and not over 40 (or more) weeks. One moment I was pregnant, and the next moment I was postpartum and the change was not only substantial, it was so quick I couldn't wrap my mind around it.
So, yeah, staring in the mirror was difficult. It was hard for me to love something that looked so different, so quickly. That didn't mean that I hated my body or that I was a bad feminist or that I was comparing my body to some social standard of beauty. It just meant that my body had been through a lot of change and I didn't necessarily like all that change, even if that change gave me someone as perfect as my son.
It's Difficult To Like Something You Don't Recognize...
I probably would have loved my postpartum body right away if I had been able to recognize my postpartum body right away. However, when I looked at my body after I had a baby, I didn't know what I was looking at. My postpartum body was something I didn't recognize, so I had to get acquainted with the skin I was in before I was able to love it, or even like it.
...Or Something That Doesn't Feel Like You
I also didn't feel like myself in my postpartum body. My arms were mine and my legs were mine and my stomach was mine and the form carrying around my exhausted brain was all mine, but I didn't feel attached or connected to it. It was my body, but it didn't feel like my body.
That's a pretty unsettling feeling; like your body isn't really your body. It's hard to "like" a body you don't feel attached to. Time, of course, usually does the dirty work for you and before you know it you feel like yourself again, but when you don't feel like you, it's OK not to like your postpartum body.
If You Don't Feel Comfortable, You Don't Feel Comfortable
It's honestly this easy. Why hate yourself or feel ashamed about a feeling you can't help but have? I know that — in response to an unkind culture that constantly tells women to hate their bodies if they don't fit a usually impossible standard of beauty — we're told to love our body, regardless. Yes, love your body and be kind to your body, but not liking specific parts of your postpartum body doesn't mean something is "wrong" with you. It means you're normal.
It's hard to like a body that makes you feel uncomfortable, because how you feel is way more important than how you look. If you don't feel good or feel like yourself or feel at home in your body, it's perfectly normal to not necessarily like your body, because you don't necessarily like living with those feelings, either.
It Can Be Difficult To Like Something So Sore...
I cursed my postpartum body for about a week and a half, only because I was so damn sore it hurt to move. It hurt to sit. It hurt to sneeze. It hurt to go to the bathroom. It just, well, hurt.
Was that my body's fault? Of course not. Still, I didn't like living inside a body that seemed to be in pain every hour of every day.
...And Depending On Your Birth, There Might Be A Few Things You Can't Do For A While
I had a vaginal birth and, luckily, I didn't tear, so my postpartum recovery time was relatively short all things considered. Still, there were certain things I couldn't do because I was so sore and recovering from something so physically demanding, and that was annoying. I couldn't have sex, I couldn't really lift anything heavy, I couldn't run (ha!), I couldn't sit or lay down in specific positions. It was just annoying and, again, while it wasn't my body's fault that it was hurting and needed time to feel "normal," I didn't like being in a body that was keeping me from doing the things I really wanted (or even needed) to do.
You Shouldn't Deny How You Feel To Prove A Point
I'm not going to deny my real feelings in the name of "feminism" or "body positivity," mostly because that's not what feminism or body positivity is about. You don't have to lie or fit some preconcieved (usually fictitious) notion of what either of those movements mean.
Instead, you should feel comfortable and supported in being whoever you are, and feeling whatever it is you're feeling. That's what it means to be a feminist and that's what it means to be body positive, and I'm not going to go against those two movements and lie about how I'm feeling when it comes to my postpartum body. I didn't always like it. In fact, sometimes I really really really didn't like it at all. That's OK, because that's how I felt.
You Can Dislike Your Postpartum Body, And Still Love What It Did
Even though I didn't like how my postpartum body looked — or how I felt in it — I still loved my body for everything it did for me, my baby and my family. I was still in awe that it had done, and all that it was continuing to do. I was still thankful for it and I was still going to be kind to it. I just, you know, didn't necessarily feel at home in it for a while, and I wanted to feel as attached to my body as I once was.
Not liking your postpartum body doesn't mean you hate it (or yourself), it just means that your body has been through a lot, has changed a lot, and that takes a while to get used to.