Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But beholders aren't born in a vacuum, and when it comes to female beauty societal definitions are pretty narrow. There's also very little in that definition that has any kind of overlap with postpartum bodies, either how they look or what they do. But I believe there's a lot about postpartum bodies that seem gross but are actually beautiful, or at the very least not at all gross.
It's easy to think that after childbirth all the changes your body went through during pregnancy (dramatically and relatively quickly) are going to end and then you immediately go "back to normal." But while your body may eventually morph back into it's "traditional" size and shape, the truth is that it takes time and more and more changes will take place before you get there. After all, your body has just done something monumental, so it needs a while to re-calibrate and find its footing again. Give it time and patience, and don't begrudge it some "grossness." Because you may think it's gross based on societal standards of female beauty, but there's some really miraculous, astonishing, and truly lovely things that are happening within and without you.
Of course, whatever your feelings are about your postpartum body are valid. You don't have to be in love with it entirely to prove that you're some "woke," empowered woman capable of completely separating yourself from the detrimental messages this society sends women about their bodies. But if you're thinking your post-birth flesh bag is nothing but nastiness, here are a few downright badass things about your body that are absolutely worth celebrating. Yes, even if they look or feel a little "gross."
OK, so technically delivery of the placenta is considered part of birth but, the way I see it, the baby is the main event and anything after that is kindasorta postpartum.
Lots of people consider placentas gross and I get it. It's a temporary organ expelled through your vagina (or, if you have a C-section, expertly extracted by your doctor). It looks like, in the words of my maternity nurse (who showed me my placenta without really asking if I wanted to) "a raw steak." She wasn't wrong.
And yet that same maternity nurse was absolutely fascinated by the placenta. You'd think it would be old news to her, having attended so many births, but she looked at mine almost lovingly and was so captivated she wanted to show me what it looked like. And, damnit if I didn't see the beauty in it after that.
The first time I saw my C-section scar (and it took a mirror, because I couldn't see it past my still large postpartum belly) I was low-key absolutely terrified. I was still in the hospital, the staples were still in place, and everything was (understandably) swollen and puffy. It was by no stretch beautiful. But as time went on and my body healed, I loved my scar. It was a fond reminder of my baby's birth and it became legitimately beautiful to me. These days (almost seven years later) it's all but faded and I'm sort of bummed out about that fact.
The vaginal discharge that comes out of you weeks after you give birth (as in "over the course of several weeks" not "in a few weeks") is basically like the most nightmarish period of your life. There's blood, there's blood clots the likes of which you've never seen, and there's a creamy yellow-ish white substance that takes, like, forever to run it's course.
But you know what? It took you nine months to build up those fluid stores so maybe it's OK if it takes up to six weeks to expel it all. And maybe there's something really cathartic about seeing physical evidence of all the changes your body went through to nourish your baby as it was developing from random cluster of cells to tiny human.
The bellies that still look pregnant. The bellies that retain their linea nigra. The bellies covered in stretch marks. The bellies that look deflated. The bellies with belly buttons that got all stretched out. They carried life, people! Come on! That's beautiful! There's no one way to have a belly and we need to stop asking bellies that carried a baby to look beautiful in the same way bellies that haven't had babies do.
I love stretch marks. I think they're beautiful and sexy and we need to start appreciating them more because they're just aesthetically pleasing and they're a symbol of just how much our bodies have done to grow. That's awesome.
Fun fact: postpartum nipples and areola can darken and even enlarge after birth. A lot of women are unsettled by this and I get it, because any change can be jarring, particularly in such an intimate, sexualized area. But the way breasts are sexualized plays a part in this and there is absolute a "boob beauty standard." Society likes 'em perky with light nipples and areola of a particular diameter. Postpartum boobs are, more often than not, checking none of those boxes. But that doesn't mean that not fitting the standard is the same as not being beautiful. We need to revel in the beauteous multitude of breasts size, shape, and color.
It may not be beautiful to an outsider, but once it finally happens and you live through it unscathed, that's a beautiful thing and I'm not sorry to say that.
OK, whether or not it's beautiful is up to the individual, but it's not gross. It's totally normal. (And there's something beautiful in having a visible sign that your body is ready and willing to continue to nourish your little one even after they're no longer living inside your body.)
Wearing Mesh Underwear
Physically beautiful? No. But the mesh underwear they gave me at the hospital after both of my births made me feel like a goddamn princesses swaddling wrapped in a gauzy cloud. It was truly a thing of beauty. There's nothing I couldn't do with a good pair of mesh panties: I could conquer the world.
Funky Body Odor
OK, again, maybe not beautiful but perfectly normal, and you can thank your abundance of changing hormone levels (as you've probably had to do for a lot of the changes that have been going on in your body for the past few months).