The postpartum period is among the weirder moments in your life, should you go through it. It doesn't last long, but it will loom large in your mind for years to come, simultaneously remembered in vivid detail and as a total blur. Physically, your postpartum body will be at the center of so much change and readjustment, from what's happening with it to how it's feeling to how it looks, and it can be unsettling. So here are some mantras for your postpartum body; sweet little nothings to whisper into the mirror or under your breath when times are tough.
The six weeks that follow birth is a completely topsy-turvy time on every level, because your body is absolutely remarkable and just did (and continues to do!) magical things. "Magical" isn't hyperbole, either: pregnancy and childbirth are some kind of witchcraft. But good witchcraft. The kind that the nice witch with the puffy pink dress does in The Wizard of Oz, only more awe-inspiring. (Because what did she dog, give a country girl some fabulous shoes? That's magic but it's not, like, giving life to another human being kinda magic.)
So when things are feeling overwhelming, take a look in the mirror and tell your trusty body the following:
"You Grew A Person!"
That is seriously mind-boggling. I've had a pretty good grasp on how eggs and sperm transform to zygotes to embryos to fetuses since I was in grade school, and continually devoured a book on the subject. (I was absolutely fascinated and showed it to everyone who came over.) It's almost 30 years later and I'm still no less awestruck when I think about how it all goes down. Like, that was all your body. (OK, a partner helped a tiny, microscopic bit, briefly.) Yes, the pregnancy and birth are over, but you go ahead and take the rest of your life to marvel at the wonderful, biological magic that sprung from your loins.
"*This* Came Out Of *There*!"
No matter how your baby wound up exiting, you are going to gaze at the general area in wonderment because it feels like there is just no way it can be true. You will think back really hard to try to remember if some Will Smith Men In Black-type figure came and erased your memory of the alien nonsense that actually enabled you to give birth, but, no. Somehow, your child emerged from a teeny tiny opening. How can that not make you feel otherworldly?
If you look at the basic facts of childbirth on paper, without the supporting reasons why various bodily functions/systems/processes work the way they do, it's a damn wonder that anyone survives. Because it's either "a watermelon-sized person squeezed out from between my legs followed shortly thereafter by an organ," or, "I was cut into while still awake and had a wailing infant pulled out of me and I was up and walking within a day."
Well done, body, you little miracle, you.
"You Are Still Sustaining A Life"
Some people feel like if you're not actively gestating your body should look, well, like it never did. That is absurd because, well, did you not read the points above? Did you see all the major things your body has gone through?! And now you, yes you and your powerful body, are caring for a little one. This is taking all your (impressive) physical and mental strength. That's stunning! And if you're breastfeeding? That's yet another stunning thing your body is doing to let you know that you're capable of the whole motherhood thing.
"All Bodies Deserve Respect"
Not just the "pretty" ones, or the thin ones, or the white ones, or the ones without stretch marks or C-section scars, or the ones who have had the time to shave in the last month. Every. Single. Body. Realizing this can help you establish a bare minimum that can let you go on to appreciate all the incredible things your body has done and is doing.
"You Are Not Supposed To Look Any Particular Way"
There's no timeline for "getting your body back." In fact, "getting your body back" is such a dumb turn of phrase. It's not like you lost your body, people. Your body is precisely where it's always been, it just looks and feels a little different now. If you want to try to change that, that's cool, but you're under zero obligation to do so. There is no one way you are "supposed" to look ever, much less after you had a child. So go ahead and take the weight of that expectation of your back.
"You Are Healing In Ways I Can't See"
Your body lets you know a lot of the ways its awesome, but it likes to keep its mysteries, too. Inside, all kinds of changes are underway, almost as many as were happening while you were actually pregnant. Your body is recovering, healing, and knitting parts of itself back together. You won't necessarily know everything that is supposed to happen has happened until one day you wake up and think,"Wow, now that I think about it nothing hurts anymore."
Kudos, body, you sneaky minx.
"This Is Hard As Hell And You're Doing It"
Because motherhood is no walk in the park, and caring for a newborn while you're healing from childbirth is no joke. Take some time to acknowledge how difficult your new "normal" is, and how badass you are for doing all that you do on a daily basis.
"I Am The Master Of My Body!"
My son once screamed this at me more or less for no reason, and it was so funny that I've adopted it as a personal credo. Certainly this is not specific to postpartum bodies but, come on, it's too great to keep to myself. Besides, I feel like postpartum body could also use this little gem. Because nothing will make your body feel powerful and amazing that screaming "I AM THE MASTER OF MY BODY" with the fervent, glorious passion of a 6 year old.
"Your Brain Is Growing And Changing In Amazing Ways"
First of all, Mommy Brain is a thing, but it's not always in the negative way people think it is. Biochemical reactions going on in the various parts of the ol' noggin' are developing and perfecting many of our "maternal instincts." And there's hormones. So. Many. Hormones.
"You've Just Gone Through Something That Connects Us To Something Huge"
OK, my inner hippie is about to come out: while childbirth is not something all women have to do in their lives to be considered women, it is nevertheless a powerful experience that connects us in some way. Your body has done something huge that, in concert with the billions of people who have done it before you and those who will do it after, is nothing less than the continuation of the world.
"My Body Is Special And Belongs To Me"
This is another gem from my 6 year old, though it's not from his own brain: this is one he learned at school. So, yes, this is intended for small children but, you know what? Women have been made to have such adversarial and complicated relationships with our bodies that I think most of us need to start from (or frequently revisit) square one.
Your body is very special and it's all yours. Enjoy it during this unique, wonderful, and very challenging time.