My postpartum self was unrecognizable. I didn't feel like myself and certainly didn't look anything like the woman I was before pregnancy. Things changed and shifted in ways I never anticipated and, to be honest, I hated it. The biggest change of all was the widening of my "child-bearing" hips. Jeans fit differently, and I became more self-conscious than ever. In fact, I was so uncomfortable I neglected to realize all the things my postpartum hips wanted (and needed) me to know. Thankfully, they're just as relevant now, even all these years later.
I gained an impressive (read: dangerous) amount or weight with my first pregnancy, only to be outdone by a larger number with my second. I was miserable in my own skin for a long, long time. Even after the births, I couldn't find anything to "shrink" me back down to what I was before. The truth was, my body refused because, like my insides, I simply wasn't the same person I was before — I was (and am) a mother. To look the way I had before means desiring a period of time when my kids weren't here.
You could say my body's been stretched and deflated more times than a balloon with tiger stripes to prove it. However, after all is said and done and even after all the struggle to find normalcy after the fact, I have two beautiful children so I can't complain (too much). Besides, no matter what's different about my body during and after pregnancy was a short term situation with long term benefits. Even as I write this, I see my hips from the corner of my eye, probably wondering what they can say to ease my insecurities. If you're feeling the same way, here's what I think your postpartum body is telling you (whether you want to hear it or not).
"You Are Beautiful"
I know, especially after a baby, looking in the mirror is hard. But know this, dear reader: your hips think you're amazing. You've done the job so many aren't able. While it may feel like the end of the world to see your pre-pregnancy clothes that no longer fit the same or to catch a glimpse of your reflection in the mirror and think, "Eww," your eyes deceive you.
I remember trying on clothes at the mall just after the birth of my second and I left feeling so defeated. Nothing fit right and I was so self-conscious, I left with nothing. I wish then that my hips had told me, a) this time will pass and, b) they've been through hell and look better than ever. Forget the size.
"You Are Strong"
Remember, before children, how the lines of your body were a little straighter? For me, there was a definitive before and after.
Before children, I was confident but in a very different way. My body hadn't been through so much. After and when I was postpartum, however, I saw what I was capable of. While I felt insecure looking in the mirror during those early days and weeks (and months), I was a different woman. My straight lines curved and along with the responsibility of raising little ones, my hips wanted me to know I'm not less than I was before giving birth. I'm so much more.
"Your Body Gave Life"
The thing about a postpartum body is, no matter how you feel about yourself or what you think you see in the mirror, you've brought life into the world. That's a pretty damn huge thing to do. So honestly, cut yourself some slack and give yourself some credit. It's well-deserved.
In my early days, my partner reminded me often that, yes, my body changed but more than that, look at our new baby. It's really that simple.
"No One Sees What You See"
What's funny is, all those times I looked in the mirror and could only see someone twice my "normal" weight, everyone else saw something completely different. While I had been heavier than usual, my partner saw a hard-working mother. While I cried about how uncomfortable I felt, my friends and family saw a new mom who'd find her way. While I cursed my closet full of clothes, my hips saw a woman who didn't need them right then. They knew they'd widened a bit, but for good reason.
So, at some point, I'd buy new clothes, new pants in a different size but it didn't matter. Anytime my insecurities broke through, I was the only one who noticed my flaws. Everyone else just saw me as, well, me.
More than anything else, your postpartum hips need you to hear this: thank you. You've sacrificed your body to give life to another. While you might not always feel the gratitude (hence fitting rooms at the mall), your hips still think you rock and honestly, I do, too.
Being a mother comes with so many things I'd never have given another thought to. Stretch marks, that pouch my stomach will forever sport, and these hips that literally don't lie. I can't change my body's makeup, even with healthy eating and exercise, but five years since my last birth — and my hips are the same as they were — why would I want to? This body, flaws and all, are mine so maybe it's time I stop picking myself a part and be grateful for everything it's given me. Like my children.