I need to be honest: When I was first assigned this article, I wanted to run away from my editor screaming. That probably perplexed her a little bit, because she doesn’t normally assign stuff for me to write that is out of my comfort zone, and to be fair, I'm pretty sure she thought writing about loving my body would fall squarely into my comfort zone. I am generally a very body-positive person, and certainly work hard for my stepdaughter and daughter to be raised in a body positive environment. So writing about celebrating the awesomeness of my body should not, in theory, be such a challenging task — unless you're talking to me about my pregnant body.
Pregnancy can be tough (I know, you've never heard that before, have you? Brand new information!). Your body changes so fast, in so many ways. It can be, and often is, jarring for a woman going through it, and it can leave you wondering who walked away with your old body and gave you this new one. For me, my second pregnancy was so completely different from my first, it felt like I was going through it again for the first time. Only it wasn’t nearly as healthy or happy.
I think the reason so many women have trouble loving their bodies after they give birth is because they (meaning we) are only taught to love their (our) bodies in a few ways, mostly having to do with adherence or lack thereof to sexual ideals as defined by Western, male, heterosexual standards. In other words, women are taught to view their bodies through the Male Gaze, which places no value at all on qualities like "function" or "strength." So when our bodies act even exceptionally functional, or exceptionally strong, if those functions and that strength results in our bodies fitting less perfectly — even temporarily — into that rigid mold of what a "good" female body looks like, then we have a very hard time overriding our programming and loving our bodies, even if our brains know that those same moments are when our bodies are the most worth loving.
But truly, there are so many reasons to cherish your body and all that it does once you become a mother. And so, I am writing this list not only for you, dear readers, but for myself as well. Because having a baby should make you love your body more. Even when it's hard to do so. Especially when it's hard to do so.
Let's Start With The Obvious: You Grew A Fresh Human Inside Your Body
If this ever stops being totally, face-meltingly, out-of-control incredible to you, then I don't know what to say. This is a fucking crazy thing that we're able to do. I mean, men can’t do this. Men, who take credit for creating half a million of the things in existence, could not have possibly made a tiny human without the help of your egg and your womb (and your patience, and toughness, and dedication, and sanity). And beyond that — and I don't want to go all "it's a gift!" like women should be obligated to want pregnancy and babies and all of that; they shouldn't and it's fine not to want anything to do with the "gift" — there are so many bodies that aren't capable, for many reasons, of creating and growing a baby. If your body can do it, it means your body is already amazing. End of conversation.
Your Body Grew An Extra Organ And Then Dumped It When It Was Through Using It, Like A Boss
Oh yeah, just, ya know, growing new organs and then dropping that shit once I'm done with it. No big deal. It's casual. You guys! That is so many levels of insanely cool. Have you had your baby yet? Did you look at that placenta when you delivered it?! Unbelievable. (I actually still have my second one in a tupperware container, in our deep freezer, because I was unwilling to part with it. Don't judge me.)
Your Boobs Can Make Milk
Have you ever seen the milk ducts in your breasts? Probably not because they're inside your breasts, and very few of us have x-ray vision. So I'll tell you: They are tiny and intricate and they just sit there inactive for decades, waiting for you to have a baby, stimulating certain hormones to start milk production going. It's hard not to love those stretch marks on our possibly-now-saggy breasts when you consider the kind of mind-blowing magic that put them there.
You Can Feel Vindicated When You Look At Your Belly Paunch
Are you kidding me? Were you paying attention when your skin stretched to accommodate your growing belly, which held your growing child? And most of it went back to where it came from when the baby came out. That is amazing. Also? If you’re not able to get rid of that paunch like me, your kids will actually love resting their heads on it. How can I not love that part of me? It housed my kid and now it acts as a pillow for the people I love most. Ugh, bellies are so beautiful and useful.
Here's what I love about stretch marks: They are lasting evidence that says, "This body you see? It was once pushed far, and held the capacity to do so much, and it did it, and kicked ass at it, and here it is now." So I’m giving a shout out to all the mamas who earned their stripes during pregnancy. I have no idea why my body decided to give me stretch marks on virtually every other part of my body throughout the years, but not my belly. But I got them on my hips and my breasts, so I don’t feel too left out.
An Entire Human Body Came Through Your Vagina. An ENTIRE HUMAN BODY CAME THROUGH YOUR VAGINA.
I don’t know about you, but when I felt, and then later saw, the size of my baby’s head, I had a fairly long moment of NOPE. How the goddamn hell does that happen?! But it happened. It seemed impossible before it happened; it seems impossible looking back on it after the fact. But you did it. You and your vagina. How could you ever feel anything but the utmost love and respect for your vagina again?
An Entire Human Body Came Out Of A Tiny Incision In Your Body. AN ENTIRE HUMAN BODY... OK, You Get It.
I didn't have a c-section, which while excluding me from understanding the experience of delivering a baby that way, leaves me even more in awe of it. From a purely "let's briefly focus just on the physical aspects of that experience" point of view, I'm amazed by c-section scars. How did a baby come out of there? How the hell did you take care of a newborn while recovering? What wizardry do you guys know, and can you teach me?! I kind of love when I can see other women's c-section scars at the beach or pool or whatever — it immediately lets me know that that woman has done some incredibly strong, resilient stuff with her body, and frankly, it inspires and empowers me just to be in the same space as people like that.