My postpartum days were spent gazing into a closet of clothes that were either too big or too small. My postpartum body was somewhere between pregnancy and pre-pregnancy, so I felt like I had no place at all. It's hard to explain feeling like a stranger in your own body, but having children did that to me. As a result I wasn't particularly kind to my post-baby body, at least not initially. So while the things a postpartum woman really means when she says she hates her body may very from new mom to new mom, what I meant when I talked down to my post-baby body was usually something painful and eye-opening.
After the birth of my first baby, I didn't recognize myself in the mirror. My body had been through so much — massive weight gain, hypertension, bedrest — I wasn't sure I'd ever find my way back to confidence again. There was even a time I bailed on a friend's birthday outing because my postpartum self was so insecure and out-of-place it was impossible to pretend I felt anything remotely close to OK. Instead I drove the two hours home after dinner so I could hide. I wanted to curl into a ball and cry until my tears dried up.
With everything I'd gone through to have a baby, the way my badass body looked should've been the least of my worries. My postpartum depression skewed my view of both myself and the world, though, so every time I opened my closet doors I was reminded that my in-between body didn't fit into a predetermined narrative of what is an "attractive" postpartum body. I said I hated my body often, but at the core I didn't always mean it. If anything I wanted someone to tilt my chin up, look me in the eye, and tell me everything I was feeling was OK — I was OK. Here's some of the things a postpartum woman really means when she says such awful things about the body that brought new life into the world.
"I Want To Feel Comfortable In My Skin"
I clearly remember that night I left my friend's birthday celebration because no one understood what I was going through. My friend was hurt, confused, and angry I chose to leave, but she failed to see that I was dying inside. I wore Spanx beneath my leggings and had to readjust them all night. My friends dressed in tight-fitting clothes and looked amazing and I was envious. I didn't fit in. Instead I felt like an outsider in my own body.
Before pregnancy I would have been more than ready for a night out on the town, but as soon as my body went through the trauma of pregnancy, labor, and delivery I didn't want to leave my house. Why? Because leaving my house meant I'd have to confront my insecurity at times I wasn't prepared to. Like, for example, during a friend's birthday party.
"I Hate How I Feel About My Body"
Theres a difference between actually hating my body and hating the feelings I have about my body. I was grateful to my body for delivering a strong, healthy baby. I felt strong and powerful, but at the same time I didn't know how to let go of the resentment I felt about the changes my body had to endure in order to grow, birth, and sustained human life. I wish I could have gone through the entire experience without the stretch marks, baby weight, and forever scars.
"I'm Envious Of Others"
I knew my body wouldn't magically look like it did pre-pregnancy the moment my baby was born. I had genetics to fight, more baby weight than what was medically necessary, and no energy thanks to postpartum depression. I still longed to put on a dress and twirl with the confidence I had before my baby, though. I wanted to join my friends for a night out and feel "normal" again. Yes, I was envious. Not that they were kid-free, because I loved being a mom, but that they hadn't lost themselves the way I had.
"I Need Some Encouragement"
Sometimes when I said I hated my body all I was looking for a counter perspective to lift me up. I got so used to putting myself down that having another voice, like my partner, tell me otherwise would have made a huge different. I might not have believed him (or anyone else) at the time, but I still needed support and encouragement until I found myself again.
"I Don't Think I'm Good Enough"
When it came down to it, being in public reminded me of my insecurities. Every negative feeling I've ever felt about myself was magnified postpartum. Hating my body was another way of me feeling like I was never going to live up to everyone's expectations.
"I Want To Feel Like Myself Again"
Once I had my baby I wanted to feel like the "old me," it's just that I couldn't really remember who the "old me" was. I wasn't the same the same person I was before my baby was born because, well, now I was a mother. I certainly didn't want to hate my body, because that body was the reason I was a mom. I just didn't know how to accept the new me while simultaneously saying goodbye to an "old me" I no longer recognized.
"I Hope My Partner Doesn't Hate My Body"
For the record, my partner has never made me feel less than. Ever. He's consistently doted on me no matter what my body's been through, and reminded me daily that I am worthy and I am beautiful. While I don't always believe him, it's my issue — not his.
When I say I hate my body, in the back of my mind I'm hoping he thinks I've grown more beautiful after becoming a mother, not less. Regardless of the physical changes and all the ways I've stretched and contorted into a different shape than the day we met, I want him to look at me with gratitude.
I'm sure it's obvious that when I say I hate my body I'm really saying I'm insecure, but I have a feeling my insecurities don't manifest in the ways most people would assume they would. It's not that I wish some specific part of my body would change, it's that I don't recognize my new body at all. I'm insecure about who I am as a person. I became a mother, but at what cost? My self-identity had been lost.
"I'd Do It All Over Again"
Of all the times I've shouted scathing things at myself in the mirror, it doesn't negate the fact that having children was totally and completely worth it. I'm not thrilled my body took the pregnancies so hard, but if the end product is hearing "I love you always, Mommy," I'd do it again in a heartbeat.