As a culture, we are obsessed with female-presenting individuals looking a certain way. Usually "certain way" means white, blonde, thin, able-bodied, and youthful. The postpartum stomach does not fit this narrow margin for beauty , just like, you know, most things. As a result, I can find countless advice columns in countless publications schooling me on how to get rid of my "mom tummy" so, yeah, there are things no one is saying about postpartum stomachs that they absolutely, without a doubt, should.
Frankly, dear reader, I'm so sick of it. I'm so sick of personally being told — and seeing other postpartum people being told — that our bodies are no longer worthy because of how they look postpartum. I'm tired of women being told to "cover up," "have some shame," "dress right for your body type," and even identifying certain people as "MILFs." All of these comments are reflective of the toxic culture of fat-shaming, thin-glorifying, women's-bodies-as-commodities that help our children develop severe self-esteem deficits and disordered eating thoughts and behaviors.
Women are more than our bodies, you guys. Women are more than how pleasing we are for other people to look at. Women are so much more than whether or not we can, or even want, to rid ourselves of any remaining postpartum belly bump. If you agree, here are some things you could start saying about postpartum stomachs that, sadly, no one else is:
That Tiger Got Her Stripes
I'm not totally sure, but I'd like to think tigers get their stripes when they are proven to be the biggest badasses in the jungle. Just saying.
They Are Sexy As Hell
I'm not going to lie, as much as I'm a preacher on body positivity and empowerment I, too, get down on myself about my body. I was socialized as a girl in the United States, after all. I think it's impossible to avoid at least some level of self-judgment in these circumstances.
When the days of body-doubt are upon me, and I'm bemoaning the floppy sack that hangs off my abdomen after having borne three live children, my partner's eyes get softest and says, "I know you're struggling, but that belly is sexy as hell." This is how non-toxic masculinity is done, people.
They're Something To Be Proud Of
Postpartum bellies mean you gave life. Postpartum bellies mean your body probably grew (or at least started to grow) a whole new organ called the placenta. A whole new organ! Out of nothing! That's incredible.
Postpartum bellies in the case of stillbirths and pregnancy loss are a reminder of the tremendous grief you may be carrying; proof that the life you grew existed inside of you.
I call bullsh*t on all the people who say pregnancy is not that big a deal, all because people have been doing it since always. It is a big deal. It's f*cking incomprehensible and outstanding that some people's bodies can do this. I say we get to be f*cking proud of the proof on our bodies.
Do We Really Want No Indication Of What Happened Here?
This belly stretched and grew in a way that is really outstanding. Do we really want it to go back to "normal?" As if nothing like the magnitude of keeping the human race alive had taken place there?
There Can Be Problems With Postpartum Bellies
Far beyond the obsession with getting the pre-baby body back, there can be actual problems. If we were talking about diastasis recti as much as we are obsessing over publicly consumed hot-mom-bods, some women might be getting help sooner.
I am pro-moms-getting-health-help ASAP.
They Are Still Capable As Hell
Even if I have a mum-tum for the rest of my life, my postpartum stomach is stronger than it ever was before I had kids. Thinness does not equal fitness. Postpartum bellies are capable as hell.
Recovery Takes Longer Than Celebrities Claim
If you're like me, you can think of 10 celebrities off the top of your head who were publicly praised for how quickly they "bounced back" after childbirth. I'm not even a big celebrity-rag consumer, you guys. The unrealistic expectations of a flat postpartum stomach is not only setting new mothers up for disappointment and body shame, it's also potentially causing real physical health problems as people try to reach the flat tummy goal way too soon in their recovery.
After the birth of my first child I was about eight months postpartum when I went in to see a new doctor because of some chronic neck pain I was having. He took one look at my round belly, didn't even try to veil his contempt, and said, "How long has it been since you delivered? What you need to do is lose some weight."
Not only was this fat-shaming completely inappropriate and mean, but this jerk's preoccupation with how my belly should look eight months postpartum caused him to totally miss the nerve pain and back spasms I'd been having since my child was born. Rife with self-loathing and the fear that I was being weak and sensitive, I waited another two months before I went back to a different doctor, was properly diagnosed, and was able to begin treatment for my chronic pain. Spoiler alert: when my nerve pain was treated I was able to actually exercise and, yeah, lose some weight, but more importantly increase my energy levels and feel more present for my baby, myself, and my happiness.
Our Kids Love Our Postpartum Stomachs
I try not to cringe when one of my littles pats, blubs, or otherwise enjoys my beautiful bulbous belly, because I want them to have the same fond memories I do.
This may seem strange, and I don't really know if other people do this, but when I was a little person I was so drawn to my mom's postpartum pooch. My mama is a modest woman, so I won't divulge all the specific physical traits I loved about her belly. but I do remember feeling so cared for and close to her when I would lay my head on her belly. I remember being in absolute awe as I stared at her belly button and c-section scar thinking: "This was my first home. I used to fit in here!" I remember seeing the physical proof in that belly that I was connected to my mom in a way that only one other person on the planet was.
If we are able to carry our biological children and raise them, these kids love our postpartum stomachs, ya'll.
Nothing At All
Of all the positive things you could say about postpartum stomachs very few people are saying them. Perhaps, more importantly, what nobody is really saying is nothing. Why do we have to comment on postpartum bellies at all? They're a part of life. Talking about them, positively or negatively, contributes to the idea that people with bodies that have birthed babies are up for public scrutiny, discussion, and (dis)approval. Spoiler alert: they're not.
Good or bad, unless I'm asking for your opinion, my postpartum belly is none of anybody's damned business.