I had a very difficult time learning to love my postpartum body and, instead, found myself leaning towards self-hatred instead of self-care. It was difficult to feel comfortable in a form I didn't recognize anymore, and the pressure to "lose the baby weight," was more relentless than I could've imagined. Thankfully, I remembered one tiny little detail that helped me learn to love the postpartum skin I was in: my body is why I have my baby. I can only imagine the things your baby wants you to know about your postpartum body; things that can give every new mom the perspective she needs; things that prove what your body looks like doesn't hold a candle to what your body can do (and has already done).
In the days and weeks after my son was born, I shrunk myself. Not in size, but in existence. I didn't feel comfortable or attractive or like the "good moms" that grace the covers of magazines in the check-out aisle, so I had it in my mind that I had already failed my son. Because I didn't look like a happy, skinny new mother (who has somehow hidden all evidence that she was ever pregnant) I wasn't going to live up to any other standard our society has attached to motherhood. So, I shrunk myself. I grew quiet; I didn't want to leave the house; I wore big, baggy clothes to hide my body; I downplayed the labor and delivery my body just endured. I was horribly unkind to the very same body that brought my son into the world. It wasn't until that body was capable of comforting my son during a particularly horrific crying fit (literally the only thing that would soothe him was direct, skin-to-skin contact) that I realized I was being so unfair to myself and the body that had done and was still doing incredible things.
If only my son was able to articulate his thoughts and feelings on the subject. Knowing him like I do now, I'm sure he would have smacked me upside the head and said, "Hey, mom. Your body is why I'm here. Get it together, because your body did an amazing thing and you're amazing too." He wouldn't have been wrong, and I think as mothers (especially first-time, brand new moms) we all need subtle — or not-so-subtle — reminders that we are astounding. So, with that in mind, if your baby could tell you what you need to know about your postpartum body, here's what I imagine he or she would say:
It Deserves To Rest
Your body has been through somewhere around 40 or so weeks of pregnancy — growing and stretching, probably puking and possibly constipated — only to go through an untold number of hours where you were in pain, contracting and pushing or being cut open. Your. Body. Needs. To. Rest.
The United States doesn't do much to support postpartum women, as we're the only industrialized nation that doesn't offer mandatory paid family leave. As a result, nearly a quarter of mothers return to work less than two weeks after their babies are born. However, It's important to be kind to your body and allow it to rest and recover from something as physically demanding as pregnancy, labor and delivery.
It Just Did Something Truly Amazing...
Your body either pushed another human being out of it, or had another human being cut out of it. I mean, that's incredible, you guys. That's amazing. You should be in constant awe of what your body is capable of doing, because if your baby could understand what happened and articulate his or her feelings, they'd continuously tell you that you're nothing short of a magical unicorn person.
...And Your Baby Wouldn't Be Here Without It
Without your postpartum body, your baby wouldn't be here.
I won't lie and say it was easy for me to love my postpartum body. It wasn't. I had a hard time getting "used to" a form I didn't know or recognize or even particularly like. However, I couldn't bring myself to hate my body because my body is why I have my son.
It's Still Doing Marvelous Things
If you're breastfeeding, your body is literally sustaining another human being. If you're not breastfeeding, but bottle feeding, your body is still doing some astounding things. For example, your uterus is already working its way back to its original size and your body is releasing feel-good hormones, like oxytocin, that can actually calm your baby and help you bond.
The amazing things your body does during pregnancy, labor and delivery don't end once your baby is born.
It Was Never Lost, So You Don't Have To "Get Your Body Back"
Can we just get rid of the whole "get your body back" sentiment almost every single postpartum woman is bombarded with the moment her kid enters the world? Please? I know I didn't "lose" my body some time between a positive pregnancy test and the birth of my son. I've always known exactly where my body is so there's no need to "find it," again.
I't's Providing Comfort
My body seemed to be capable of soothing my son when nothing else seemed to work. All I needed to do was hold him, skin-to-skin, and his crying would stop. It's hard to hate something that seemed to have magic baby-whispering abilities.
It's Not Defined By A Number On A Scale
I guarantee you, your baby doesn't care how much you weigh. Like, at all. Not even a little bit. Your baby isn't going to notice the parts of your body you may or may not like or may nor may not feel comfortable with. Your baby doesn't care if you have stretch marks; doesn't care if you are carrying around a few extra pounds; doesn't care if your hips are wider or your breasts are larger. Seriously, your baby doesn't care.
It's Not Something You Need To Hide
Of course you need to and should do whatever makes you feel comfortable. If you are self-conscious and covering up and/or layering and/or just staying in makes you feel the most comfortable, you do some or all of those things.
However, please don't feel like you have to hide your body. You don't. Your body just did and is continuing to do some marvelous things, and there's no reason to be ashamed of that body. After all, it gave you a baby.
I will never forget calling my mother a few days after my son was born to tell her thank you. After going through pregnancy, labor and delivery, I realized with painful certainty that my mother's body did some truly incredible things so that I can be in the world and live my life. One day, I'm sure and I hope, you'll get the same phone call from your kid.
How your body looks is small potatoes compared to what your body has done. Your baby is here because your body grew them and housed them and then either pushed them into the world or was cut open so they could come into the world. Your body is incredible and you should never, ever, forget it.