Courtesy of Latifah Miles

Honestly, The Way We Talk About Postpartum Bodies Is Exhausting

By
Share
Ad failed to load

Growing up, pregnancy and childbirth were life events I never truly thought would happen for me. I treated them both like unlikely possibilities, and so I didn’t spend much time thinking about what pregnancy would be like or how it would subsequently change my body. Years later, as a young adult, I was in my physical prime. My skin was glowing, my weight was perfect for me, and I felt like I could walk into any room confidently, my head held high. I was able to walk into any clothing store, purchase jeans right off the rack without even trying them on because I felt like I looked great in everything. I never worried how (or even if) my body would change after having a child. I didn't pay mind to all of the attention the conversation on postpartum bodies attracts, both in the media and in our everyday lives. I had no clue how exhausting talking about your postpartum body could be. And even when I found out that I was pregnant and would be stretching my body to its brink to create a new life, I still held firmly onto the idea that, since I was young and healthy, my body would "bounce back" like a rubber band.

Looking back, I know it was because I had a false sense of security that, even though I was dining on a breakfast of cheesecake and hot dogs for 10 months, my hope that I'd look and feel 21 forever was enough to get me through my pregnancy. Even though, in the end, I was horribly mistaken (my body resembled more of a mostly deflated water balloon post-birth), the constant talk about postpartum bodies is incredibly exhausting.

Courtesy of Latifah Miles
Ad failed to load

Walking out of the hospital after giving birth, I felt nothing like myself. I was strapped down in an adult diaper, which was stuffed with an ice-pack pad. I had breast pads poking out of my bra (and I use the word "bra" loosely here). My belly was still round, but empty, so the skin appeared dark and wrinkled like an oversized raisin. Nothing about my postpartum body was sexy, appealing, or anything I would've wanted to keep around longer than it would take my body to heal. But in scrolling through social media accounts in the months after giving birth to my son, I saw endless women showing off their perfectly flat, stretch-mark free bellies with hashtags like #snapback and #bounceback in the captions. Looking at those pictures in comparison to the natural disaster that felt like my own body was discouraging as hell. I couldn't help but wonder what the hell I was doing wrong because my body wasn't "snapping" or "bouncing" back.

I feel a deep sense of shame because I won't ever look like the size-0 models and celebrities do just weeks after giving birth. But the pictures and articles of women who do actually look like I did after giving birth don’t make me feel better either. I look at them and think, Damn, we're both screwed, huh?

It even crossed my mind to call my doctor and tell her that something must be broken because my ability to #snapback must've gotten lost on its way to me. My pre-baby body was, admittedly, comfortable. I'd never faced body shaming, rude comments, or any extra concerns about my health from strangers. But the constant barrage of questions, inquiries, and suggestions about how to "deal" with my postpartum body became too much. I stopped loving the body I was in. I put appreciating my body on hold, a reward for myself once I'd finally lost whatever weight I'd gained while carrying my son. But when the weight didn't just "fall off" and telling people "I just had a baby" felt like it was no longer a logical excuse, and when my then-husband hinted that maybe I didn't need ice cream after my dinner, I truly hit a wall.

Ad failed to load

Then, one day while working in retail, a chatty customer asked me if I was pregnant. She looked so pleased with herself, like she knew there was no way I wasn't carrying a baby. But she was wrong. I was just about seven-months postpartum and nursing a belly full from the burger I'd just eaten for lunch. I looked at her and shamefully held my stomach as I told her no, I wasn't pregnant. It was, perhaps, my lowest moment. I felt like I'd been stripped of all of my confidence and self love. I had to ask myself if I was going to be disgusted every single time I saw myself naked or if I was going to learn how to love what I had, work on becoming better, and stop beating myself up for not hitting every single imaginary goal I'd set.

It hasn't been an easy road at all. It's taken me four years (and counting) to lose the baby weight. But I decided that I wouldn't let the conversation about my body determine how I felt in my own skin. I'm never going to meet those unattainable, unrealistic goals. That doesn't mean I'm not still hot, though.

giphy
Ad failed to load

At first glance, creating a conversation about postpartum bodies seems useful or even helpful for other women struggling with their appearance after birth to see that we all look like we’ve walked through hell and back. But, here’s the important thing the constant conversation about postpartum bodies often neglects: constantly putting women's bodies on display (regardless of whether or not they've "bounced back") has really just made me, and legions of other women, feel more crappy about what our bodies do or don't look like.

No matter what the image is, there's this sense of competition on how great we can look after literally creating a life that spans from one end of the spectrum to the other. I feel a deep sense of shame because I won't ever look like the size-0 models and celebrities do just weeks after giving birth. But the pictures and articles of women who do actually look like I did after giving birth don’t make me feel better either. I look at them and think, Damn, we're both screwed, huh? And then when those same women are back to their pre-pregnancy weights and rocking those cute skinny jeans six months later and I’m still squeezing into my maternity sweats, that false sense of camaraderie disappears.

I know my body is unique and special. And just like it's done at every other stage in my life, it will develop and bounce back in its own time. Or, you know what? Maybe it won't. I know my body has done something way more important than make it to the gym right on the six-week postpartum mark. I created a life.
Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Latifah Miles

The truth is that putting this relentless emphasis on what our bodies look like after going through pregnancy, labor, and delivery only adds unnecessary pressure for mothers and women. I know my body is unique and special. And just like it's done at every other stage in my life, it will develop and bounce back in its own time. Or, you know what? Maybe it won't. I know my body has done something way more important than make it to the gym right on the six-week postpartum mark. I created a life.

I know postpartum health is very important. But I've also learned that health is not a synonym for "skinny," and after putting my body through the gauntlet, the last thing I need to be wrapped up in is whether or not my ass will ever sit as high as it did pre-pregnancy. Personally, after 17 hours of labor and months of acclimating to being a mother and praying that my baby blues didn’t turn into depression, the last thing I needed was to worry about was how my postpartum body would be judged. Like it or not, I look great. And I don't care what anyone else thinks.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

15 Baby Names With Unique Nicknames, So Your Family Has Options

I love a good diminutive name, also known as a nickname. I believe I’m partial to them because of my own name, Abigale, but I go by Abi. And since they’re both uniquely spelled, everyone thinks my name is pronounced Ah-bee for some reason — but even …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

The Entire Family Can Enjoy These Movies & Shows Coming To Netflix In June

It's just one of those sad facts of life: every month, shows and movies vanish from Netflix, their varied excitements no longer at your fingertips. But luckily the streaming service is always prepared to fill that content void with lots of new things…
By Megan Walsh

The Reason Why Babies Smile At You Will Seriously Make You Smile

Whether you're currently the recipient of your own baby's sweet smiles or you just seem to be a magnet for baby grins in general, you might find yourself wondering why babies are always smiling at you. Sure, you could be a 'smile whisperer' but scien…
By Kate Miller

8 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say That, Yes, You Are Their Favorite

For a baby to show a preference for a specific person is not only normal, but an essential part of their development. Babies need to form strong attachments to their caregivers for their emotional, social, and physical wellbeing. Usually, but not alw…
By Kimmie Fink

10 Reasons Why I Won't Apologize For Giving My Toddler A Pacifier

My first child had no interest in a pacifier. I tried a couple times to get him to take one, but he always spat them out and gave me an incredulous, judgmental look. But my second? It was love at first suckle. And after a while, the incredulous, judg…
By Jamie Kenney

Being A Dog Parent Prepared Me For Having A Baby, Really

I’ve always wanted kids; I was never as sure about raising a puppy. Then I spent six months living with someone who brought home an eight-week-old golden retriever puppy, and I see no way to make it out of that experience claiming not to love dogs. I…
By Heather Caplan

20 Of The Most Popular Unisex Names Of All Time, That You'll Be Hearing More Of For Sure

You might think of unisex names as a fairly recent trend, but the truth is these versatile monikers have been commonly used throughout history (well, some more commonly than others). That's why the team over at Names.org recently compiled a list of t…
By Jacqueline Burt Cote

How To Have A Date Night With No Babysitter, Because It's Easier Than You Think

After having children, many couples feel that their love lives immediately go out the window, but it's so important to make your romantic life a priority so both you and your partner can be the best versions of yourselves you can be. As we all know, …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

9 Ways Baby No. 3 Made My Family Feel Complete

My husband and I decided to have another baby right after we got married and, well, we had no idea what we were getting into. I got pregnant right away, endured a high-risk pregnancy, and, before I knew it, my third baby had arrived. Together, we emb…
By Steph Montgomery

8 Stereotypes About New Dads That Are *Totally* True

Much like new mothers, new fathers have a lot on their plate. Parenting can be scary and complex, especially at first and regardless of your gender. People want to do right by their kids, after all. And since all new parents are a hot mess, dads are …
By Priscilla Blossom

8 Differences Between Being Pregnant In Your 20s Vs 30s, According To Science

Whether you're planning a pregnancy, or just thinking about your future family, it's typical to think about things like child-spacing, how many kids you want, and when to start trying to conceive. When making your pro/con list, you might also conside…
By Steph Montgomery

16 Moms Share Remedies For Their Most Intense Chocolate Cravings During Pregnancy

For better or worse, pregnancy is usually synonymous with odd cravings. Sure, there are the stereotypical combos like pickles and ice cream that plague gestating women the world over, but there are other mind-boggling combinations, too, including but…
By Candace Ganger

Putting Sunscreen On Your Kid Doesn't Have To Be A Fight — Here's How To Do It

I am almost translucent, so me and sunscreen are basically besties at this point. Even though my children are beautifully deep brown thanks to my husband's genetics, I still slather them like biscuits being buttered because I refuse to take risks wit…
By Cat Bowen

19 Moms Share The Way They Cured Their Pregnancy Comfort Food Cravings

I was obnoxiously sick during the first trimester with, "lucky" for me, both of my pregnancies. For the first three months I lived on saltines, lemonade, and fresh bread. Once I was able to eat, however, all I wanted was savory and sweet comfort food…
By Dina Leygerman

I Used To Judge Formula-Feeding Moms — Until I Became One

The other patrons in the hip Brooklyn restaurant probably couldn’t care less what I was feeding my baby, but I’ll always remember the shame I felt as I quickly mixed up his bottle of formula in front of them. I admitted to my childless friend that I …
By Katherine Martinelli

7 White Lies It’s Necessary To Tell To Keep Your Relationship Healthy

Telling lots of lies typically isn't associated with a healthy, strong, lasting relationship, and that's still certainly true, but not all lies are exactly the same. Though you've probably heard from someone at least once or twice that the lie they t…
By Lauren Schumacker

The Skinny Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

Accepting my post-pregnancy body is hands-down one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. It’s something that I still work on every single day. During my first pregnancy, I was 20 years old, so I managed to bounce back quickly. In fact, I dropp…
By Allison Cooper

7 Ways Your Baby Is Trying To Say They Feel Safe

In those first weeks of new motherhood, it can feel like you need an interpreter for your newborn. With their limited means of communication, figuring out what message your baby is trying to get across to you can be a challenge. With time, however, y…
By Kimmie Fink

Here's Why Dogs Are Obsessed With Babies' Poop, According To Science

Most family dogs seem to understand babies, and they're more than happy to make friends with the newest member of the pack. It's adorable... for the most part and until you go to change your little one's diaper. Suddenly, you're wondering why dogs ar…
By Lindsay E. Mack

6 Signs You're Meant To Have A Big Age Gap Between Kids

There's a five year age difference between my two children, to the day. Their age gap wasn't planned but, for a variety of reasons, works well for our family. And since I was so focused on having a second baby, I totally overlooked the signs that wou…
By Candace Ganger

My Dog Knew I Was Pregnant Before My Family Did

Growing up, I was 100 percent sure I'd be a mom one day. To a dog, that is. My baby plans came later. And once my husband and I were sure we wanted both a dog and a baby, we'd add to our joint dog-and-baby name list over Sunday brunch or on date nigh…
By Melissa Mills
)}