Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

An Open Letter To My Pre-Pregnancy Body

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Dear Pre-Pregnancy Body,

How's it hanging, pre-pregnancy body of mine? It's been about a year since last we met. I still remember you, of course. I can picture the hourglass shape of your core. I can feel the smoothness of a tummy that hadn't yet stretched out quite as far as it since has, acquiring countless new stretch marks along the way. And I remember you, old boobies. You didn't used to be this dangly, did ya?

I know I'm supposed to miss you. I'm reminded of just how much I'm supposed to miss you every time a celebrity shares her toned post-baby body, or every time an article shares "tips for losing the baby weight fast." As a result, I know I'm "supposed" to dedicate a decent portion of new parenthood to dropping the 50 or so pounds I gained during pregnancy. I know I'm "supposed" to take a cue from Kim Kardashian, who recently revealed she got her stretch marks removed, and spend somewhere between $2,900 and $4,900 to remove any sign of my pregnant body, such as my stomach, thigh, breast, and ass stretchies.

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But in truth, pre-pregnancy body, I can't say that I've missed you much at all. And I think it's time for you to hear why.

I will preface this by saying that there wasn't anything wrong with you, of course. You and I, we definitely had some great times together — some great adventures, some great work days, some great sex. Hell, we had some great solo sex, too. You were also happily plus-size, and you allowed me to do pretty much everything I wanted to do.

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The things I'm supposed to miss about you, however, are characteristics that more closely resemble a certain image of aspirational beauty. Women and femmes are regularly told that we must be small. We must be smooth. We, somehow, must not allow ourselves to develop stretch marks, cellulite, wrinkles, or any other physical "flaw" that might serve as a marker for the passage of time or the inevitability of growth and change.

So I guess I'm also supposed to miss the fact that you could fit into most plus-size clothing collections. I'm supposed to miss how many people once categorized you as "chubby," rather than as a full-fledged fatty. I'm supposed to miss the "normalcy" of a body that hasn't just grown a six-pound human life within it, stretching and contorting along the way in order to accommodate said life. Perhaps I'm supposed to miss people thinking I'm "pretty," because these people wouldn't think to call loose belly skin or stretch marks or a feminine body that weighs more than 250 pounds "pretty."

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To be frank, however, I don't especially need an abundance of people to think my loose belly skin or 270-pound body are "pretty." That I think they're pretty is all that really matters. You see, when I look at my new stretch marks, my new cellulite, or my new double chin, I'm reminded of my daughter. Growing her is one of the most beautiful things I've done in my life. Getting to know her has been pretty damn beautiful, too.

I don't believe that post-pregnancy bodies are supposed to remain unchanged.

Pre-pregnancy body, you were undoubtedly my "normal" once upon a time: Before I felt those first little feet kicking my stomach; before my hips naturally grew in order to prepare for pushing that little girl out of my body; before I experienced the bloodcurdling pain that is childbirth. Pain so intense and all-consuming that I couldn't help but feel like an effing superhero once it was over. But you're not my normal anymore.

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I don't believe that post-pregnancy bodies are supposed to remain unchanged. Whether we're talking about stretched belly buttons or loose skin or the sagginess of breasts that have fed an infant, pregnancy is nothing if not a series of changes. New parenthood is much the same. The physical manifestation of the simple fact that I'm a mom now is not something I feel the need to fear.

Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

I obviously know a lot of new mothers are unlike me in this regard. Some might dedicate themselves to shedding that baby weight. Other might follow Kim Kardashian's lead and seek a surgical solution. Others still may not rest until their bodies show no signs that they have lived through childbirth whatsoever.

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It's not my place to police anyone's choices in this matter, or any. What I do feel is my place is the analysis and deconstruction of why so many folks end up so prioritizing getting their pre-baby bodies back that they neglect to bond with their new family member(s), or heal from their many physical wounds, or simply allow themselves to feel self-love as opposed to self-hate. Is it because they all truly loved themselves beforehand? Or is because so many of us have been taught that stretch marks and a jiggly epidermis and wobbling bellies are unsightly? Ugly? Unacceptable? Unpleasant?

Pre-pregnancy body, I do not deny that you were beautiful and rad and pretty fun. But there is nothing that I could do with you that I cannot do now.

All around us are stories of celebrities and their "incredible" post-baby bodies a few days, weeks, or months after giving birth. We also are inundated with advertisements upholding flat bellies and blemish-free skin as the pinnacles of beauty and feminine worth. In reality, beauty and feminine worth are undefinable, subjective, and unique person-to-person.

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So, pre-pregnancy body. I do not deny that you were beautiful and rad and pretty fun. But there is nothing that I could do with you that I cannot do now. There are, however, myriad things I can do now that I could not do with you. Like wake up to the tiny human who has, in only four months, become my best friend. And proceed to let that human snuggle into the many wobbly bits that came as a result of her creation. I can tell you honestly that she's definitely a fan of those rolls. And she reminds me every day that I can be a fan of them, too.

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