Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

Please Stop Telling Me I "Don't Look Like I Gave Birth"

Ad failed to load

I gave birth almost nine months ago, and it shows. My hips are wider, my belly hangs lower, and new stretch marks decorate entire patches of skin on my breasts, tummy, thighs, and rump. I haven't lost the baby weight, nor is it on my list of priorities to do so. My body changed, just as it was supposed to. Even so, a lot of well-meaning folks cannot resist the urge to tell me that I don't look like I gave birth; and in all honesty, I wish they'd stop.

I understand where this comes from, of course. We live in a culture that condemns fatness, cellulite, stretch marks, and other perceived imperfections, particularly if you're a woman or femme. New motherhood can be difficult for infinite reasons, but I'm certain that the evolution of our figures and the stigma we tack onto that, make things all the harder.

We find ourselves, all at once, having to navigate sleepless nights, the care of tiny, fragile creatures who need so much, and the loss of the bodies that we inhabited beforehand — the bodies we'd maybe even finally come to love. To tell someone that they look like they "haven't even given birth" is meant to praise their "success." It's to imply that they don't look so bad, that their bodies aren't destroyed or unattractive or pitiable, that they look like their old selves.

Ad failed to load

This isn't a compliment I want or need. Giving birth isn't something I'm ashamed of, nor are the changes in my body that happened as a result of carrying a small person inside it. I want the memories of my pregnancy, labor, and their aftermath to feel celebratory. I want to revel in how strong and powerful I felt once my daughter was finally out.

Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

I'd be lying if I said that I haven't once felt ill at ease in my body since Luna was born. The immediate weeks after her birth were spent in various degrees of pain. Once it didn't hurt to move around anymore, I found myself looking at a reflection that I didn't quite understand. It wasn't an ugly reflection. It wasn't a broken one, either. It was just new, and it required an adjustment period.

Ad failed to load

These days, my body is less of an hourglass shape and more of a cactus, with uneven curves and rolls distributed throughout. I've been plus size for most of my life, but now I have even more of those characteristics we are so regularly taught to hate. It isn't just the stretch marks or cellulite. It's the dryer, thinner hair. It's the breakout-prone complexion and skin tags. It's the shape of my stomach, rather than its size alone.

Most people who give birth experience one or more such changes. But when almost every mainstream mommy magazine (or mainstream women's magazine, for that matter) is touting "how to get your pre-baby body back" diet and fitness plans, it's all too easy to fall into the trap. It's all too easy to feel like we cannot be our best selves, or the best mothers to our children, unless we get back to our old selves.

Everyone knows about this kind of messaging. Whether we like to think of ourselves as "body positive" or not, the internalized assumption that all new moms must want to get their old figures back resides in a hell of a lot of people — whether or not they have children themselves. It's why "not looking like you've given birth" becomes a sort of comfort. So much has changed with the arrival of our little ones, but maybe our old selves aren't lost.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Marie Southard Ospina

I'd like to think that our pre-baby selves had more to offer this world than our bodies, though. I'd like to think that my body is one of the least important or interesting things about me; and that the same has been true before and after my daughter's existence. I'd like to think that I have gained a lot more than I've lost. I've gained a best friend. I've gained the joy that comes with seeing her tiny face light up in the morning when she first sees me. I've gained confidence in my own resiliency. I've gained the marks and curves that serve as a kind of homage to it all.

I don't need to look exactly like my old self because that person wasn't a mother; and being a mother — no matter how exhausting, emotionally draining, and utterly wild it can sometimes be — isn't something I'd want to give up. The process of becoming a mother isn't something I'd want to sweep under the rug, as if it never happened.

Ad failed to load

So if someday you see me, and think that my skin is glowing, or my curls are doing a cute thing, or I look hot AF in an outfit, or I've somehow managed to apply my makeup in such a way that I look as though I've slept for more than three hours, please comment on those things. If you catch a glimpse of my new stretch marks, saggy boobs, or changed belly, try to avoid feeling sorry for me. To accept that these things aren't flaws — nor would they be if I hadn't had a kid — is to acknowledge that "pre-baby body" rhetoric can be harmful and damaging for a lot of humans. It's a narrative that implies that we've failed, when nothing could be further from the truth.

So please don't tell me I look like I haven't even given birth. Tell me that I look like I have. Tell me that I look different, because I do. Because I am.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

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

8 Fascinating Facts About Babies Born In May, The Luckiest Month Of All

The height of all things fresh and springy, May is an excellent month to have a baby. It's a time of growth, graduations, and outdoor celebrations. And these fascinating facts about May babies will give you more reasons than ever to appreciate childr…
By Lindsay E. Mack

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
)}