There's this strange and contradictory routine that us moms are expected to follow after childbirth. We're supposed to lose the "baby weight" instantly, but we should also complain to other moms about how much we hate our bodies. Those moms are supposed to tell us how awesome we look, then we're supposed to magically love our bodies again. Well, clearly I'm totally doing it wrong. Honestly, though, I don't care. You see, I don't have to love my postpartum body. I just don't.
I really and truly don't know what's worse: being expected to "bounce back" after childbirth, or being told how I should feel about my own damn body. Neither one is particularly ideal. I mean, my body is different. It doesn't look right, doesn't work right, and quite frankly, I am more than a little pissed off at it right now. Yes, I know I just grew a human and that's amazing, but I can think childbirth is amazing and not love the body that did that amazing thing. The two are not mutually exclusive. You might be shocked to learn that how my body looks is not the most important thing about me, despite society telling the exact opposite every single day. I am so much more than the changing, imperfect body in which I reside, which means I don't always have to love it in order to love myself.
So I don't have to be "body positive" about my body right now, or any time, really. Honestly, I am shooting for "body OK." That's really all I can do at the moment, and sometimes being kind to myself means allowing my honest feelings about my postpartum body to be enough. So if you see me (or anyone) days, weeks, months, or even years after having a baby, can we please deviate from the aforementioned bullsh*t routine and, instead, talk about our kids, politics, or pretty much anything other than how a woman's postpartum body looks? Including how you think she should feel about it? Great, so with that in mind and now that we have an understanding, here are just a few reasons why I don't have to love my post-baby body right now:
Because My Body Isn't The Most Important Thing About Me
My body has done lots of amazing things. It has grown three humans, run marathons, climbed a volcano, recovered from injuries and surgeries, weathered rheumatoid arthritis, and done so many sun salutations I could probably do them in my sleep. People expect me to say how much I love it, and sometimes I wish I could, but you know what? My body isn't the most important thing about me. For me, being "body positive" is less important than recognizing that my body is just a vessel that carries me around and allows me to think and facilities fun playtimes with my children. I don't have to like that vessel every moment of every day.
Because I May Never "Get My Body Back"
I'm still me. It's still my body. I probably won't ever look the same as I did before having babies, though. It's taken some time for me to get used to that idea, to be sure, but while I am not going to kill myself to achieve the impossible, I also don't have to like the way I look.
Because It's Not My Job To Look Hot...
I often think about a quote from writer Erin McKean, "Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'" I agree. It's not my job to conform to societal beauty or body standards. It's just not. I don't exist to be a pretty girl, wear size two jeans, or look hot in a bikini. I don't exist to look good.
...And I Don't Have To Like The Way I Look
Every time I turn on the radio, it seems, I hear a man singing about how his girl doesn't know how beautiful she is or a woman singing about self-acceptance. The message this sends is that women need someone to tell them how to feel. Nope. I don't have to like the way I look. I don't. Can we please stop gaslighting people about how they feel? The only person who is an expert about how I feel about my body is me.
Because My Body Is Different
My body is different now. It just, well, is. No matter how many times someone says, "You look great," it doesn't change the changes my body has endured or how I feel about them. I honestly don't love the way I look right now, with my "baby weight," stretch marks, tummy, and scar where my belly button piercing used to be.
When Queen Beyoncé posted her postpartum photo shoot, I shared this photo of my son and me at one month postpartum. It was meant to be funny, but also to let other moms know that it's OK to not look like her (or even your pre-baby self) one month, six months, or years postpartum. But while it's OK to not look like your pre-baby self, it's also OK to not be happy about it.
Because My Body Can't Do Everything I Want It To
I hate how I can't do the things I love to do, at least right now. I am trying to take things slow and listen to my body, but it seems like every day I read a story about a professional athlete running a marathon, or doing some other amazing physical feat, while pregnant or postpartum. While I think that those things are awesome, it doesn't have anything to do with my body, abilities, or need to recover. Honestly, it's not inspirational to me to know that someone else is more fit or ambitious than I am, or has the money for multiple nannies and personal trainers.
Because My Body Hurts
I am honestly in a lot of pain right now. It's hard to love a body that hurts. It just is.
Because I Have More Important Things To Worry About
I have a new baby, other and older children, a job, a house, and a marriage. I am also recovering from childbirth and an injury. In other words, getting into shape is not at the top of my priority list. Even if it was, though, I don't have the time or energy to do it. I wish I did, but I don't.
Because Not Loving My Body Doesn't Mean I Don't Love Myself
I am constantly telling my daughter that her body is amazing, no matter how it looks or what size it is. However, as a feminist mom, I honestly need to be a better role model. That means more than just being generically "body positive." While I try my hardest not to put my body down in front of her, I think I need to go one step further and show her that there are so many other things I love about myself.
I am an awesome mom, partner, friend, writer, advocate, pie-baker, singer, pun-teller, meme-maker, and wine drinker. I can feel good and love myself without loving my reflection or having a body that fits cultural beauty standards or wins races. I am more than the number on a scale, my physical abilities, or the size on the tag of my one pair of pants that fit. The important stuff is on the inside, or so we tell our kids. It's time we start practicing what we preach.