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The One Sentence Every Woman Needs To Hear When She Shops Postpartum

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A woman’s feelings about her postpartum body can be nothing short of complicated. If your recovery is anything like mine, it can take something like shopping to serve as a significant milestone that makes you face those intense feelings. Shopping made me face some of the new realities of my changed body the way that nothing else had. While everyone woman’s experience is going to be different, I can think of one idea, or really, one sentence to say to a woman shopping postpartum that will help her. Just like shopping itself, that one sentence might not seem like a big deal to many, but it could be the difference between accepting your postpartum body in the middle of a department store or inside a changing room, and breaking down in tears.

For the record, my partner was supportive when I was postpartum, but if I could have, oh, I don’t know, perhaps planted this specific, magical sentence in his head that he could have repeated back to ease all my insecurities and make me feel better, I would have. Actually, now that I mention it, I probably could have texted it to my friends ahead of time to prepare them, too. Oh, and maybe I could have also hired someone to sky write it over my neighborhood that day I decided to make my way to the mall. I would have definitely stopped there, though. I mean, I wouldn't want to get too crazy.

I should probably take a moment to admit I’m not big into shopping in general, and I occasionally — OK, often — daydream about going full capsule wardrobe so I have fewer clothes and clutter in my closet. However, I’m also not immune to the conquer-the-world feeling of finding a great item or piece of clothing that’s exactly what I’m looking for and that suits my budget. In fact, I might even take it a little too far, since I do it so rarely that the emotional and spiritual high packs an even bigger punch. It's like, does someone need help painting their entire house? Is there a kitten stuck under your car and you need someone to help lift it? Is there a looming threat of Voldemort’s return that needs quick and efficient muggle attention to save the world? Don’t worry, friends. I just bought a new sweater. I’ll be right there.

That was not the feeling I had when I shopped postpartum, though.

As it turns out, I didn't really know how to shop for my new shape and size, and that made me feel like I didn't even know my new shape and size.

I can still remember it well and even though it's been a couple years. I was roughly six months postpartum and in need of new jeans. My partner and my son were wandering around the store, while I was left on my own face-off with a pile of pants in a poorly lit dressing room. I don't recall the exact number of styles and sizes I grabbed, but I do recall that I was way off-base in what would fit and how it would look.

As it turns out, I didn't really know how to shop for my new shape and size, and that made me feel like I didn't even know my new shape and size.

I knew better than to beat myself up over it because, hello, my body had made another human. However, that doesn’t mean it didn’t mess with my head to see myself looking unfamiliar in the mirror, again. I had experienced something similar during the pregnancy, but my pregnancy had ended months ago. Was I ever going to feel like my old self again?

Logically, I knew my body had every reason in the world to look and be different than it had been a year prior. But still, it caught me off guard.

Logically, I knew the fact that I was healthy, and that my son was healthy, were much more important than how a few pairs of jeans did or didn't fit. Logically, I knew that on the spectrum of important things that I’d care about in my life, this barely even registered as a blip on the radar. Logically, I knew my body had every reason in the world to look and be different than it had been a year prior. But still, it caught me off guard.

To be clear, it wasn’t merely a size thing. It wasn’t an issue of a certain number of stubborn pounds or specific "problem spots." It was that my shape had changed in ways that I didn’t really notice until I tried to find new clothes to fit it. The fact that I'd overlooked these physical changes caught me off guard.

I'd spent months adapting to my new role as a mom, figuring out a new routine, and making new priorities that I totally overlooked other subtle changes, like my own body.

I knew that motherhood would change me. I’d already been dealing with the emotional changes for months. Pregnancy and labor and parenthood are overwhelming, life-changing, all-encompassing, and difficult things to deal with. They’re also super common, so it can be easy to forget how much new moms actually endure, and how much actually changes. I'd spent months adapting to my new role as a mom, figuring out a new routine, and making new priorities that I totally overlooked other subtle changes, like my own body.

I suppose there are some women out there who might not need the reminder that birthing a child is a major life and body change, and that you're allowed to feel differently about yourself because now you are different. However, I’ll take that precious reminder as often as my loved ones and the universe are inclined to share it with me. If they want to say it a few extra times when I finally bite the bullet and go looking for a swimsuit, that'd be fine, too.