Being a new mother comes with so many fears and anxieties about a million different things. The most tragic worry is the most common, though: How will I lose the baby weight? When will I get back to looking like I did before I got pregnant? I am absolutely guilty of those worries myself, although I obviously wish that I had been about to totally bypass any concern about the aesthetic appearance of my body after giving birth. I mean, I had a new baby — I had other stuff to worry about. Like, you know, the entire wellbeing and future happiness of a human life, no big deal. But sure, let me sit here and agonize over the relative looseness of my belly skin. Great plan, self.

Not that I judge myself too harshly for caring what I looked like. With the barrage of messages and expectations and pressure put on women to look a certain way at any point in their lives, it's hardly possible for me or anyone else to skate by unaffected. But after all the undue stress over my appearance, there's so much I wish I could say to other new moms going through the same litany of self-doubting (or even self-loathing) thoughts.

If there’s one thing I could convey to all the pregnant or new mothers out there, it’s that your body may never be the same, so you need to stop looking for a way to make that happen. Why? Because it's not really possible. Things are always going to feel different, in one way or another: The women I know who got back down to the same weight now complain that their clothes fit differently The women who got back down to their old size aren’t the same weight. Our bodies get stretched and our organs and bones get shifted around. The reality is that it virtually impossible to go back to “the old you.”

And you know what? That’s .

It really, really is. Want to know why? Because our bodies change anyway, over time. Whether you get pregnant or not, whether you breastfeed or not. To expect it all to remain the same is unrealistic and unfair to your self-esteem. Our celebrity-obsessed culture has created a market for companies that prey on low self-worth, and the post-pregnancy woman is a fantastic share of that market, because there are so many of us. And none of us look the same anymore, and the more we’re taught that we should look the same, the less good we feel about ourselves, and the more we want to consume products and services that are selling us the improvements we are craving.
So inspiring, right?

After my first pregnancy, I worked my butt off to get back down to the size I was when my husband and I got married. I actually fit back into my wedding gown! I was so proud of myself, but I was also so hard on myself. And I noticed that things didn’t look exactly like they had before I had children. I wasn’t unhappy about it, I was just...surprised. I was working out, I was eating amazingly well, and I had a little paunch that just. wouldn’t. disappear. I found myself hating my body for not doing exactly what I wanted it to do, even as it occurred to me that it was maybe a little weird and illogical that I ever expected it to.
I admit, I do this pretty regularly.

And just as I got "back into shape," I got pregnant all over again. And now, almost a year and a half postpartum? I am the heaviest I’ve ever been, except for the times when I was carrying an extra human being inside of me. And like, whatever. Bodies change. They just do. If it isn't a baby who makes it happen, it'll be gravity. I’m several years older now and my body just isn’t going to look and feel and act exactly the same. I spent months beating myself up for not being as slim as last time, and for what? What the hell is the point?

I’m not saying we should be letting our health and stop caring about our bodies altogether, because that’s not the answer. It's never a waste of energy to keep your body feeling as healthy and strong as possible. I just think we need to forgive ourselves for being less than someone else's idea of perfect, and for having an occasional plate of nachos for dinner, instead of soup and salad. Trust me when I say that the stress you’ll be putting yourself under when expectations and reality don’t line up, is not worth it.