The One Thing You Should Never Say About A Woman's Postpartum Body
While hanging out with an old friend at the gym one day, I began my usual "comedy routine" concerning my postpartum body. As a woman, I've learned how to use humor as a coping mechanism for things that really bother me, so sarcastically putting myself down made me feel like I was taking that ability away from others. "Oh, I'm just here, two years later, still getting my body back," I jokingly said to my friend. He snickered, "You'll never get that body back." At that moment, and every moment since, I've labeled that particular comment as the one thing you should never say about a woman's postpartum body. Well, truthfully, there are a lot of things you shouldn't say about anyone's body, especially one that made an entire human, but telling a woman that she'll never have that body again is kind of like slapping her in the face with her own insecurities while downplaying what her body is capable of doing.
In that one, what would have been inconsequential moment, my jaw dropped. I mean, we were cool and all and, as friends, we've always been brutally honest with one another, but what this person said to me wasn't honesty, it was an insult; a metaphorical punch to my literal post-baby belly. The problem with this person, and the media outlets who pressure mothers to look like a models two weeks after giving birth by essentially telling us that we've got to "get our bodies back" is, well, a lot things. Once you bet past the personal sting and affliction you feel when someone directs such negatively towards you, it can be difficult to dissect the many ways why you're hurt by someone's insensitive comments.
Well, truthfully, there are a lot of things you shouldn't say about anyone's body, especially one that made an entire human, but telling a woman that she'll never have that body again is kind of like slapping her in the face with her own insecurities while downplaying what her body is capable of doing.
First of all, we don't lose our bodies when we give birth. We walk away from birth the same body we walked into it with. The nurse didn't give me a new skin to crawl into once I birthed my babies. I wasn't able to "pick and choose" from a new body, now that my old, pre-baby body no longer existed. Yeah, that's not a thing.
Secondly (and the fact that I'm still forced to explain this particular point is nothing short of sad and sexist and ridiculous), making a woman feel like she needs to "get her body back" or lose the "baby weight" deducts from the entire miraculous experience of becoming a mother in the first place. It's like telling her that her stock has dropped, like saying that her body is a clearance item now that she's a mother, rather than something worth paying a premium price for. It's saying that because she's had sex and that sex ended in procreation, she's no longer "valuable."
We should feel incredible about the many feats our bodies accomplish during, before and after pregnancy, and there shouldn't be a single doubt about our bodies' worth or achievements. As someone who never really faced any body image issues growing up, I was somewhat shocked when I realized I was struggling with and having difficulty accepting my postpartum body. I would stare in the mirror and pick every pound and dimple and line to pieces, until I just couldn't stomach it anymore. I beat myself up daily, if not hourly, and treated the body that gave me my boys like it was undeserving and unworthy of the respect and appreciation that I had for my "pre-baby" body. I was unkind and unfair to myself, because I allowed the image the media has arbitrarily decided is an acceptable and great and "attractive" body, to dilute my sense of self.
Feeling vulnerable because of my physical appearance made me feel like I was weak. For me, feeling weak feels a lot worse than feeling the weight of a few extra pounds, so I started going to the gym in an attempt to find my strength, rather than my abs. I have never been overweight, even after having my kids, so the time I logged at the gym wasn't about losing the baby weight or looking a certain way; it was about feeling strong and healthy and regaining control over how I felt about myself, instead of allowing how others may or may not feel dictate my own emotions.
So, when I saw my friend as I was walking out of my workout, I was surprised at him telling me I'd never have that body back, whether he meant it jokingly or not. It felt like he was giving me a failing grade on a scale of unrealistic and unachievable "hotness," and like he was evaluating my worth, as a human being, based on my looks alone; both of which are pretty disappointing sentiments to receive at the hands of someone I considered a friend. It made me feel like a "has been," like the person I am now will never be able to live up to the person I was before I had kids because that person had abs, and this person has stretch marks.
Thankfully, by the time that hateful comment was uttered in my direction, I had reached (via a lot of hard work) the wonderful point where I stopped measuring my life's worth in pounds or inches. I knew then, and I know now, that someone's admiration for my pre-baby body has no baring on the worth of my post-baby body, and that how "skinny" I was before I had kids pales in comparison to how strong I am now. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally and every other aspect of humanity that makes me exactly who I am, in this wonderful moment.
That skinny girl was great, don't get me wrong, but she needed validation from people who didn't truly matter. This postpartum woman, whoever, is strong. I don't feel like I need to look a certain way to appease other people. I don't feel like I need to fit into a certain mold in order to feel important or validated. I don't feel like I need another person's approval or shallow sentiments to feel good about myself, and I certainly don't need to worry about "getting my body back."
The body I have right now is amazing. I'm completely content with every extra inch and every little stretch mark and every added pound, because they tell the story about how I became a mother. So no, I don't need to get my body back. I like this one just fine.