Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

These Are The People Who Made It Possible For Me To Love My Body After Baby

Ad failed to load

No one said it would be easy. I'd spent the third trimester of my pregnancy tired and pained, incapable of sleeping through a full night. Once my daughter arrived 11 months ago, I was recovering from what was a harrowing, gory ordeal, and any semblance of me-time I'd once known had vanished. It was a lot to go through. Yet looking back, there is something I didn't struggle with. Not really. My body changed in those last 12 weeks of pregnancy, and has continued to change since Luna's birth. There have been times when I looked down and failed to recognize the body in front of me, but the truth is I've never hated that postpartum body.

A once-smooth, albeit still plus-size, stomach is now covered in stretch marks. They remain red and bright nearly a year after labor. My breasts are marked by nursing and gravity. They sag and fall to the sides. My legs know more cellulite. My face knows exhaustion. I carry new weight all around me. Sure, I'm inundated with post-pregnancy workout and dieting advice. I know that, for a lot of people, weight loss becomes the utmost priority once that baby is out. I know that all of the new physical characteristics decorating my skin — the stretch marks, the "extra" pounds, the sag — are deemed "flaws" by most mainstream magazines and sometimes-well-meaning but no less misguided relatives alike. (Especially when they decorate already-fat figures like mine.)

Even so, I'm not struggling. And I have the body positivity and fat acceptance movements to thank for that.

Ad failed to load

I first stumbled upon the phrase "body positivity" during my senior year of college. In 2011, the term hadn't yet been popularized to the degree it has now. It was used primarily by bloggers, writers, and activists whose views aligned with those of the fat acceptance community. That is, people who believed that size discrimination is a tangible, damaging issue, and that fat bodies are worthy of tolerance. That fat people deserve to feel beautiful and well-treated and entitled to live as they so please without first losing weight. These were movements that de-stigmatized my entire existence. That made me feel like I deserved love, fashion, proper healthcare, proper respect.

In the years since, no aspect of my life has been untouched by the fat-positive community. As a writer and editor, I've been covering weight discrimination, plus size fashion, and problematic beauty standards since leaving university. It's become my work and, although it puts me at risk of additional trolling, doxing, and day-to-day bullying, I wouldn't have it any other way. I've also eliminated toxic friends who chastised me for the skin I occupy, choosing instead to surround myself with empowering individuals. Individuals who assume their right to take up space and applaud me for doing the same. I stopped hiding my body from lovers, passerby, or from myself. I started living for me. I started doing all the things I'd long been taught I wasn't "allowed" to do until I lost weight, and I did it all without sacrificing a pound.

Ad failed to load

Throughout all of this, I fell in love with myself. In eschewing the idea that self-love was only a luxury for narcissists or thin humans, I reached a point where I could look at my large body, at its craters, lumps, and bumps, and see only beauty and softness.

This is still true now — even if much of the world wouldn't want me to feel such a way. As a new parent, I now understand just how pervasive beauty standard rhetoric geared at mothers actually is. Moms aren't meant to simply appreciate the growth and changes their bodies go through once they have children. They're not supposed to be content to live in these new bodies — bodies that have undergone one of the most difficult experiences a body can go through. Bodies that have gifted them what is often one of the most beautiful gifts the universe has to give. Nah. We're supposed to "fix" those bodies. We're supposed to strive endlessly to achieve whatever figure we inhabited before it all went to sh*t. Before weight was gained, before stretch marks bloomed, before gravity struck.

Ad failed to load
I don't know that I could've survived the shock to the system that is becoming a new mother if I was also condemning myself for not looking like a conventional supermodel every step of the way.

Among all the reasons why becoming a new parent, and a new mother especially, is difficult, we have all of this BS to contend with. What should be a joyous occasion is darkened by the thought that we are failures for "letting ourselves go." The messaging suggests that we are not as beautiful, worthy of tolerance, or even as human as we once were. It's a lot. It's too much. It's way more than I would ever want to deal with.

Ad failed to load

I don't know that I could've survived the shock to the system that is becoming a new mother if I was also condemning myself for not looking like a conventional supermodel every step of the way. I don't know if I would've been able to enjoy all the fun bits — my daughter's first giggle, the first time she reached out, or rolled over — if I was simultaneously wishing I didn't take up as much room around her. I'm no stranger to body image issues. I knew them well for 20 years, and I know that they can ruin just about any experience.

My body brought me my best friend.

When I look at my post-pregnancy body, however, all I see is everything that this big, droopy figure has accomplished. It carried a whole other person inside it. It allowed that person to make their way into this weird, messed up, but occasionally amazing planet. It brought me my best friend. It's grown physically, almost as a metaphor for all the internal growing I've done. For the shifts in my personhood that have come from becoming someone's mom. And even before that, from beginning to grow up.

Ad failed to load

If it hadn't been for the body-positivity and fat-acceptance communities, I may not have ever found that strength: And it does take strength. It takes strength to be critical of sociocultural messaging, rather than default to being critical of oneself. It takes strength to believe that you are worthy of your humanity, and of care and love and beauty, when so many people and institutions insist that you aren't.

If it hadn't been for the empowering, uplifting voices fighting for bodies like mine, and for people like me, I don't know that I ever would've felt empowered myself. This has been the most tumultuous year of my life, but I'm proud that I've never taken the stress out on myself. I'm thankful for the people who've guided me to this point. I'm thankful to this big, fat body.

Check out Romper's new video series, Romper's Doula Diaries:

Ad failed to load

Watch full episodes of Romper's Doula Diaries on Facebook Watch.

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
)}