It’s time to kick off the new year, motherhood wise! And hey, what’s more appropriate to talk about during the time when everyone seems to be dashing off to the gym (hello, holiday weight) than body image. Specifically, body image and being a new mom.
It’s crazy the pressure we moms feel after we have a baby, isn’t it? The media in all forms blasts us with photoshopped (read: fake) images of what a mom should look like within 12 weeks of giving birth. Flat abs, well rested (???), and posing in a bikini, of course.
Really…? Really? I often wonder if they think people are dumb enough to actually believe that is what occurs. And yet I’ve felt the pressure myself. Not to get bikini ready for the masses, but to get back to what I consider normal as soon as possible. I look back now, years later, and think of how ridiculous it was to have those feelings. It’s simply a waste of energy at a time when you don’t have the energy to waste.
See, the weeks and few months post-partum are tender. Really tender. The highs are oh so high and the lows are oh so low. You just grew a human. Then you birthed that human. You aren’t sleeping much, if at all. You feel fat. Nothing fits right. Your hips have shifted. And what the heck are those white lines that have magically appeared after you had the baby? Ah yes, you may think you escaped the stretch marks and yet once your tummy is deflated – voila, there they are.
I recall a very specific moment in the hospital with B. And it’s something I hold dear and try to reference whenever I’m having an off day. I was all alone with him in the evening. The visitors had gone, M was home with L, the nurses were leaving me alone. It was just me and B. One of the best moments of my life, really. I was staring in amazement at him, as most moms do with their newborns, and decided it was time to get myself up for my nightly stroll. I scooted over to the side of the bed, painfully lifted him and myself up, managed to get him safely in his crib while I slowly walked myself over to the bathroom, dragging my IV behind me. It had been a few days since having him and I hadn’t really looked at my….body.
I took a moment to brace myself. I had a rough idea of what I’d look like, as this wasn’t my first rodeo. Deflated tummy, swollen bleeding c-section scar, stretch marks scattered about. I opened my gown and what I saw I was not prepared for.
All along my back, my entire back, were what I thought (hello drugs) were white stretch marks. I examined them more closely – there must have been 100. And you know what? I didn’t panic. Not for one second. I immediately thought of that precious baby sleeping in his crib. So what if I didn’t wear a bikini again? Or an open back dress? It might have been the vicodin pumping through me but it was oh so accurate: he was perfect, so I didn’t have to be.
Well, once the hard drugs wore off and I told M about it all, we determined they weren’t actually stretch marks (although I do have some!). It was simple creases made by the hospital sheets. Warning: post-partum drugs can make you wonky.
The point I hold dear, though. And I referenced when I was frustrated a few months later when I couldn’t pull my skinny jeans up. He was perfect. I didn’t have to be. Repeat.
Of course there comes a time where it is beneficial to start moving again and setting healthy goals for yourself. But not in those first few tender months. Let your body rest – recover – settle in a bit. Give yourself credit for growing and birthing a life, not for rocking a bikini 8 weeks later. Trust me, the latter just isn’t as important.
The photo above was taken 12 days after I gave birth to Beckett. My sister-in-law was getting married and I was not missing it. Somehow, alone, I managed to shower, dry and style my hair, and squeeze my way into a forgiving dress. I went downtown, chaperoned by my parents, feeling beautiful. Really, I did.
Then something happened. An hour or so into the reception, someone who knew I had been pregnant came up to me. He asked when I was having the baby. I chuckled – thinking he must be kidding. I said I had him on the 6th to which he replied, “Wow, you still look really pregnant.”
I felt the tears well up. A tender moment – a tender time. Obviously a concept someone so ignorant just couldn’t understand. I took a moment to gather myself and then I remembered that moment in the hospital. Beckett was perfect. I didn’t have to be.
So to those dads, uncles, brothers, grandpas out there. I leave you with this:
“The most incredible thing you can do for your recovering wife, is hold no expectations. If she desires to go to the gym… let her. If she is happy with her body, and lets her child’s feet walk on her squishy tummy, embrace the tenderness of that moment. If she cries because she cannot fit into her old jeans, hold her and tell her how amazing she will look in new jeans, and that her curves from children stir your soul.” (shared from the 4th Trimester Project from The Oesterich Family.)
Too much? A simple “you look great” works. Every. single. time.
Here’s to our children being formed more perfectly than we’ll ever be. And hey, you really do look great.