I am 8 weeks postpartum today, and this is what I look like.
I still have a nice sized baby bump, I am still holding on to about 15 extra pounds, and I still can’t wear many of my pre-pregnancy clothes. In fact, I was only just recently able to start wearing my wedding rings again! (and I only say "still" because with my other two I returned to pre-pregnancy size pretty much overnight!)
Every day, my precious (and very honest) 5 year old asks me why my belly isn’t small again yet. And in the early weeks, I pretty much asked myself the same question. I noticed early on after having Eliza that I started to suck in and wear flowy shirts and do everything in my power to conceal the new curvature on my body. I started to feel ashamed of the baby bump that I am still carrying around.
And that’s when it hit me.
At 40 ½ weeks pregnant, I was proud of my belly. I was showing it off to the world. I was wearing tight fitting garments that drew attention to my baby bump. And then starting literally the day after having Eliza, I tried to hide it.
Why is it that we are so proud of our baby bump when we are pregnant, but the second that the baby comes out, we all of a sudden want to suck in and hide it?
The fact is, it takes 9 months to grow and stretch and expand to accommodate our growing baby, yet immediately after the baby is born, we are “ready to get our body back.” We hold a silent competition with ourselves and make inner goals like, “I want to lose all the baby weight by 6 weeks.” I remember after having my first child crying 2 weeks post partum because I couldn’t fit into my regular jeans. TWO WEEKS! And with each consecutive child, my body has morphed and expanded even more and it has gotten harder and taken longer to get back to pre-pregnancy size.
But the fact is, I am beautiful in this post partum state. My bump is still beautiful, even with Eliza not in it anymore. My womb housed and nourished her life for 9 months, and I am so proud and blessed to have carried her and brought her into this world. I don’t need to hide my physique. I can still wear a shirt that might not quite “hide my bump.” Because really, I have nothing to hide. I can walk around with my head lifted high, because God used ME as a vessel to bring forth life. I am still fearfully and wonderfully made, belly bump and all.
I don’t have to delete the pictures on my phone where my face still looks kind of puffy.
I don’t have to wait until I’m back at a size 2 to go buy myself a new item of clothing. I can love and appreciate my body just the way it is in this state.
I don't have to feel ashamed when I look in the mirror.
And I definitely don’t have to feel ashamed on the days I don’t have time to put on concealer (like everyday), because my dark circles are just an outward sign of the fact that I am nourishing my baby through the night.
Of course I am going to do everything I can to keep my body healthy. In fact, for the first time in my life, I’m dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, basically “everything-I’m-craving-free” due to trying to learn my new baby's body. I am eating healthier than I have ever eaten before (with the exception of the occasional vanilla iced coffee from Starbucks!). I am moving and exercising, and I encourage you to do the same thing. And of course it’s okay to set goals and desire to have a flat tummy or fit back in pre-pregnancy clothing. But it’s not okay to be ashamed of our bodies in the process of getting there.
You hear it all the time. You tell a post-partum mom how good she looks, and she makes a comment like, “Oh I’m just hiding it well. If you saw my belly, you would think differently.” Or “Oh thanks, I still have a long way to go.”
Ladies, we have got to STOP APOLOGIZING for our post-partum selves. Growing a baby is literally the most selfless act a person can do, and it takes time to heal fully. What’s more important than fitting back into your pre-pregnancy jeans is to make sure that your core is strengthened, both mentally and physically. I am only just now learning about post-partum damage to the body, such as diastasis recti (I've got it) and a weak pelvic floor (got that too!). I originally wanted so badly to just start running 10 miles a day to try to “get back to normal,” but what’s more important is to be strengthened from the inside out. I can’t safely jog if my core is shot, just like I can’t feel beautiful if I don’t KNOW I am beautiful and believe I am beautiful, baby bump and all.
Now I am a mother to two daughters and a son. I don’t want my daughters to live a single day in shame over their appearance. And I don’t want my son to watch his mother try to hide the way she looks. I owe it to my kiddos to lead by example in this area and accept my body just the way it is. I owe it to my kiddos to be healthy and take care of myself. And I owe it to my kiddos to embrace myself fully in this postpartum state, whether the weight loss takes weeks, months or years.
To my momma friends who are “still” not back to your pre-pregnancy state: you are beautiful. You are beautiful right now. Yes, even with those bigger thighs. Even with that bump. Even if it’s been weeks, months or years later. What’s important is that you are healthy. What's important is that you do your best to take care of yourself while taking care of your children. What's important is to have grace on yourself as your body adjusts to the changes that come along with having a baby. And what's most important is that you love and accept yourself, just the way you are. Yes, take care of your core, exercise and eat healthy. Celebrate the small victories along the way. But do so out of a love for yourself, not out of a disgust for your current state.
So take a look in the mirror. Note your belly. Note your new love handles. Note your stretch marks and your fuller bust. Note the losing hair and the dry skin. Accept what you see- a beautiful, wonderfully made woman that was so selflessly and courageously willing to be used to produce life. Walk with your chin up today, straighten that back of yours, and maybe even go buy yourself a new pair of jeans that actually fits, even if the size is bigger than what you are used to.