I have struggled a little with writing about this. I have wanted to sound uplifiting, but not come off as hypocritical. I don’t actually love my postpartum body at all, and I didn’t want to write about ’embracing my tiger stripes’ or anything like that. When I was deep in the struggle of hating how my body looked after I had Isaiah, articles like that made me cringe. I would actually feel frustrated that this was the attitude I felt like I needed to adopt, when I didn’t see anything empowering or sexy about having literal scars from pregnancy. I would go through every mom blog and forum, searching for some woman who was down on herself like I was. Not because I couldn’t appreciate the self-acceptance that those other moms felt, but because I just plain wasn’t there yet, and I wanted someone to tell me that it was ok.
I’m still not there.
Here’s part of the truth:
Motherhood is full of sacrifice; the first one is your body. Before you even meet your baby, your body stretches and shifts in a way that takes well over a year to put back together. I hate looking in the mirror and seeing stretch marks. I have them around my belly button, my inner thighs, and my hips. They are a daily reminder of how much my body had to stretch and change, and that even if it goes back to somewhat of what it once was, I’ll never really be there. I will always have these stretch marks, and I will have to come to terms with them every summer when I take my babies to the pool.
I hate that, even after I lost the TONS of baby weight I had after Isaiah, I still couldn’t fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans or dresses. Have you seen what your organs have to do to make room for your baby as it grows? Omg, it’s horrifying. Everything important in your body gets crammed into one little space under your ribs. In order for it all to fit, your ribs have to expand, making you feel like a linebacker by the time you’re in your 3rd trimester. Your bras don’t fit, your dresses don’t zip, even your maternity shirts start to feel tight around your shoulders and chest. On top of that, your hips have to spread quite a bit to prepare to BIRTH A HUMAN. All of that spreading really hits me in the last few weeks of pregnancy, but it takes months to start to shrink back down. It’s amazing how all of the changes that happen rapid-fire in pregnancy take months, sometimes years, to undo themselves.
I don’t think the lose skin left after 6+ months of giving birth is “cute”, or a “sweet reminder of what my body had to do to have a baby”.
I don’t think the way nursing ruined my boobs is cool. They’ve bounced back a little in this 2nd pregnancy, but they were really pathetic for a few months. Like, I downgraded to an A cup bra, and it was too loose. Ugh. I’m trying not to get emotionally attached to the ones I have now during this 2nd pregnancy. I know they’ll be gone soon.
The hair loss was unspeakable. Baby #2 is almost here, and I’m still trying to repair the damage done from that.
Essentially, I felt completely unattractive after Isaiah was born, and I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for feeling that way again after Josie shows up in a few weeks.
But, here’s the other half of the truth (the part that started slowly sinking in a few months ago):
When Isaiah started rolling, then crawling, then walking, I marveled at how his little body is growing and changing from a baby to a boy. Each time, I’ve had to swallow my vanity a little and remember that my body did that. My body stretched and changed and shifted to create a healthy boy who can walk and talk and live a full, healthy life. And it’s happening again for his little sister. When I feel Josie kick, I know that my body has made the space it needed to for her. It will put itself back together naturally in God’s time, and I don’t need to stress about rushing the process. I would much prefer that my body gave itself to my babies while they needed it.
Motherhood has given me strength. I’m 7 months pregnant, and I can simultaneously hold a 24 lb. toddler and squat down on the ground to pick up something he’s dropped without even batting an eye. I can lift him out of his crib, and crawl around on the floor with him. I can hold his hands and help him practice walking for hours (or so it feels). I can teach all day on my feet, and come home and find the strength to go on a walk or play.
I can do all of this without feeling completely exhausted. Well…until I lay down in bed for the night, anyways. That’s when I realize how exhausted I am. But my mama body keeps me going through the day out of love for my babies.
The body I had before I had babies was never meant to be all mine. That’s the tough pill I need to swallow for good. I was destined to be a mother. God’s plan was always for me to sacrifice my body for a higher purpose. That un-scarred, thinner, narrower body that I have been missing was always going to be temporary. I can’t get it back. and I shouldn’t want to get it back. If I still had it, I wouldn’t have my children.
My body has given life to two perfect angels. It’s provided them both shelter and food, and now it gives comfort to Isaiah. I can hug and hold and play and cuddle, all while growing another baby at the same time. It’s nothing short of a miracle.
I’m human, so I will still uncomfortably tug at my shirt to cover the extra skin after Josie is born. I will still shop for bathing suits that cover my stretch marks. This is still such a process for me, and I’m very far away from publishing poems in honor of my ‘tiger stripes’.
But I’m trying.