This Postpartum Body Series: Bouncing Back
“Get Your Body Back After Baby in Six Classes!”
I was scrolling through my Facebook feed while lying in bed, days after giving birth, and there it was. The first ad directed at my postpartum self.
Immediately, my stomach dropped. I no longer have the excuse of being pregnant, I thought. Now, I have to make a plan.
I caught myself. Really? Was I going to worry about getting back into shape, when my uterus hadn’t even achieved it’s normal size yet? My milk supply wasn’t fully established. Did I want to risk my breastfeeding relationship with my baby, in order to fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans?
Was my “bounce back” truly most important?
If I’m being honest, I wanted to prioritize my physical appearance over everything else: the mental recovery of childbirth. The emotional. The spiritual. I wanted to be one of those women who shocked her friends and family with how quickly she returned to her pre-pregnancy body.
There has always been some intrinsic value on my body- placed by me, by a slew of romantic partners, by society. If I had to psychoanalyze myself, I’m sure focusing on this aspect of my being has become so ingrained in me it’s second-nature. I’m sure it soothes some anxieties to focus on my body, something I feel I can control. Society has never corrected this behavior. In fact, I find it encouraged more often than not.
But it’s fascinating to me: in our society, this profound, sacred period in a woman’s life- the postpartum period- can be so deeply trivialized. Sure, we discuss about how your body will change. And when you’re pregnant, it’s a beautiful thing.
Then the baby comes, and we split into two camps: those who “bounced back” and those who didn’t. We lavish women in the first camp with praise. We congratulate them on their self-discipline. How did you do it? And the ladies in the second camp? Well, motherhood is hard, but you’ll lose the weight eventually.
As it turns out, I am in camp two: “those who didn’t”.
Not only has my body not “bounced back”, it has completely and totally morphed into a body I don’t recognize at all. My breasts are several cup sizes bigger, and oh my, are they veiny and lopsided. My belly sticks out. My belly button, even moreso. My hair is falling out (which may be normal, but it is still horrifying). My weight is redistributed in different areas than before, and my pelvic floor is so weakened I can no longer move my body the way I once was able to. It feels like I’m living in a stranger’s body.
And you know what? This is exactly the camp I belong in.
By admitting defeat and surrendering to the fact that my body isn’t bouncing anywhere anytime soon, I have learned how to stop fighting my body, and start embracing my whole self instead.
And I am grateful for this, but it also deeply saddens me that it’s taken this long for me to arrive at a place of self-acceptance.
You know what I wish?
I wish we, as mothers, would dig deeper. It’s easy to talk about bodily changes during pregnancy and postpartum. We all have bodies, they all have undergone similar processes- I get it, it’s common ground.
But you know what I really needed to hear while I was pregnant?
“Who you are, your very core, is going through a radical shift. You are creating a life. You are growing a consciousness. Do you understand how monumental that is? Do you realize how powerful you are?”
What if instead of buying into what society says is important (IE: how pleasing we are for the world to look at), we, as mothers, banded together to support the whole person- mind, soul, and body?
Wouldn’t that make all the difference?
We celebrate pregnancy, and then we celebrate the baby and expect the mother to hide until gets back to her “old” self.
But here’s the profound truth: Even if you fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans, you can never truly go “back”. There is no undoing the process of pregnancy and birth. And that’s a beautiful thing.