This post first appeared on Whole Parenting Family.
I wrote about loving your body after a baby after my last baby. I had to re-read it since I’ve had this one. Postpartum is this awkward transitional time when your skin tries to remember where it was before the Great Stretching, and your breasts try to gauge how much milk to make for this baby, and your belly jiggles and your face has lost its color, and you’re just plain in the middle of it all.
As I write this, our little baby is almost three months old. I’m still so postpartum. I haven’t lost much weight since I had him. My body feels that heavy jiggle jiggle never-wear-a-bathing-suit-again feeling. My hair has clumped out on the side of my head, leaving the look of a bad side side bang job. I still occasionally slip into a hot bath when everyone is done with a day of needing to be held, loved, sternly glared at, fed, diapered, read to, praised, censured, hair patted out of their faces. The hot water like a deep breath for my skin, my motherly parts all tuckered out.
My girlfriend Blythe just wrote this beautiful post on her blog, The Fike Life, about loving the nursing mom who had to dash after her toddler, displaying her soft tumtum to the world inadvertently. And how it gave her permission to not be perfect, not worry about being beautifully put together. We need that permission.
“But one day I watched a veteran mother of many pop up from her shady spot under a tree to chase a wandering toddler away from the street. I watched her run with a newborn at her breast, soft, postpartum belly exposed, underwear bunched up above the waistline of her jeans… yelling, running, towards the 2 year old on the sidewalk. And I loved her for it.”
We live during a time when sexy (not motherly) is celebrated, and even the rare times a celebrity sort celebrates their motherhood, they do so in a sexy in shape way. Way to go, Olivia Wilde (whoever you are) for nursing your son in Glamour’s September issue. Do you also show your stretch marks or wrinkled belly skin that longs to dive into your belly button like a deep sea diving adventure but can’t? I don’t think so. That’s okay. You probably have a personal trainer and dietician and chef. Go you. The rest of us aren’t hating on you; we just probably don’t look like you.
Projects like the Fourth Trimester Bodies one are so important for me, personally. The project is crowd funded so check out sponsoring them if you feel moved to. I look at these awesome women who grew babies that are proud of their post baby bodies and think okay, if they’re proud, I should be too. Not that the pride means I shouldn’t eat healthfully and work out to maintain muscle tone and health. Not that the pride means I shouldn’t curb my insatiable desire for ice cream and dessert. Sugar addicts need to be kept in check, people.
But the pride means it’s okay that I will never look 21 again (oh! the difference a decade makes–haha) insofar as my skin is older, my face is wrinklier, and my tumtum has pushed out three times with a baby. Even if I get back in stellar shape (hopeful on this one), my body never won’t be scarred and changed. Double negative.
This sounds trite: “love your postpartum body!” But for me it’s not. It means accepting my changes, accepting imperfect older me. Accepting the physical external changes of being a mama that mirror internal changes, too.
I didn’t feel this strongly after my first, or even my second, but with my third, the body changes are more permanent, more real. I’m thinking about how I tore, and that I’ll probably tear along that scar tissue again. I’m thinking about how nursing three takes a toll on what was an upright upper chest. I’m thinking about how three kids’ worth of poor sleep has wrecked my face and puffed out my eyes for infinity. I’m thinking that, once again, I have to believe I’m beautiful and feel confident in order to embrace my new body // new reality. My perception of myself is really in my own hands.
So go hug yourself. And your kids. And mostly feel peace at your changes. Know me & others out there are working towards that too.
And find something to do for you as an outlet–a real break.
Nell and Jenna like to work in the fiber arts. For Nell, it’s sewing and knitting for her organic mama & babe goods shop Whole Parenting Goods on Etsy. For Jenna, it’s embroidering necklaces and custom hoops in her Etsy shop, Call Her Happy.
What is your outlet?