(And other difficult to love body parts)
Something happens to your body when you have a baby that no one prepares you for or at least no one prepared me for. In fact a quick perusal of dieting and workout fads would seem to indicate that we are collectively in denial about the fact that biological motherhood (i.e. birthing a baby or babies) will forever alter the landscape of your terrain. When I hear women say they want to get back to their pre-baby body, I nod my head knowingly. But what I know is that will never happen. I’m not saying you will never weigh the same as you did before you had children. I don’t know you or your metabolism, but I’m confident that if that is important to you then you can achieve it.
That’s not the point though (for so many reasons). Because even if you weigh exactly the same as you did before baby, you will not have a pre-baby body. That body is gone.
This body, the one that you have, has been tattooed by pregnancy, childbirth and nursing. It will never be the same. It may be bigger or smaller than you remembered. There will be lines in places it never occurred to you to moisturize or that you did but to no avail. Your hair will be different too. Sleeping positions that were once delightful will now inexplicably make your entire arm go numb or send searing pain traveling down your leg from your hip socket. Swinging will make you motion sick. Jumping will make you need to pee. And your breasts… you will miss them, even if you did not care for them much before, you will find that you would really like them back. These droopy deflated replacements are not quite what you had envisioned.
And everyone (including me) will tell you to love yourself, that you are still attractive (and you are) and that your body was designed to bear children, that biologically this is what we are here for… but you will try on a new summer dress, something that would’ve looked good on your “pre-baby body,” and it will look… strange. The cut will be wrong. The color unsuitable. You will look like you are wearing someone else’s clothing because essentially you are. And you will miss your boobs.
As a married woman I would remind myself that these body alterations produced our child and that while my shrunken tatas and world map of stretch marks might not be glamorous, my husband could -at least in theory- love them for the child, his child, that they nourished. As a single mama, getting naked in front of someone who is not the father of my child, especially someone who has never been with a momma, has proven slightly more formidable and left me frantically searching for some other form of reassurance.
Because just when we feel as though we have come to terms with who we are and are really in love with, or at least accepting of, our mama bodies, an insensitive comment from someone close to us brings our self-confidence crashing down with the same reckless abandon with which our toddler knocks down a tower of wooden blocks.
It will happen more than once. And it will be confusing because you know you wouldn’t trade that precious little child for anything, especially not perky tits and creamy skin… most days… and yet you will still miss your boobies. You will struggle to match the woman in your head with the woman in the mirror and to drown out the evil voice, which keeps pointing out that they aren’t the same.
You need to know this. You need to know that other mamas of all shapes and sizes feel this way. You also need to know that it gets better. But it takes time and it’s hard.
It’s hard because we lie to ourselves. Because we expect ourselves to reach an unattainable goal, and when we inevitably fail to meet it, we compare ourselves to other women who seem to have been able to do the thing we couldn’t, who seem to have the body we want. They don’t. They have their body. You have yours. Not your pre-baby body, but this one. And it’s beautiful.