For most of us, “debuting” our post-baby bodies looks a little more like sharing a blissed-out-but-exhausted first family photo with our select Facebook friends. Even then, let’s be honest, everyone is just looking at the baby.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are moms like Kate Middleton or Khloe Kardashian who are hounded for photographs that are then viewed worldwide.
Honestly, what it would be like to have your postpartum body viewed scrutinized by millions of people is seriously beyond my comprehension. So when Kardashian admitted in a new blog post that she “couldn’t believe” how she looked in post-baby paparazzi pictures and can’t wait to “get my body back to where it was,” there’s nothing wrong with feeling that way. That is her authentic experience and she has every right to it. I, for one, don’t know anything about the pressure she’s under.
But one truth that’s important for her—and all of us—to keep in mind is this: Every mama’s body changes differently during and after pregnancy.
This should come as no surprise, considering bodies always come in different shapes and sizes. Yet, there seems to be some kind of cognitive dissonance between this fact and the uniform expectation on how women’s bodies should “bounce back” after childbirth: lose the weight, lose the hips, lose the maternity pants—pronto.
Not only is this unrealistic for the vast majority of us, but it’s also unfortunate. These “post-baby bodies” of ours were celebrated for, give or take, 40 weeks. Then the script immediately flips and we have to stop acknowledging how incredible they are?
What if, instead, we made a point of continuing to celebrate postpartum bodies—not for some miraculous reversion to the way they looked before, but for the way they are forever changed by serving as our babies’ first homes?
While we’re at it, let’s remember that no matter how bodies look outwardly, it takes mamas a while to feel settled into their new normal. After all, there is still a lot going on inside—physically, mentally and emotionally—after baby arrives. According to one survey, it takes new moms an average of 22 weeks to feel “normal” physically after childbirth and a full 24 weeks before they feel “normal” emotionally.
Note the apostrophes around “normal.” It doesn’t mean that our bodies and mindsets will be exactly as they were before pregnancy. But it can mean they are even better. For evidence of that, look no further than the baby your body fostered and nourished—which is why some two-in-three new moms say they ultimately feel more confident with their bodies than they did before pregnancy.
None of this—from the way our bodies recover to the way our perspectives shift—happens overnight. However, a day will probably come when you look back and recognize that “bouncing back” wasn’t nearly as important as bouncing ahead into this incredible new role of mama.