Just before getting into the shower recently I caught a little glimpse of my reflection in the mirror.
I looked away quickly and cringed.
Lately, I’ve not felt entirely happy with what I see.
Body image is a beast for new mamas.
How we look goes hand in hand with how we feel.
And with that grimace, and later reflecting on my visceral response to my own flesh, I have realized: I have been too critical of my body, especially after having had babies.
Often as women, our post-baby body is at the center of our worries, fears, misgivings and aversions.
We are conditioned by a culture that is infatuated with body image and obsessed with perfection. That culture doesn’t teach us to embrace and love our post-baby body with all its changes and imperfections—all of which are a normal part of life as a woman on this earth.
Instead the post-baby body becomes a scapegoat.
Getting our body back post-baby gets tremendous focus.
Bizarrely, even though we know that our lives will never be the same again once we have had a baby, we expect our bodies go back to the way they were.
The truth is, I try to remind myself, that our lives and bodies change. Forever.
We may go back to the same weight and perhaps some even manage to look as they looked pre-baby, but our bodies will have stretched, sagged and drooped in places and some changes never fully reverse. Chances are there are a couple of stretch marks. The hips and pelvic most certainly act as a constant reminder that we have carried babies. Our bellies will look different. We give them cute names like Mummy Tummy and Baby Pouch even though we dislike them and would trade the Jelly Belly for a toned one any day. After the birth of our baby and as the hormones readjust, we may loose hair and for a couple of months sport spikey baby hair where the hair is growing back. And that’s not even going into all the finer details of the female anatomy and the strain a pregnancy and a birth can place on us.
The list of all the side effects goes on.
But I’m also realizing that our postpartum bodies are so much more than these common changes.
Now, I’m reminding myself of how beautiful this post-baby body is—if only I can see it when I look in the mirror.
The upper arms are like mom guns. They look deadly and are super toned because we spend our days carrying and lifting baby, the shopping bags, the work bags, the stroller, you name it.
Our bodies deploy mysterious energy resources to get up and feed baby multiple times at night, attend to the toddler who is afraid of the dark and still get up at the crack of dawn to make school lunches.
We are able to take multitasking to a whole new level. We can bounce the baby on one hip, while cooking dinner, help with homework, have a phone conversation and do some coloring.
We acquire Ninja reflexes in order to keep our babies safe from harm and never have we been able to jump up this fast when danger looms.
Our minds are going 24/7, never stopping or slowing down.
Our ability to hear is off the charts. We are like freaking bats.
All of those things are miraculous and incredible.
So yes, our lives, and our bodies do change because of motherhood. I am a stronger person because of this transformation.
And without the saggy belly, I’d never get the superhuman experience of the best kind of love I’ve ever known.
This body has grown and stretched, but so have our hearts. Instead of mourning our pre-baby bodies, I’m trying to think about this little mummy tummy as a gift.
It is a reminder of the little miracles that grew inside it. The lines and wrinkles around our eyes are from a lack of sleep no doubt but also from smiling and laughing as we watch our babies grow.
With the change in body, our entire life changes, our self-image changes and the way we view the world.
The next time before I jump into the shower I am going to stop and look at myself. I’m going to show a little respect to the body that has been home to my four babies, has nursed them, carried and rocked them despite of the sore hip and the aching back.
I’m going to look in the mirror and say “Thank you.”