The thing is, having a baby can really do a number on your body image issues—even issues that you thought you’d worked through and put to bed.
When I first fell pregnan, after a decade-long obsession of watching the scales and feeling a sense of satisfaction when the number went down, here I was, week after week, creeping back up to a scary place. You’re building a human being inside your body. The numbers going up means the baby is growing. This is supposed to happen. I had to keep reminding myself of this.
The postpartum phase was even harder.
I don’t even recognize my own body.
Where did these saddlebags come from? Where did these old-lady arm flaps come from? Who put all these wobbly bits here? And here? And HERE?
I remember when my baby was 4-weeks-old, and I was wallowing at the state of my softer, cushionier physique, my mother convinced me to let her take me shopping because none of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit. Every time I tried to put something on, I’d either cry or work myself up into a horrible mood because it would get me down. I’m not sure what I was expecting–well, maybe that after popping out a baby everything would snap right back to where it used to be a month later a la Hollywood.
That day, we went to a department store and I took a few things to the checkout counter in my usual, pre-pregnancy size, thinking nothing of it. The lady then eyed up the tags on those clothes, sized me up over the top of her frameless glasses and asked ever-so-sweetly, “Ma’am, are you sure this is the right size? I think maybe you should get the next size up.”
Look, it was an innocent enough remark and I suppose she was just doing her job. She was probably even trying to help me by preempting the need for me to come back a few days later and return the items.
But in my hormonal, sensitive state, I felt like she had slapped me in the face. And so, in a typical, predictable, postpartum fashion, I turned around, stomped out of there and cried to my mama.
That’s when my sweet mother sat me down and gave me the “it-took-you-9-months-to-put-on-the-weight-so-give-yourself-at-least-9-months-to-lose-it” talk. A talk, which I’ve now learned, is one passed on from generation to generation of women who have had babies.
The second time around? You’d think that having been through it all once, I would have been prepared for what was to come.
It’s harder this time. I don’t know why. Although I eventually got to a place I was happy with after having my baby, and although I didn’t put on as much weight this pregnancy, it’s harder. The soft bits are softer. The floppy bits are floppier. The wobbly bits are wobblier. The whole structure of my body feels like it has completely changed.
And then, recently, I had a moment.
Maybe it was the way my toddler was nestled against my side, burrowing her head into my shoulder with my arm cushioning the back of her soft little neck. Maybe it was the way my baby was curled up on my belly and resting her head on the very spot that used to house that sweet little head when it was still growing, preparing her for the outside world. I looked at my babies and thought: I’m done waiting to lose weight.
I’m done waiting to lose weight because I don’t know what I was really waiting for. Are these delectable moments with my children any less delectable because my hips are now a little wider? Does the warm, deep sound of my toddler’s chuckle sound any less sweet to my ears because my waist is a little thicker? Will the way that my baby wraps her tiny, delicate fingers around my thumb while I’m nursing her, feel any less perfect because my arms are a little softer?
I want my girls to have a healthy body image. I want to be a good role model in that respect. I want them to learn to enjoy healthy, nutritious food. I want them to enjoy being active. I want them to understand the strength and capabilities of their own bodies and to respect all that their bodies can do.
But I also want them to learn that bodies don’t just “snap back.” I want them to learn that our bodies evolve and change, and are not meant to go back to an unrealistic default regardless of what they’ve been through.
Pregnancy will change your body. Childbirth will change your body. But these things will also change your soul.
They will change the way you see the world. They will change the way you live. They will change the way you love. They will bring you myriad of new ways to see beauty in things and teach you to appreciate things you never thought you would.
So I’m done. I’m done waiting to lose weight.
Take that photograph. Wear that bikini. Climb all over that playground. Jump together, dance together, laugh together. How your body looks when you’re doing these things? Let that be the farthest thing from your mind.
Eat well. Be active. Take care of yourself. But don’t put a pause on life because you’re waiting to get to a certain place, which, in fact, won’t change how fulfilling or how wonderful all of these moments are.