Menu

Why do our bellies go from being celebrated during pregnancy to being shamed post-baby?

The minute our babies are born, our bellies—once celebrated—must now, immediately, be hidden until they go back to "normal." Our bodies are worse than forgotten. They become Enemy Number One. It took 10 months for our bellies to become what they were, and yet our bellies are expected to disappear the moment a baby is born.

Why do our bellies go from being celebrated during pregnancy to being shamed post-baby?

You'd think the hardest part about having a baby is giving birth to and taking care of a baby. Well, for me… it wasn't.

The hardest part of my post-baby life is something that happens at the start of each and every day—getting dressed. But that's me being polite. What some may call getting dressed, I call "hide the fact that I just had a baby." And if you've had a baby, too, you know what I mean.

During pregnancy, the belly is where it's at. We patiently wait for our bellies to pop so we can officially look pregnant and share the good news. We buy overpriced, form-fitting maternity clothes, that we'll only wear for a few months, to accentuate our growing bellies. And why not? Pregnancy is an absolute miracle, and our bellies are the outward representation of the magic we contain within us.

Yes, for about 10 months, our bellies are something universally celebrated. From that very first "we're expecting" pic we post on Instagram, to the very last "baby is the size of a watermelon" pic we take right before we go into labor. Our bellies are "like" and comment magnets. They are the literal life of the party.

And then, just like that, poof. Baby out, belly acceptance out right with it.

The minute our babies are born, our bellies—once celebrated—must now, immediately, be hidden until they go back to "normal." Our bodies are worse than forgotten. They become Enemy Number One. It took 10 months for our bellies to become what they were, and yet our bellies are expected to disappear the moment a baby is born. (Spoiler alert: there's a lot of belly left over after a baby is born.)

And it's not just our bellies. From head to toe, we are expected to "bounce back" despite the fact that it's after a baby is born that the true work begins. Our bodies are busy healing, making milk, returning to "normal" by way of a hormonal roller coaster. And instead of nurturing them, we are busy hiding them.

We hide them however we can. With belly binders, with loose clothes, with eating and workout regimens we should be too tired to even think about. We rush to return to what we once were, as quickly and secretly as possible, even though we are not the same. Not even a little bit.

We get on the scale and hold our breath. We try four outfits before finding the one that hides the belly, the back fat, the overflowing boobs, the best. We hide in front of strangers, we hide even more from those who know us. Most of all we hide from ourselves.

I'm tired of hiding. So today I wore a dress. A tight dress. One that prominently showed the world the belly that two months ago had a baby in it, and hasn't bounced back yet. It took me 10 months to earn this belly. I'm giving myself at least 10 months to say goodbye to it.

I'm embracing the stretch mark that now sits where my baby's butt used to press against my skin. I'm enjoying the curve of my hip that now serves as my baby's perch. And when someone asks me again how much longer till I'm due (because that definitely happened when I was six weeks post-baby) I will smile and say the baby is out, without any shame about the fact that my belly is still here. Because my belly was home to my child. So shouldn't it feel like home to me?

Just like my baby changes every single day, so do I—physically, mentally, and emotionally. When I'm getting dressed and look in the mirror, what I strive for now is not to figure out how to hide, but rather, how to accept myself in all forms and in all moments. By refusing to hide my body, I remind myself not to hide my feelings either. Because as any new mother will tell you, there are a lot of those happening these days as well.

You might also like:

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


Keep reading Show less
Shop

Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.



Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

Keep reading Show less
News