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.