“Your baby is how old again?” she asked me.
“Ten months. I can hardly believe it!” I responded.
“And you’ve obviously gotten your body back, too. Good for you!”
There’s no shortage of advice out there for how to “get your body back” after having a baby, and in case you think it isn’t doable, there’s always a gossip magazine to show you how such-and-such celebrity got hers back in just three weeks/days/hours/minutes.
That’s right, you just went through the most physically and emotionally exhausting feat of your life, and you’re led to believe your next thought should not be, Whoa, my body is freakin’ INCREDIBLE, but rather, I wonder how soon I can start doing crunches again?
This is unbelievably messed up, and I think it all begins with that ridiculous phrase “get your body back.”
First there’s the phrase itself, which seems to imply that unless my body looks exactly like it did before nine months of stretching it doesn’t really count as a body at all. Seriously?
Let’s translate: When we say we want to “get our body back” after having a baby, what we really mean is get our hot, skinny, closer to society’s ideal body back, right? Get our turn heads, get compliments, look good in the season’s top fashions body back.
Well, not me.
I don’t want my pre-baby body back. I don’t.
Not because catching a glimpse at the formerly-smooth-but-now-puckered skin around my belly button when I step out of the shower every morning reminds me of my children.
Not because I see the bulgy varicose veins that they said would go away after giving birth but have decided to hang out for much longer as “swellings of love” for my offspring.
No, I don’t need the physical wear and tear to remind me of my kids. I’d think about them all day long, anyway.
I don’t want my body back because seeing it as it is—right here and right now—reminds me not of my children’s existence, but of what I did to make it happen.
The way I rocked through the contractions at home from 4 in the afternoon to 7 the next morning, finally arriving at the hospital sleepless and exhausted—though only 3 centimeters dilated. (With another 10 grueling hours to go, I’d find out!)
The way with both kids I pushed with such concentration and determination and FORCE that I elicited impressed eyebrow raises from the nurses.
The primal howling my body emitted as I birthed my second child without any pain medication.
The fighting, the stretching, the ripping, the FIRE.
I have been changed permanently by those experiences—shouldn’t my body be also?
(And let me emphasize that the body changes I’m referring to go far beyond the number on the scale. The bodies of some moms return to the weight they were pre-pregnancy; others do not. In either case, the birthing process almost always leaves its mark forevermore.)
What’s more, I don’t want my body back because I refuse to buy into our society’s obsession with youthful women.
Like the presence of stretch marks or laugh lines somehow makes you worth less, like older women can’t be sexy as hell, like telling the truth about your age is a sign you’ve just given up on a full life.
Our society’s obsession with youth is really an obsession with getting women to hand over million of dollars to beauty companies that sell said youth in the form of creams and serums.
It’s really about chaining women to salon chairs for hours on end until every last hint of grey is covered, or holding them hostage in the bathroom doing meaningless primping to still feel relevant, wanted.
Meanwhile any trace of their clawing tooth and nail to bring new life into this world is simply… covered up.
No, I don’t want my pre-baby body back.
I will take care of this body.
I will honor it and respect it.
But I will not try to erase it and along with it, the memory of its power—my power.
I don’t want my old body back because, you see, I worked way too hard to get this one.