Something weighing on my mind lately is post-baby body image. I read a lot of mom blogs and articles which all expressed how a post-baby body is beautiful, and that stretch marks shouldn’t matter and how a new mom’s body went through so much growing and birthing a baby, and blah, blah, blah. I agree with what I have read, most of the time. I totally have mad respect for what my body went through. However, when I was a brand new mom, reading these things was more annoying than anything. I had so much frustration about my new postpartum bod and I wished that someone had kept it real for me. Six months out, I’m finally in a good place about my body now and I feel ready to write about it and ‘keep it real’ for anyone out there who’s looking for that.
**please note that I go into a bit of detail, which may be too graphic for those who are faint of heart 😉
First, let me say that my birth was the opposite of how I thought a birth should go. I’ll probably write about my birth story sometime down the line. But, you should know, I went into the delivery room with zero birth plans and I’m happy I did. I’m a pretty relaxed person and I think had I had set expectations it would have made my postpartum experience so much worse. Don’t get me wrong, I went to plenty of prenatal classes and subscribed to doula videos on coping and managing labour and delivery. But none of that could have prepared me for my birthing experience. I’m talking 26 hours of labour and fourth degree tearing. It was bad. My only real plan was to go with the flow. And thank goodness for that.
Immediately after my daughter was born, I felt great. For a full 24 hours, I really loved not being pregnant anymore. I could pee a bit easier without a jumbo belly in my way and life was good. Once I got home, I started resenting and hating my body. I was so angry that I had monster stretch marks all over the place. I was upset that I was experiencing pain just from walking around the house. Anytime I went number two on the toilet, I had to hop in the shower to clean myself up, since I was terrified to wipe (because I literally tore everything). Rocking my baby to sleep made my arms feel strong, but the rest of me felt all squishy, like a deflated balloon. I made the mistake of keeping the full-length mirror in my bedroom, facing the bed. This meant that during nighttime nursing sessions, as I sat on the edge of the bed in my nursing bra, all I could do was stare at my body in that mirror and I hated it all the more. I didn’t even recognize myself anymore. I told my husband, on more than one occasion, that I hated my body. He tried to be supportive, he would tell me to be patient with myself in my healing, and to look at how beautiful our daughter is, etc… but he just couldn’t understand. I had such joy and overwhelming love for my new baby, but was overcome with complete disgust for my body.
The biggest postpartum issues I faced hit me in the first 6 weeks or so following birth, and were entirely body-related. Maybe I was just looking in the wrong places, but every blog and article I encountered left me feeling more frustrated. It was as though no one understood what I was going through. I felt like my body image issues were attributing to my self worth (it got that bad!).
Now, this seems crazy to me that I once hated my body that much. Sure, I still have some baby weight that I’d like to lose; but now, I am happy and healthy and able to care for my daughter and do the things that I want to do. My body doesn’t hold me back and I do appreciate all that it went through to get me where I am today: a happy, healthy mother to a happy, healthy baby. I do wish I had listened to my husband when he told me to be patient because the pain went away eventually and I started to heal.
My husband and I got out for a comedy night and let my mother-in-law babysit about 3 months postpartum. I remember laughing so hard through the entire show. Afterwards, we grabbed coffee and just hung out for a bit before picking up our girl. During our coffee date, we both ended up marvelling at my progress. I was able to laugh – uncontrollably, deep-belly-laugh – and I felt fine! This was a huge improvement from where I had been. A lot of my anger with my body came from not being able to do normal things – like laugh – because it hurt to laugh. It also hurt to cough – a whole other issue, but just as relevant! 😉
Looking back, I mostly attribute my deep body-hatred to the painful recovery from birth. I probably would have felt a little better had I had a more “normal” birth experience. Though I’m proud of myself for getting through the self-loathing all on my own. Turns out my husband was right and I just needed to be patient. These things take time and had I allowed myself to be more patient maybe I wouldn’t have been so disappointed in the articles I was stumbling upon.
I blame the sleepless nights, intense fluctuation of hormones, and the pain from recovery as major reasons why I really hated my body. Today, I give great credit to what my body went through because otherwise my little one wouldn’t be here. Oh, and I should mention that I take it all out on the media now – you know, if things like stretch marks were glorified in the media, maybe I wouldn’t have felt nearly as bad.