On Babies and Body Image

Over the weekend, I got to celebrate a sweet friend at her bridal shower. The theme was Breakfast at Tiffany’s (and it was absolutely gorgeous), so I spent a good chunk of my Saturday trying to figure out which of the black dresses I own would best hide the fact that I birthed an 8 1/2 pound human being three weeks ago. A maxi dress won because it’s the closest thing I have to a muumuu, and it was the only dress that ensured nursing wouldn’t be a totally impossible feat. I felt pretty good about this whole thing until pictures were taken, at which point I was promptly reminded of the baby weight still clinging to my hips and my stomach and my right pinky.

When you’re getting ready for the day, the image you see in the mirror doesn’t tell the real story because you’re able to create the best version of yourself– you stand at the right angle, you remember to suck in your three-week baby pudge, and you aren’t sticky or sweaty or worried about smoothing down the frizzy hair you just curled. Pictures, on the other hand, are static. They are you, frozen in time, standing at a bad angle and forgetting to suck it in. They are an opportunity for you to pick yourself apart, and you can bet your bottom dollar that’s exactly what I did. It’s sadistic and boring and absolutely predictable. You’ve taken a selfie or two. You get it.

Most of the time, I know how to dress myself to hide the weight that is shifting and settling into new places on a body I don’t know very well these days. Other times, there are sweatpants. I’ve landed in a funny kind of middle ground where maternity clothes have been packed away, but only about a third of my closet fits me well. That fraction gets exponentially smaller when you take into account the number of shirts I own that are actually functional for nursing in public. I’m just a few pounds away from my pre-baby weight, but I feel like that can’t be right because most of my jeans can’t be pulled over my hips and my pudgy stomach is months away from resembling anything remotely close to what it was pre-baby.

Part of me feels ridiculous for complaining. This body might be stretch-marked and pudgy and very different than it was four years ago, but I’m only able to say those things because it is also healthy and strong. This body carried two healthy boys and brought them into the world. This body has fed them, has carried their sleepy bodies to bed after long days of running and playing and making memories with them. This body gets to wake up every morning and do it all over again.

Even knowing those wonderful things, this part is still hard. My body doesn’t feel like it belongs to me. It belongs to the feeding and the carrying and the running and the playing. I know that it will get better, that this skin will start to feel familiar again eventually. I know that getting there will require a lot of grace, accepting that crop tops will never be my thing, and a few good filters on Instagram. It will require several daily reminders that I just had a baby. It will require choosing to be grateful for this body that can do so many amazing things. And with time– and a lot of pilates– it will feel like mine.

——–

For me, and all the other mommas repurposing maternity belly bands as shapewear. It gets better.

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2 Replies to “On Babies and Body Image”

  1. i’m 37 weeks pregnant and i think it’s so funny whenever someone tells me that i have the “pregnancy glow.” it’s funny because i’m not sure if that’s just the kind way of telling pregnant women, “you look tired but happy.” deep down i’m quite certain my sleeplessness due to heartburn and just general discomfort from being so big MUST show on my face. but i accept that comment gracefully because it usually comes from other women and i know they’d want to hear it too when they’re pregnant.

    btw, i have two boys too and am now expecting a girl! stay healthy!

    1. Tired but happy– exactly! If that’s what’s really behind the “glow” I think I’m going to be “glowing” for at least the next decade 😉 Congrats on the newest addition to your family!

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