The other day I had a conversation with a friend who had just had a baby two days earlier, and she wanted to know how I had lost all of my baby weight. She had literally just come home from the hospital and was already allowing herself to feel shameful about her body. It broke my heart to hear her express her feelings of unworthiness and insecurity, but it brought back the feelings that I experienced shortly after giving birth.
Immediately after my second son, Ben, was born, I felt insecure and ashamed of my body and the 70 pounds I had amassed during my pregnancy. And even though this was not my first child and I knew that it would take a little while to get back to my pre-baby weight, I still came home from the hospital and ran straight for the scale, eager to see what I had lost after delivering my 10 pound baby. Three pounds. I had only lost three pounds after delivering my TEN POUND BABY, which meant I had gained even more weight in the hospital.
Almost instantly I began to fat-shame myself. I saw myself as disgusting and disfigured, and I felt frustrated that I had “let myself go.” When I looked in the mirror, all I could see was that my stomach sagged about six inches past where it should be, and the right side of my stomach drooped an inch longer than that. I saw stretch marks and puckered skin, and my entire stomach resembled a deflated balloon.
Soon after coming home, I found myself rushing to the bathroom whenever I had a minute to myself. I would take a deep breath, close my eyes, and step on the scale. Disappointed in the number, I would stare in the mirror and allow my insecurities to win the battle over my thoughts. I’d like to say that these feelings didn’t last long. But the truth is that these thoughts followed me for well over a year. Why did I gain so much during my pregnancy? I look disgusting. I’m not beautiful. I need surgery in order to ever feel good about myself again.
One day, however, I stumbled upon the Fourth Trimester Bodies Project. This is a photo documentary project whose motto is “dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent in the changes brought to our bodies by motherhood, childbirth, and breastfeeding.” How beautiful and empowering is that? If you have some time, please browse this website and take a look at the many beautiful pictures of women posing with their children. On the website is photo after photo of women holding their children while posing in nothing but a bra and underwear. Some women’s bodies were fit and muscular, while many others were soft and stretched, but each body told the same story. It housed a miracle. Within it, life was created, nourished, and protected. And once that precious baby (or babies) was born, that body produced everything that sweet baby needed for survival.
My body (and yours) is phenomenal, and it has done phenomenal things. My stomach and breasts still sag a little, and my stretch marks are still scattered throughout. But I am learning to love them, these echoes of what my body has done. And even if the rest of the world tells me to hide it, shrink it, smooth it, and “fix” it, I will choose instead to relish in it. I hope you will too.