I’ll be twenty nine years old next month. Five months postpartum with our second tiny miracle. Before my husband and I decided to try and bring our offspring into this world, I can say with confidence I genuinely loved myself. Loved myself in the way Dove commercials, inspirational Instagram quotes, and your mom tell you to love yourself. By the ripe age of twenty six, I was happy with the skin I was in. Most days. 🙂
The thing is, it was a really long road getting there. You could argue a twenty six year long road. In middle school I finally accepted the fact that my round face was not the ideal canvas to put short hair on. Longer hair suits me. I was forced to come to peace with the fact I will never be an American Idol, after singing, “Hello, Mrs. Marsh” one time in choir class warranted several looks of horror from my classmates. FINE, I’ll stick with sports. In high school I finally accepted the fact that my breasts were done growing, and this was it. There was no holding out for one last growth spurt. I better love them in all their barely a B cup glory. In college I finally came to terms with the fact that my butt was not going anywhere, and this round goodness was here to stay. Pants are sometimes still difficult to buy, but lucky for me big ole booties are back in. Thanks a lot, Nicki Minaj. Chalk one up in the win column for this girl. It wasn’t till recently that I finally accepted the fact that my nose will never, ever photograph well. From any angle. But it’s all good – it fits me. And if I’m going to be bare boned honest, some days I’m still working on the fact that no matter how in shape and fit I am, my thighs will always be a little thicker. And by thicker, I surely mean strong.
I’m not complaining about any of the above. I am not in a place where I strive for the kinds of perfection magazines, television, and celebrities tell me I should aspire to. It took twenty six years for me to evolve into a place I love, and I’m happy here. Most days. 🙂
Then I had children. In nineteen months I had carried and birthed two exceptionally wonderful children. Healthy pregnancies, and healthy babies. Between pregnancy and postpartum recovery my body, like all women’s bodies, went through an awful lot. Stretched hips, fired up sciatica, feet changing size, hair loss, dark spots on my face, swollen extremities, larger breasts that then deflated back down, a perky butt that had fallen right off, and abs that were hidden under a glorious little mom pooch. Weight was redistributed into different areas, and at the end of those nineteen months, the old me that I worked twenty six years on and grew to really love was no longer who I saw in the mirror.
Cue the well intended postpartum advice.
“You have to embrace and love this body – it gave you your beautiful baby!”
“Be proud of those stretch marks and mom pooch – they are your battle scars!”
“You just need to love yourself. Your body is amazing!”
It makes sense. It makes great sense. I myself have given that advice a time or two. And it sounds so simple. You just love yourself – that’s it. But it’s taken me two trips around the child merry-go-round to realize that it can be incredibly frustrating to feel like if I didn’t immediately love this new body I was looking at, it somehow equated to me not being grateful for what it gave me. My body IS amazing. I AM proud of what it went through and what it has given me. I WOULD do it a million times over to get my sweet little babes out of it. And I DO love myself. The problem is, in less than two years the “myself” I’m used to seeing, the one I worked on for twenty six years to love, went through repeated monumental changes and she had all but vanished.
It wasn’t me caving into the pressures of getting my pre-pregnancy body back – I don’t care that I don’t look like Kristen Cavallari. It wasn’t me feeling like I needed to bounce back immediately so my husband would think I was still beautiful – he did anyway. It wasn’t me trying to shed any evidence that I had carried children – I’m proud of what I went through. At the end of the day, I just wanted to identify with the person I had finally grown to fully love. Some of those qualities that shaped her. I wanted to wear my old jeans not because it meant I had lost the weight, but because those jeans have been my favorite for years. I wanted to workout not just to shed weight, but because I loved how perky my butt once was and I missed it. I wanted to shed some weight not because I think I’m overweight or unworthy in my current form, but because I’ve been an athlete my entire life and I wanted that strength back.
The road to becoming a mom is without a doubt one of the most life-altering, world-changing, OH-MY-SHIT, experiences we will ever go through. Friendships change. Marriage dynamics change. Our personal time. How we are able to recharge. Our social life. How we sleep. And the college degree worthy amount of information we must learn on the job. All changes that happen simultaneously. Immediately. So let’s let new moms breathe for a minute or two. Let’s let them get acquainted with what their days and bodies now look like instead of shaming them into thinking self-love should happen over night.
When it takes so many women quite a significant amount of time to fully and whole-heartedly love themselves, why do we expect new moms to love and embrace all these new changes immediately? Maybe the problem isn’t failure to love myself, maybe its just giving me a few minutes to breathe and get used to this new “myself”.