On New Moms … and Our New Bodies

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I recently had the opportunity to write a guest blog post for Seraphine Maternity about anything pregnancy or mom-related. I chose to write about body image and, ultimately, acceptance, after having a baby.

I was also lucky enough to reunite with my favorite photographer, Brenna Britton, who shot baby K at 3 weeks, and then our whole little family when she was 5 weeks. When this blog opportunity came along, I knew the perfect photo to use … (see below, after the post!)

On New Moms — And Our New Bodies

“We’d like for you to gain between 25 and 35 pounds,” my OB told me at one prenatal appointment last fall.

No problem, I thought to myself. Twenty-five it is!

Ah, the sweet naivete of a pregnant woman who thinks she has any control over what will happen to her body as it grows—then evicts—a small human being.

As it turns out, unless you’re a genetically-gifted celebrity, pregnancy and childbirth will do a number on your body. And you have no say as to when, how, or where parts of your anatomy will relocate themselves.

I did gain those 25 pounds that I’d deemed acceptable. And then I packed on many more. But I tried not to think about that dreaded number on the scale as I counted down to my due date. The most important thing, of course, was that the baby was healthy.

Fast forward to the fall. I have a perfect, beautiful 3-month-old baby girl for whom I would have gained 100 lbs. if I had to. The hype you hear is true, mamas-to-be: you will love your little babe more than you can imagine now, even while you’re struggling through the sleepless newborn weeks.

But it still bums me out every morning that I have to get dressed for work … or any sort of engagement that requires clothing other than yoga pants. I look at photos of my “old” self longingly, mentally chastising myself for any time I said that I felt fat.

You know nothing of feeling fat, old self.

So what’s a new mom to do? Sure, there are some surface fixes. The drape of a forgiving top,  the camouflage of a lovely scarf, or a pair of blessed black leggings all help. Accepting that fact that you’re a size (or two or three) larger than you were pre-pregnancy and buying a few pieces in that new size goes a long way, too. No woman feels good about her looks when her waistband digs a tattoo into her sides.

But it wasn’t until the body image issue came up in my new moms support group that I began to truly feel better about my body after baby. (Side note: if such a group exists where you live, join it. The company of other newly-minted mothers is more valuable than you know). In our group meeting one afternoon, someone voiced the difficulty she was having in accepting her new body and feeling wistful for the one she had before.

Every woman in the room concurred.

Then the group leader, a social worker and mom of two herself, shared some advice.

These are the bodies,” she said, pointing around the room at all of us and our little ones, “that broughtthese babies into the world.”

Well that’s a sweet sentiment, I thought, but I wish “this body” looked more like Princess Kate’s at three months postpartum. I mean, really, the woman looks like she never had a baby … let alone a donut.

Still, day by day, little by little, what my group leader said began to sink in. I found a new appreciation for what I’d accomplished. It really is this body that made my little girl. Everything that I perceive as a flaw—wider hips, tummy “pooch,” a general layer of padding that wasn’t there previously—is merely a result of the job my body did in housing a baby for nine months.

This is the body that brought this baby into the world.

I recently joked to a friend that I now have “working boobs,” since I’m  nursing my daughter. Where they mainly served as decoration before, they now serve a real purpose. And that’s pretty amazing.

Maybe the same can be said for the rest of my body, too. Over the past year, it’s all been working, doing arguably the most important job a body can do. Yes, it’s somewhat softer and a bit rounder as a result, but that’s because it’s been hard at work. Not because it failed.

This is the body that brought this baby into the world.

And for that, I am thankful.

rk

 

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