My Postpartum Body
I recently read an article titled,” The Day I Stopped Hiding My Postpartum Body from My Husband”. Based on the title, I rolled my eyes and said “THE FIRST DANG DAY!” Then I stopped being so judgy and read the entire post. It was more about how the author had been hiding her stomach from her husband and even more importantly from herself. This was NOT a “my-husband-expects-me-to-look-like-a-supermodel-two-weeks-after-birth” situation and more of a “I’m-mourning-my-old-self” situation. And man, do I get that.
I don’t recall purposely hiding parts of my body from husband or even from myself but I do clearly remember moments, both during pregnancy and after, of grief.
I was 25 when I became pregnant with my son. My husband and I had decided we were ready to start “trying” and then BOOM-preggers. We were so excited but we were also the first out of the majority of our close friends to start the parenting journey. I, like most first time moms, had no idea what was really in store for me. By month five, I had three deep, long, red, itchy stretch marks running down each side of my belly. I looked like I had been aggressively hugged by a tiger. I showed them to some co-workers with older kids and they nodded empathetically. My parents were concerned and my mom bought every cream, lotion, and oil on the market for me to apply to my shredding skin. As my pregnancy continued, I got more and more marks, even my OB-GYN commented on how “tight” my skin was. My sister and sister-in-law came to visit just a few days before I gave birth, I hadn’t seen them in weeks. I lifted my shirt to show them the status of my stomach and they both gasped. I started to cry. My husband tried to say something from across the room-I don’t even know what it was. But I knew it would be along the lines of-Who cares?! You’re beautiful, stop worrying about it! etc. I shut him down before he could finish. “I CAN’T HEAR THIS FROM YOU. STOP. STOP. STOP!” It didn’t matter what he said because even though I never doubted that he meant it, I didn’t believe it.
Post baby, I realized I would never again be able to look at my body and see who I was before I became a mom. I almost felt like she had been erased.
Now, I was a human pacifier running on little sleep, copious amounts of coffee, and handfuls of raisins. Even after I became accustomed to by new body, I just looked at it with indifference. I would tease- “I don’t need bikinis anyway, I’m a mom!” That was just self preservation. Trying on pre-baby clothes, even though they fit, was painful. They didn’t fit the same because I wasn’t the same. I wish I could say I had some poignant moment of clarity where I saw myself as the beautiful, strong mother my husband and kids see but that would be a lie.
I wish I could say that I bear my stretch marks proudly because they show how resilient my body is or that they are physical reminders of my wonderful children or some such word vomit.
I guess I’m just way too vain for all that. My postpartum body is just that-my body after kids. I don’t feel like its anything to be ashamed or proud of. I was able to conceive two kids and carry them to term and then nurse each for a year, my body did it’s job well.
While my husband has never had to leave the room so I could get dressed, I do understand that nagging feeling of uncertainty in my own skin. My body confidence was on a roller coaster for a good six years but I finally started to work harder at what I eat and exercise…some. Taking care of myself has been the thing that makes me feel like me. Getting to 30 also made me realize my body would have changed whether I had stretch marks from my kids or not. We’re always changing and adapting.