The human body is extraordinary. Specifically the body type I'm most familiar with, the female body. The miracle of pregnancy and birth are astounding. My body was able to provide a place of warmth, growth, and nourishment for my babies, and then I was able to deliver them. My body was designed to birth babies - that's amazing! Although I ended up delivering both of my boys via cesarean section, my body still went through the laboring process, and was able to endure the pain of two major surgeries. Even after delivery, our bodies are still performing miracles by God's design. I was fortunate enough to be able to nurse both of my boys. Through nursing, my body was able to provide all of the nourishment each of my boys needed, and it was such a rewarding feeling. Did you know that mother's milk can/will change it's composition based on what vitamins and nutrients baby needs? Like I said, astounding! Knowing all of this, and being so appreciative of the gifts that are my children, I wish it made it easier to look at and accept this new body.
I've never been the thinnest girl in the room, and I've dealt with stretch marks on my thighs since middle school. These new changes though, they're different than what I've been use to. Now, I have stretch marks that cover most of my stomach. My c-section scar isn't super visible, but even it if was, it's hidden nicely by the little pouch I've had since baby number two. Breastfeeding has left pretty apparent changes to my chest, that I'm pretty sure there's no bouncing back from. I only wear the kind of pants that can be pulled up high enough to cover and tuck in most of my tummy. Don't even get me started on postpartum hair growth! I love my babies more than words, and I would do it all over again for them in a heartbeat, but I'm just still not use to this new body.
Looking in the mirror after delivery is a completely different feeling than looking in the mirror one year postpartum. After delivery, I felt proud and accomplished. Looking at my deflated tummy, I didn't think I looked half bad now that I wasn't toting around a nine pound human in my stomach. I think just giving birth is a pretty good excuse for not having a celebrity body. One year postpartum though, I don't have much of an excuse. I look in the mirror feeling embarrassed and ashamed that I don't have it together yet. The stretch marks have faded, but I can still see them. I'm just still not use to this new body.
Here's a scary topic: intimacy after delivery. I've read that some women have never felt sexier than what they did after having a baby. For me, that was unfortunately not the case. I refused to take my shirt completely off in hopes that my husband wouldn't get a peak at my tummy. I also wasn't comfortable letting my husband see me completely undressed in a fully brightened room. That sounds ridiculous to admit, but it's true. My husband and I went from showering together, to me requesting that we keep the lights off and the room dark. My discomfort with my body meant that I wasn't able to enjoy alone time with my husband the way I did before. I was constantly worried about what he must be thinking when he was looking at my body. I wouldn't want his hands to touch my belly. I just wasn't comfortable with this new body.
I am so thankful to have a husband that loves me - all of me. It wasn't long before he was able to snap me out of at least being comfortable around him again. He explained that he loved my body exactly the way it was now. It didn't matter what it use to look like, although he loved me then, he loves me even more now. He didn't want me to feel the need to hide any part of myself from him. Maybe it's because he knows everything that my body went through? He experienced with me all of the things my body endured during my pregnancies. I can only assume that's a huge reason that he doesn't mind the changes, and can appreciate the way I look now. I'm so glad I have a husband that loves me so fiercely, but I'm still not quite use to this new body.
Theodore Roosevelt said 'Comparison is the thief of joy.' This statement holds so much truth, and is a pretty simple concept. But when I look at other mamas who have had two or more babies and look like super models, I can't help but get a little down on myself. How did she bounce back so fast? I wonder if she is dieting, or maybe she's making time for herself to workout? I should probably be doing that, too. I would love to cook healthier food, but when the kids want mac and cheese, it's easier to just eat with them rather than make a separate meal for myself. I wonder what she must think of me? Looking at her, and then looking at myself, I'm just so frustrated with this new body.
What most of us may not realize about comparisons is that they often go both ways. While you may be looking at and admiring a certain part of a woman's life, that same woman is most likely looking at something about your life that she's yearning for. The crazy thing is you're both so busy dwelling on what you wish you had, you're looking past the areas of your life that other women admire. You're admiring her body, while she's watching you breastfeed and wishing she was able to nurse her youngest. You notice a new mom is able to fit into jeans already, but she's seeing that you're shopping with your mom and she wishes she had family close by. I love to give out compliments and words of encouragement, but my focus isn't on making others feel good when I'm spending so much time being concerned with my own fears, doubts and frustrations. The ability to encourage others begins with encouraging yourself. I want other mamas to see the kind of beauty in themselves that I see in them when we pass each other in the grocery store. I want them to love themselves. I want you to love yourself. I want to love myself. I want to learn how to love this new body.
I'm still working on accepting these new changes. Some days are harder than others, but some days aren't too bad. One day I was getting dressed for bed, when my three year old ran over to me and patted my tummy. He laughed and said "Mommy, brother was in your tummy?" I explained that yes, his baby brother was in my tummy, and he was too. I told him that my tummy was where I kept him safe while he was growing, and becoming healthy and strong. He gave my tummy another pat and said "That's cool, now brother can crawl!" This short exchange with my oldest baby made me feel like the closest thing I think I could ever come to being a superhero. Seeing my two boys laughing and playing makes all of the changes so worth it. I'll get there, eventually - and you will too. Be kind to yourself, mama. Your body has performed miracles. Your body isn't what it use to be. It's different, but it's strong. You're not the woman that you were when you had that other body. You're a stronger and tougher superhero kind of mama, and you'll soon come to love this new body.