Every time I see a picture of a beautiful mama on Instagram, sporting her tiger stripes that grew her darling babes I am in awe. I cannot believe the courage it takes to be ok with or even in love with your changing body after children. Combining environmental pressures to be perfect and "bounce back after baby" with the constant struggle of not feeling good enough in my own skin turned that awe often into a jealousy. Well, after some soul searching, I think I have decided it is ok not to love your postpartum body and here's why.
It's easy to disrespect your body.
Our culture is obsessed with this idea of "self care" (read my thoughts on that here). We are also (raising both hands in guilt here) very accustomed to treating our bodies with disdain. We over feed or starve emotions, we move too little, never realizing that our body even given the poor respect we show it continues to show up for us each morning. I have personally disrespected my own with crash diets, disordered eating, and so many other things only to get annoyed when I can't complete a workout class after a six month break from the gym without fatigue. If I were ever treated in a job the way I treat my body, I would put in my two weeks notice so fast heads would spin.
No one likes change.
This isn't rocket science, darlings. I remember vividly my twenty two year old body that of course then I didn't appreciate or treat well and honestly, there are lots of days I want it back. I want to eat a bag of tortilla chips for dinner three nights a week and laugh at people who love salad. But, that not really what it's about. There are so many growing pains within motherhood that can cause you to scarcely recognize the woman you once were. A body is just the most in your face change. I don't know anyone who is thrilled they can now take down their bathroom towel racks because their post nursing nipples can do the job just fine.
The journey is in the struggle.
Anything that I have ever worked toward that's been worth its salt has been at one time or another a struggle. Figuring out that self love isn't easy is a life long journey for most women, I think. Not giving up on that relationship with yourself is even more important. I have thought countless times when I hear my beautiful friends complain about c-sections scars or sagging breasts that I wish they could see themselves the way that I do. I wonder why I have never wished to see myself the way they do? Probably fear. I do know I my facial expressions are about at subtle as a brick through a glass window.
Cliche, but comparison is the thief of joy.
I recently started working out again after oh, a longggg break. I thought I would immediately feel great. Part of me did. I liked that the energy that had been channeled into yelling at my family on too short a fuse could be sweat out in hot yoga. However, the desire to be as strong as the women next to me, to feel frustrated with my softer midsection and lack of previously held core strength threatened to overshadow my zen.
Learning to be patient with my thirty something self that takes longer to recover from a hard workout that my twenty something self did is an ego blow. But pushing myself to work on the physical realizing it's actually emotional work I'm doing is a journey worth taking.
"She is more precious than rubies"
You do not have to love your post part body. If you are not there yet, that is ok. You do have to realize that your worth is not defined by what you look like now in comparison to an ideal or a previous version of yourself. Life moves forward not backward. My bicep curls may be something that need quite a bit of work still and there is only one rounded ab instead of a set of six, but my strength is measured by more than that. Yours is too, mama.
This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.