Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Shape of a Mother

{Oh, look at all my bitty babies!}

Body image is a weird thing to deal with, isn't it?

For both men and women, both children and adults, attempting to stay body positive can be a discouraging process. However, there's just something different about taking that road postpartum.

Whether I'm reading comments from other online mamas, hearing advice among friends, or getting it told to me firsthand, a lot of the talk surrounding our postpartum bodies is that they'll go away. There are billions of pins and magazine articles and blog posts out there about "getting your old body back" or "getting back to normal" after baby. I am in no way here to say we should not promote healthy lifestyles and exercise {though easier said than done, I try my hardest to do my part}. No, I am here to say that body you had before baby? Yeah, it's not coming back.

I've done this three times so far. I have watched my body change and grow and distort and stretch so that the miracle of life could be formed inside of me. I saw myself in the mirror after birth and I've felt ashamed. I have looked at pictures of other women who have the bodies of teenagers weeks after birth and I've burned with jealousy. I have to admit, though, it seems the third time's a charm. I've figured out that whether you have a six-pack immediately after labor or you fall into the more common category, one thing is the same: there is no turning back.

And, y'all, that is not a bad thing. The shape of a mother is beautiful.

The stretch marks across your stomach may fade with time, but they'll never go away. They are part of your story and they are not ugly. Wear them with pride and remember the incredible things your body was able to do. Your skin stretched tight because your child was growing, preparing to meet the world and experience life and love and loss and fear and anger and joy and everything else that waited on his first breath. Your skin did that.

Your hips may be a little wider than before, but with good reason. You laid on that hospital bed {or in that bed or tub, etc} and you pushed a child from your body. You, my friend, are Superwoman. I tell my husband all the time that the best part of each pregnancy is the moment the child left my body. If I could bottle the glow that warmed me from head to toe as I learned what my body was capable of, it would sell like hotcakes. There is nothing stronger than a woman. Nothing. My hips made me feel like that. Your hips did that.

For some mamas, there's a permanent scar on your lower abdomen. It's the spot your doctors used to open your body and bring life into the world. No matter the reason for your c-section, you should own that bad boy. You underwent major surgery to get to your child. You laid on the cold table in the operating room and listened to the doctors work as you anticipated your baby's first breath. From that very scar came the first tiny cries that changed your life. Your belly did that.

For weeks and months and years after that day, you worked hard to build your strength back and tone the muscles that loosened as your body changed. You sweated and cursed and moaned and groaned. Maybe you were successful, or maybe you spent your free time eating Halloween candy in the bathroom {not that I can relate...}. Whether or not your body has undergone big changes since birth, your "normal" is new. You have been branded with motherhood. Marks and scars that remind you every day just how incredible you are.

Two new bodies were born the day you became a mama and both are equally amazing.

When I study the pictures above, all taken just minutes after I gave birth, I no longer feel ashamed by the way I look. It may not be the standard of beauty you see in a magazine, but I can't think of any other time I have felt more beautiful than in the three moments shown.

I am a mother. And I am amazing.

So are you.

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Unknown said...

Love love love this

Party of Five said...

Bravo! I think that's something that I know deep down, but it's still hard to accept.

I've read your post and a magazine article just today that talk about body acceptance. I think someone is trying to teach me something. Thank you. --Rhonda

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Going to post on fb for my two brand new grandbabies' mommas. :)

Jodi said...

Love this! I definitely have my days of body bashing, but you are right -- mamas are pretty amazing! :)

Jessica Bauer said...

Thanks so much, girls! Y'all keep on rocking. :)

Kelly said...

Love this! It's only been 4 months since I had my little guy and reading your words really help me accept my new "mama body".

Sarah said...

i needed this. 15 weeks post partum and boy did i ever need this. thank you so much for your words. love this. xxo