Finding Peace With My Postpartum Body
Balancing Exceptions, Realities, and Assumptions
I am a 5'2 petite woman. The heaviest I weighed during my pregnancy was about 160 lbs. After our daughter was born, all of my "baby weight" fell off rather quickly - in large part to my constant pumping. Breastfeeding burns calories - which helps you lose weight. So not long after my delivery - say four weeks - I was actually back to my pre-pregnancy weight.
Often the discussion about moms' bodies is segmented into two camps: the battle scars vs. the snap-backs. Much like our recent presidential candidates, they represent two extremes of a very wide spectrum.
The battle scar view encourages acceptance of the female body post birth and blast those who expect women to look the same after carrying and delivering children into the world. This view says stretch marks are not flaws, but the proud marks of a woman who brought life into the world. Understandable.
The snap-back view is about our country's obsession with postpartum bodies looking as if the woman never had a baby in the first place. They come with instructions of: do this exercise or detox with this smoothie. Don't get me wrong, when I saw Teyana Taylor's snap-back body I cried a little inside because I knew that was not me, and would never be me.
Again, I get it - superficial standards of beauty plagued by coverage of celebrity moms who don't represent the everyday woman.
Instead of those two extremes, I want to focus on us women in the middle -- the moderates. They're the women who don't really don't have stretch marks to be shamed but who also don't have that picture perfect body like say a Teyanna. They're the women who don't want to starve or have time to work out every day, but are unhappy with their weight. Where's their happy place?
This search for peace was great when the only humans I saw every day were my husband and a newborn, who have no choice but to love me. I could wrestle with the complexities of the female body in the quiet of my own home without having to defend my position to anyone. But then I ended my maternity leave and returned to work - back to real life where there are real humans -- and I quickly learned I was living in a fantasy world.
Not only did I have no idea how to handle the attention my body was receiving, but I especially wasn't prepared to deal with the perception that I was "back to normal."
Like what you're reading?
Get more in your inbox.
I want to be clear: I have been small my entire life. At this point, I am sure it genetic because I am not a rock star gym rat or healthy eating guru. At first I was fascinated with the responses I was receiving, but fascination soon turned into frustration when I saw that my coworkers only judged my body based only on weight. One look at my clothed body and they saw a woman who looked similar to how she did before she got pregnant.
As time went by I saw one of two things happen: people either congratulated me on my snap-back body or proceeded to body shame me for losing weight so quickly. Almost daily, for a month, I would hear statements such like "must be nice," or "you don't even look like you had a baby." Yet, I did have a baby! I delivered a 7 lb. baby after 20 hours of labor. It was hard; it was exhausting; and, news flash: you never really look the same after. Remove the layers of clothing and I was just as fragile mentally and physically as many new moms. Yet, because my weight matched my pre-pregnant self, I was not afforded the luxury to not be happy with how I looked.
In the era of the humblebragger, there is little room for new moms in my situation. If I complain about my battle scars I am anti-feminist. If I complain about my body I am ungrateful, given my rapid weight loss. The psychological toll of being repeatedly told to accept and love your body is exhausting. And the more I thought about it the more I realized it was crap.
I do not like my stretch marks. I wish I could pay them away. Yes, they represent the beauty of life and how remarkable our bodies are - creating humans and such. But when I see them, I see regret for not using body oil every day. On the same note, I want a flat stomach. I really want a four pack but that is not realistic given my current work-out situation. I had a flat stomach before pregnancy and I want it back. Does that make me a bad person? Have I succumbed to the pressures of mainstream standards? I seriously doubt it.
So I decided that I am done being apologetic about my small size, about my disdain of my stretch marks, and for my desire of a flat stomach. I am also done trying to reason with other people about how I feel about my own body. Shame and disgrace me as much as you wish, my peace is no longer tied to others' opinions of how I view my body or how I choose to describe my current emotional state.
In the form of feminism that I subscribe to -- the super complex one with many layers of race, class, religion, and geography -- I call the shots.
Only when we remove the labels that plague both black women and the feminist movement, will our minds and bodies be free.
The battle scar and snap-back body moms should be able to coexist in a world of acceptance. They are both equally entitled to feel how they wish about their bodies. It's in this world of acceptance that I'll still be somewhere in the middle trying to figure it all out.