Most women can’t seem to escape the nagging voice that lurks within the dark crevices of the mind comparing ourselves to others. We did it in high school, and somehow, even with a spouse, a close friend or two and a place to call our own, we still let it rob us of our confidence in ourselves. Something that I have struggled with and have heard other mommas echo, is that our self-esteem postpartum is lower than before. For me, it can sometimes be as low as when I was in 8th grade and struggling with teenage acne and a smaller bust size. The sad reality can be, while we were comparing ourselves to others before, we look at our postpartum bodies now and we are comparing ourselves to an earlier version.
“Well I didn’t have these stretch marks making my stomach look like a freakin’ roadmap..” And no one tells you that when you leave the hospital with that long-awaited beautiful new bundle of love cradled in your tired arms that you are still going to look four months pregnant. Yeah. No one warned me about that. (Boy was I surprised? Nah, I would say a little more horrified.) And there is no telling how long it is going to take for our skin to go back just as it was, or at least pretty darn close. Somehow I weigh less than I did before I got pregnant with my second son and that God-awful “relaxed” skin just doesn’t seem to give me the credit where it’s due. I look the exact same. I am tired of looking at my naked side profile in the mirror and sucking in my breath, holding it in, and trying to imagine what it would look like if the skin finally did what it was supposed to and tightened up already.
The joke is before I ever had kids I saw an image online with text that said, “your body isn’t ruined, you are just a tiger who earned her stripes.” Oh my sweet little naïve self, I literally didn’t know what on earth they were referring to. One look at those magically appearing stretch marks while pregnant with my first and that epiphany quickly hit me dead in the face. Something we seriously need to realize when we try and compare our current bodies to the earlier model, is that it isn’t ruined it is just…altered. I mean think about it, and if you remember nothing from this post please remember this,
Your body has just fulfilled its absolute HIGHEST purpose that it ever could as a woman.
Give yourself some freakin’ credit! Your body has been working toward this huge feat since you were in your mother’s womb. You were born with all of the amazing eggs you would ever have and you never made any more after your birth. Then that lovely (I’m overflowing with sarcasm here) menstrual cycle began and you had one more enjoyable little stepping stone you had to tackle in order for you to do the most amazing thing that a human being can possibly do—you created, nourished, grew and delivered another human being into this world. You deserve not only an infinite amount of praise and chocolate (it’s my love language) but grace. Look down at the beautiful little one that is half you and realize the stretch marks will fade. That midriff skin will…eventually…return to its normal state. This will not last forever. But the amazing feat you tackled in delivering that love of your life into this world will always be yours to enjoy. Don’t let body shaming steal you of the immeasurable joy that this beautifully fleeting season of motherhood has to offer. You’ve earned that joy.
The irony is, it was when I was pregnant with my first child that for the first time in my entire life I truly valued my body and all that it was designed to do. I reflected on how I overly criticized myself and how I looked growing up and said, “but look what miracles I can do.” I can create life. And with writing this I was trying to find the right word to encapsulate all that delivering a baby is and the word feat just fit so perfectly; it is defined as, “an achievement that requires great courage, skill, or strength.” You are stronger than you think. Finally give yourself grace. Too often we put truly unreasonable expectations on ourselves. How we look, and now as a parent, how we are as a mother. Stop comparing yourself to an earlier version of yourself, and then go one step further and stop comparing yourself to anyone else.