Almost every single morning, I fight a battle with myself.
On one hand, I know that my body has done great things and at the end of the day, I am not defined by my stomach rolls. I know that I will never let the fact that I still look pregnant at 18 months postpartum hold me back. But I also know, despite my best efforts, that in the back of my mind, my body insecurities are always there, like a buzzing fly you just can’t escape.
My husband gets frustrated with me, pushing my protests away. He’s always reaching for the soft spots on my stomach, the very places that housed his four children. And while I appreciate his efforts to remind me that I’m beautiful, let’s face it — he also can’t understand. He can’t understand what it’s like to be a woman, to live a life where from the very beginning you are judged both externally and internally by your appearance. He can’t understand what it’s like to watch your body change so drastically and so out of your control. He can’t understand the push and pull of appreciating a body that has done so much, but still somehow feels like a failure.
And the truth is, some days I’m just tired of fighting the fight.
Some days, I just want to admit how I really feel. Some days, I just want to be OK with not loving every aspect of my body. I don’t feel like I have to love my “mommy pooch” to love being a mommy.
I often feel weary and even discouraged by all the “do-gooder” posts out there that say we should embrace our stretch marks and love our bodies and rock our belly flab. Because honestly, the last thing I felt was pretty after I gave birth, and that feeling lasted a long, long time. As in, years long.
And in some ways, the helpful advice to moms to just embrace their changes and focus on their babies and not worry about their bodies can do more harm than good. It makes us feel as though we are doing yet another thing wrong when it comes to motherhood; like we need to feel guilty if we don’t fall swiftly in love with our new body or selfish and vain if we can’t stop thinking about getting back in shape.
But it’s unrealistic to deny that our bodies are a central part of our lives and our well-being. I mean, these bodies have been ours for a really long time before we had to share them with another human being inside of us, right? We don’t magically transcend our lowly little bodies just because we happen to give birth.
So to the mom who honest-to-goodness doesn’t love her postpartum body, this is what I would say:
It’s OK to feel gross and frumpy and die a little inside when you look at all the clothes in your closet that you wonder if you’ll ever fit into.
It’s OK to insist that the shades be down and the lights off.
It’s OK to fight a daily battle every day between wanting to live life to the fullest and just eat that goddamn cupcake with wanting to be the healthiest version of yourself for you and your kids.
It’s OK to appreciate your body’s capabilities but still wish a teeny bit inside that it could be capable and remember what abs were, you know what I’m saying?
The bottom line is, it’s OK if you don’t feel beautiful right now. But I will tell you something else, having been in that exact position four times and going through that battle at this very moment:
When you look back at pictures of yourself holding your brand-new baby and cuddling her as she grows from scrawny newborn into chubby baby and then when you’re holding her hands as she takes her first steps, you will not look at your rolls or your back fat or your flabby arms in those pictures.
You will look at the smile on your face.
The fingers that were once grasped so tightly in your own, chubby and just a little bit damp in that way babies hands are.
You will see your messy hair and skin that seems to glow because wow, you were young, and you will see all the images of that perfect, exhausting, messy life, and it will finally hit after all that time and all that shame and all that self-loathing:
That you really were beautiful all along.
You just weren’t looking in the right spots.