Thanks to the Body Positive Movement, I Prefer My Postpartum Figure — Stretch Marks and All

I’m ready for the war I’ve waged against my body to stop. I’ve got a white flag up, and I’m happily waving it. It’s time to fall in love with the home that carries me everywhere I need to go. It’s time to cherish the space that safely grew my daughter for over nine months.

It’s time to finally make peace with my body.

Yesterday, I posted a side-by-side “transformation Tuesday” photo on Instagram. I shared the image in an effort to officially join the “body positive” movement I’ve been learning so much about. In the last day, the post has been viewed 30K times, with over 1K likes and supportive comments pouring in.

image source: lindsay wolf

Normally when these transformation images are shared, they are all about weight loss. The “before” shot is of a person who is unsatisfied with the current state of their body, and the “after” shot almost always shows a slimmer, trimmer version of them. All of this is done in the name of progress, with the “after” photo implying that the person is much happier with themselves now that they have lost a bunch of weight.

But my photo was much different, because it was inspired by the extraordinary women who have recently challenged the notion that we need to lose weight in order to feel happy in our body.

On one side, I share a photo from 10 years ago. I may be smiling, but underneath it all, I’m judging myself. While scarily thin in the image, I was still holding out hope that I could lose even more weight.

“On the left is a 23-year-old woman who literally thought she was chubby in the picture shared,” I wrote. “She was self-conscious, critical of her physical shape, and always either on a diet or rebelling from one. She only saw flaws in the mirror. She acted happy, but there was definitely a restlessness, because she was worried about what would happen if she physically became anything other than what she was (which was not good enough for her anyway).”

On the other side, I share a photo from this weekend. It’s me in the postpartum body I now call home. In it, I’m at least 50 pounds heavier than I was a decade ago. I’m standing with a carefree grin on my face, the evidence of my post-baby belly tucked under a tank top and jeans.

“On the right is a 33-year-old woman who is learning to love her body without pressuring it to be anything other than what it is,” I continued. “She is getting to the heart of why, at 23, she hated her body so much. And in the process, she is healing a lifelong struggle of never fully seeing herself for the extraordinary human being she is.”

I’ve been blown away by how much this photo has resonated with so many others. One woman was reminded of how long it has taken her to finally love her own body. “So glad you are able to love yourself and realize how beautiful you really are,” she commented. “I dealt with some of [the] same issues most of my life, but it took me a lot longer to love myself for what I really am.”

Another praised the universal sentiment a post like this embodies for women everywhere. “I love this. This is the same for so many of us. Thank you for sharing it,” she wrote.

I easily connected with these comments, because I have written so many of my own underneath all the body-loving photos I’ve seen this past year. When I started researching the “body positive” movement last year, I was hoping to find other women out there like me. I was hoping to find women who have birthed a baby and have the evidence written all over their bodies — things like stretch marks, extra squish around their tummies, wider hips, and fuller figures. I was looking for solidarity at a time when I felt unrecognizable looking in the mirror after so many years of trying to maintain a thin frame.

What I ended up finding took my breath away. In the past year alone, there have been hundreds of women taking to social media to change the way they and we see their bodies. And the sheer amount of moms who have begun publicly accepting their physical selves has been nothing short of inspiring!

Just last month, a mother shared an Instagram photo of herself and wrote about how important it is to love our bodies after giving birth. Not only did the post receive over 67K likes, it also inspired yet another mama to post a similar picture of her postpartum body! Underneath it, she writes, “My body isn’t what it used to be, but even when I was a size eight, I was unhappy with how I looked. It’s not a size thing. It’s not a weight thing. It’s an inner feeling thing. My body gave me the two most important things in my life.”

Another woman recently shared how trying on a bikini in front of her daughter became a teachable moment about body acceptance, and it has naturally resonated with hundreds of thousands of women on Facebook.

“As my daughter gets older, and she faces judgment and criticism, I will always remind her that the girls who look the prettiest in a two piece, or a body suit, or a freaking Snuggie, are the ones who are happy. Because that’s ALL that matters,” she wrote.

And my personal favorite? A fitness blogger is being celebrated this week for sharing the reasons why she finally loves her postpartum stretch marks, thanks to her husband. As someone who is devoting herself to physical fitness and wellness, it was a meaningful moment to overhear her sharing how proud she is of how her body has changed. For her husband, the stretch marks reflect the incredible journey she’s experienced in becoming a mother. “I looked at my stretch marks and I felt pride,” she wrote. “I felt love. The love of my husband and the love of my children. Each one of them had been nurtured and lived behind those scars for nine months.”

In the bodies of so many women who have learned to love themselves, I begin to see myself. The more I witness these courageous examples, the more I have hope for my own journey. The woman I see today in the mirror is most definitely not a version of me I’m used to. She has expanded, she has softened, and she has strengthened. She has grown up, into someone who is going to spend every day falling deeper in love with exactly who she is. She is going to extend that same love to the daughter and stepdaughter she is helping to raise.

She is going to finally make peace with her body.

For the first time in my life, I am excited to learn who I am when I’m not tearing down myself with criticism and judgment. Thanks to all of these women and the “body positive” movement, I get to make friends with the miracle that is my body for the very first time.

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