I really have used the whole pregnancy/baby thing to slack on my blogging! Sorry to both or all three of my faithful readers!! I thought it appropriate on my first blog back after baby to talk about what I see as our culture’s weird and somewhat twisted view of women’s bodies surrounding pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period.
Let me begin by saying that I have always been thin. This is not the same as saying I have always looked like a supermodel. Au contraire! I love my healthy body, and I embrace it’s unique angles and curves, “faults” and strengths, but it’s just a fact that my figure is not the airbrushed “perfect” look of a Victoria’s Secret model. As part of my skinny loveliness package, I also come with boney knees and elbows, an itty-bitty bra size, and rail thin arms and legs. Would I like curvacious legs and bombshell boobs? Sure! But that’s not the body type the good Lord blessed me with! I eat rich, wholesome foods and I exercise every day, not to maintain a certain dress size, but because it FEELS GOOD! I want to live my life with ample energy and a healthy, strong body to carry me through life’s adventures.
So I feel perplexed and even a bit frustrated when people exclaim, “You don’t look like you just had a baby!” I know its supposed to be a flattering compliment, but I feel it reflects an untrue and sad cultural ideology surrounding women’s bodies after childbirth. I wholeheartedly believe that here is no more beautiful and powerful time in a women’s life than when she is teaming up with the Creator of Life to grow, nourish, sustain, and give birth to a brand new person! It’s totally an awesome metamorphosis to watch your body go through the amazing stages of pregnancy. Labor itself is an event that defies all logic, and the fact that women’s bodies are designed to go through that event with such rhythm and intelligence should give us all a healthy reverence and respect for what the human body is capable of.
I’m not going to completely romanticize the postpartum period and say that it is all bliss and overflowing love and shininess. No, sleep deprivation is a real thing, and it’s not very pretty. I remember a particular Facetime chat with our good friends the week after our son was born. When the call ended, my husband and I hoped our dark under-eye circles and generally dazed look hadn’t scared our friends into seeking out a permanent form of birth control. The feeling of being overwhelmed with a new baby and the high learning curve of caring for a helpless little person can be totally daunting and make you feel a bit crazy. And yes, a women’s body needs time to heal and recover from the insane marathon of labor and birth. Those “Tough Mudder” races have nothing on childbirth!!! Holy smokes, it is a grizzly experience. But our bodies are not wrecked from it! It will take patience, diligent self care, lots of love, and some precious sleep to come back, but if we care for ourselves and are offered loving care by those around us, it will. It is so damaging for a woman to buy into the idea that once she is pregnant, she is going to become unfit and out of shape and a slave to all kinds of unhealthy food cravings!
Healthy, well-loved bodies are beautiful bodies! Curvy, tall, short, petite, skinny, whatever. At any life stage (pregnant or otherwise), eat nourishing whole foods and exercise daily, and the best advice of all, from my midwife, “be in love”. Whatever shape your body type lends itself to, you are beautiful and radiant when you care for yourself. For those of you who are at the time of life that involves the drastic physical and emotional changes surrounding pregnancy and childbirth, keep the mindset that this is an incredible, beautiful, and magnificent time in your life, not a time to let yourself slide into a place of resigned apathy and negligence. One day I hope an old friend comes up to me in line at the store and says, “You look incredible, powerful, and strong! You look like you just had a baby!!!“