Your one-and-only body has done something transformative. Embrace it.
Having a baby is a big deal, physically speaking. Everyone is different, of course, but for many people, it means your organs get pushed around, your hormones do all kinds of weird things, and you might gain a bunch of weight. Then you have to deliver the baby somehow, and even uncomplicated births often come with a recovery period that is quite intense. Then, of course, there’s a baby that you have to constantly be picking up, bouncing, pushing in the stroller, and positioning in order to breastfeed, if you’re doing that—and we won’t even mention what the nipples go through.
The recovery process is intense. It’s different for everyone, of course, and I imagine some people do “bounce back” pretty quickly. I wasn’t one of those people. I had some complications and was not allowed to exercise for nearly three months. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck in my nether regions, and yet there was this little being who completely depended on me for everything to do with his survival. It was a lot—and I was lucky enough to have a partner on parental leave who could help me. I can’t imagine how people get through it when they have to go back to work right away and/or lack the help they need to get through the first part of new parenthood.
I’ve been doing yoga for about 25 years, and this was the first time I’ve had to really stop all exercise for weeks on end. My body felt blobby and unsteady. I could barely pick the baby up off the floor. I thought of all the Hindu and Tantric goddesses with their softly curved bellies and full breasts leaking milk—the sexy, fertile warrior mother with a brood of children looking up at her adoringly. I didn’t expect to feel exactly like that, of course, but I really didn’t feel anything like that.
And that’s okay. My yoga practice isn’t really about what I can or can’t do physically. It’s about practicing loving myself no matter what my body looks like in the mirror.
I keep thinking of an old friend who talked about liking being bigger when her baby was small. My baby can take comfort in my soft, warm arms and chest and belly. I am large and present for him, my doughiness, maybe, a part of my ability to mother well. I am recovering from the major experience of gestating and birthing a child from my body, and that came after the complex experience of trying to become pregnant in the first place. I’m lucky to have been able to give birth to my child. I should look a little different after the fact. I am different.
Loving my body has always been a practice for me, and it certainly hasn’t always been easy. I believe our bodies are always on our side, always trying to help us in some way or another. It doesn’t always feel helpful—but even with chronic illness or pain, the body is attempting to alert us to something or compensate for some imbalance somewhere. It’s not always easy to love our bodies, but they are our bodies, and we’re stuck with them—’til death do us part. So, we might as well try our best to care for them.
This culture isn’t the best at helping me love my postpartum body. I am larger, squishier, and weaker in a world that wants me to be small, hard, and strong. It tells me that now that I am a mother, I can no longer be sexy, young, wild, or free. But that doesn’t have to be my truth. I still get to be myself. I get to see myself as a powerful mother with the strength to heal and the capacity to care for my baby in the best ways that I’m able. I can practice loving this body exactly as it is, today.
How about yours? Embrace your one-and-only body.