Throughout my pregnancy, I was so proud of my body. I was excited. The bigger my tummy got, the happier I got, knowing I was growing my little bean. I was so sad when I was 30 weeks and there was no sign of any stretch marks except for on my butt, which wasn’t even growing! I was so excited when a week went by and I started getting my first stretch marks on my tummy. I immediately got onto Instagram to capture them and my excitement.
I loved watching my body grow bigger and rounder. I wore shirts that hugged my bump, showing off the fact that I was growing a life inside me. I never once felt ugly or gross while pregnant, even when I knew my waddle got worse and my body ached, even when I didn’t wear makeup or when I didn’t get dressed up. Being pregnant gave me a huge boost in my confidence. I knew my body would be changed forever by pregnancy, but I didn’t care—I shrugged it off. I told myself and everyone else I’d still love my tiger stripes and my body because I’d know that it did an amazing feat. How wrong I was.
You don’t think about it and they don’t tell you, but you will still look somewhat pregnant after giving birth. How pregnant you look will vary according to many factors, such as how much weight you gained during the pregnancy, what your body looked like before pregnancy, and even what medical conditions, if any, you had while pregnant. Whether you still look nine months pregnant or four months pregnant, you will still look pregnant. This lasted about four days or so for me. I believed that after this time, my body would tighten up a bit more, and while I’d still have my stretch marks and some loose skin, I believed for the most that I’d be more appreciative and loving towards my body, flaws and all.
I didn’t realize just how much my body had really changed. It wasn’t until I was trying to get dressed for the two weeks newborn well exam for my son that I actually saw the changes in my body. I knew my pre-pregnancy jeans wouldn’t fit so I didn’t bother with them at all. Instead, I tried my maternity jeans. They were loose around the tummy, which was to be expected—there wasn’t a baby causing a nice big bump anymore. What wasn’t expected was how snug they felt on my legs and how quickly they seemed to fall—without any belt loops, it was a struggle to keep them up. I made my fiancé go to the doctor’s appointment without me.
I stared in the mirror, analyzing every inch of my body, trying to figure out what happened. My butt still had the stretch marks it gained from pregnancy, but it was still as small as it had always been. My legs looked normal like they always had until I saw the stretch marks behind my knees. I never had stretch marks there before. Then I realized my thighs had gotten bigger too. Then I saw new stretch marks around my love handles and even on my arms, showing they had grown too. The worst part was that while my stomach was smaller, it was still loose and flabbier and painted with the stretch marks I was so excited to gain.
I never considered myself skinny, but I did feel that my body was tolerable. I’ve always struggled with my body image, but I never hated my pre-pregnancy body as much as I hated my postpartum body. And I do—I hate my postpartum body. The body that created the life of my beautiful son who I adore so much, the body that I was so in love with even while weighing the heaviest I had ever been, the stretch marks I was so excited to gain, I hate it all. I don’t wear snug shirts anymore unless I can wear a jacket or pants high enough to hide my stomach. I’ve been living in sweats and pajama pants for two months since I gave birth. Sweats and a t-shirt are my go-to now. I don’t feel comfortable in anything else. Nothing else fits. I never considered myself skinny, but I never felt this ugly, either.
Everyone is different, but I know it isn’t just me. I know I’m not the only one who feels like this, yet I feel so alone in it. Especially when I see the pictures of moms who have given birth and somehow get their pre-pregnancy bodies back immediately. I don’t want to take anything away from them, because pregnancy and having a baby is tough work and anyone who goes through it is absolutely amazing, but when my social media feed is flooded with pictures of those moms who have snapped back or even the posts about getting surgery after they’re finished having kids so they can have a snatched body, you can’t help but think something is wrong with you for not having lost all the weight yet. You can’t help but feel less than. You can’t help but feel ugly. You can’t help feeling like you’re the only one going through this.
So how do you help yourself feel better? You reach out. You talk to your doctor, maybe get on medication if needed. You text your friends. You ask your significant other to hold you a little tighter, a little longer. You do not try on any pre-pregnancy pants unless they are stretchy. Maybe you work out and try to cook better meals (if you can even find the time). You do something you love. Maybe you throw on a little makeup, put effort into your hair. Maybe you throw on a cute outfit (or really just a clean outfit). Maybe you find a creative way to fill in your stretch marks to make you hate them a little less. You cuddle that little human you spent nine months creating. You remember that you are beautiful and that you are not alone. You remember that motherhood and postpartum comes in every shape and size. No two are alike, and that’s okay! It took nine months to change your body and it can take nine months to fully heal. Give yourself time to heal, mama.