In the face of everything else that a woman has to face in the postpartum period—namely, her brand-new baby and all that it entails—there isn’t much time, initially, to think about herself. Showers, makeup and hair, and eating are only some of the things that seem to fly out of the window during those first few weeks, and mother and baby are in their own little fourth trimester bubble.
As time goes by, the mother’s vision broadens again, and her bubble expands. And this is when, often, she has to deal with something that seems to take a lot of us by surprise: accepting the postpartum changes in our bodies.
Accepting Both The Big and Small Changes
It’s easy to think only of the women whose bodies are completely different from pre-pregnancy here, those who gain a lot of weight, those whose hair and skin completely change texture, those whose stretch marks spill over the neckline of shirts or the waistline of pants. But even the women who look exactly the same (or even better!) have to go through a period of grief: grief over losing the only body they had ever know.
This is such a delicate issue that I feel incredibly grateful so many of my friends and readers opened up to me and shared their experiences. One of my friends couldn’t look at herself in the mirror for months. This particular friend didn’t seem different to anyone, and, quite honestly, to herself. Everything she used to wear before her pregnancy still fit her just as perfectly. But her body felt different. It wasn’t hers, anymore, and she felt like she had to somehow conquer it again.
Another one of my friends grieved so badly over her old body that she would burst into tears every time she would take a shower. Her body had changed a little, but not obviously so to anyone but those who very closely scrutinised her. But there was something that felt familiar about her pre-pregnancy body that wasn’t there anymore, and it took her a couple of months to get over it.
Dealing With the Change
Another one of my friends started saving money for plastic surgery for a reason that, funnily enough, she never thought she would miss: her formerly small breasts became and remained huge, and she hated it. She, the same person who, at the age of 18, lamented the lack of any discernible curves on her chest, couldn’t wait to get rid of the voluptuous ones she now had.
Another one friend threw out all her bikinis—her body now holds a large number of stretch marks. Although she admires them for what they are—a sign of the three lives her body nurtured and brought into this world—she just can’t bring herself to show something so intimate off to the world.
All these women and the others I talked to were feeling an interesting mix of emotions, bringing together admiration for the capacity of their body to create life and grief over the loss of the body that had brought them to this point of their own lives.
And all agreed that the one thing you should never say to a woman grieving over her pre-pregnancy body is: “It will be OK.” Rather, just listen to her and let her feel the grief. Hold her hand, give her a hug, take her baby so that she can nap or shower (preferably, both). And, without trying to convince her that she shouldn’t grieve, or without making her feel bad for grieving, just tell her how beautiful you think she is, right then and there.
Have you witnessed a new mom dealing with post-partum acceptance? Or are you a mom who had to deal with it? What are your tips to help someone go through this phase?