My friends with kids told me this would happen when I got pregnant. They explained that my body would change and go through this insane, yet miraculous, birthing process, and then slowly start to revert back to its former self – “sort of” – but it wouldn’t be quite the same.
I didn’t think about it much until it started to happen, and things changed and I had moments where I felt gross, and other moments when I felt sexier than ever, and other moments when everything just hurt. It felt like someone had taken over my body (because someone HAD taken over my body) and the way I saw it, it was up to me to keep him well fed, rested and incubated for at least 38 weeks.
Since I had a risk of pre-term labor, I was very intentional about creating a safe and happy home for my little man while he grew in my belly. This consisted of lots of Umami burgers, Annie's mac n' cheese and pints of Three Twins ice cream for good measure. I really gave my body over to my pregnancy, and for the most part, really enjoyed the change because I was so excited to be having a baby.
And then my sweet boy arrived – timing it perfectly with the formation of my cankles and overnight ballooning of my face, bless his heart. During the short 5 hour labor (don’t hate me) I quickly learned that if there is one thing to make you care less about body image, it’s labor and delivery. It’s messy and nutty and when I was in the throws of it, I could care less how I looked. And when it was over, I was so overcome with my little guy that I didn’t care what sort of repair work was going on downstairs before they slip me into a lovely ice diaper. Vanity flew out the window, and I didn’t even notice.
After that came the post delivery months of my body slowly trying to figure out what the heck happened and what it was supposed to do – from nursing, to sleep deprivation, to the pocket of loose skin on my belly that resembled a hobo bag. During this time, once again, I just tried to surrender to the process and let my body do its thing.
I think the actress Olivia Wilde summed it up perfectly when asked about her post baby body and replied by saying, “I’m softer than I’ve ever been, including that unfortunate semester in high school when I simultaneously discovered Krispy Kreme and pot.” To me, those are the most accurate words spoken about the post-baby state of the female body. Ladies (and gentlemen, you should listen as well) WE. GET. SOFTER. Things that were once firm, become soft. And I kinda think it’s perfect, in a poetic sort of way.
I find that the outer softened state of my body is simply a reflection of the softened inner state of my being as a new mom. As my body transformed and softened to carry my son, so did my heart, my mind, my outlook, and my “must-do-it-all” intensity. When they put that little cherub into my arms for the first time, my heart both melted and exploded. And what’s left is a softer version of me. One that cries at the drop of a hat (or an SPCA commercial).
Magazines are covered with models and actresses boasting about getting back in shape weeks after giving birth. And maybe that’s what they need to do to collect a paycheck. I just wish we lived in world that focused more on the inner work involved with becoming a mom. Because it is an act of total transformation and vulnerability that changes us in ways we can’t imagine until it happens.
I have found this inner softening to be a gift in my life, one that keeps unfolding and revealing more. For example, I notice myself not jumping to judgment so quickly, and instead look for more empathetic ways to hold people or situations. I find myself listening more to others. Like, really listening to them and trying to connect. I feel more grounded, and less rushed, living life at a pace that allows me to be more present. I also embrace my vulnerability now, and see it as a source of courage and strength, not something to hide.
I think it's important for us to take a moment now and then to apply a good dose of self-love to ourselves and appreciate the gift that motherhood has brought to our hearts and our bodies. And hopefully, we can take a moment and feel a bit of joy – and pride – towards the softening effect that takes place when we become mothers.