It still catches me by surprise when I hurriedly whip open the shower curtain after my five-minute mother’s shower and see the first glimpse of my “new” body, my mom body, featured in our bathroom mirror, all fogged up with steam.
At first glance, I’m surprised at the image that stares back at me. My thighs are much shapelier than they’ve ever been before, my stomach where my precious baby once grew is now round and squishy, resembling fresh bakery dough, and my breasts are veiny, leaking, and almost always swollen from breastfeeding.
This is not the adult body I have been used to as a lover of running and yoga, but in the past four months of insanely loving our beautiful child, our rainbow baby, I have developed a much stronger, self-loving perspective. I am the proud owner of a mom body that I could not possibly love more.
I will be honest though, in those first few weeks after delivery, with postpartum hormones pumping faster and more furiously than I could handle, I didn’t have a peaceful and loving view of my body. After 30 hours of labor and an emergency C-section, I was swollen enough to be featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and to say I was sore would have been a massive understatement.
A slew of self-deprecating vocabulary haunted me day and night in those first couple of weeks of motherhood. I would have described myself then as disgusting, and that hideous word that I would very much like to eliminate from the English language: fat. I cried to my husband that my veiny breasts looked like something you would see in a Halloween horror show and got annoyed that they constantly leaked.
I vainly looked at pre-pregnancy pictures just to remember what I used to look like, and all of a sudden I came to an alarming realization. When I was “thin” I was also sad—really, really sad, and filled with indescribable heartache.
My husband and I lost our first baby boy with Down Syndrome and hydrops fetalis in October of 2015, and in the days that followed our excruciatingly painful loss, I became the thinnest and absolute saddest version of myself. I never wanted to eat, and fearful that I would never fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a mother, there were days that I wasn’t even sure I wanted to live. It was the kind of heartache that wakes you up in the night, engulfs your whole body with hurt, and looms overhead like a terrible nightmare throughout your days. Those were my “skinny” days.
But I fought that pain with the help of my husband (bless you, sweet soul) and the most special loved ones (whom I will never be able to thank enough), and I fought that pain hard. There were days that I wanted to give up, but my lifelong wish to become a mother overpowered the dark sadness that threatened to take over. And finally, after 18 months of praying, wishing, and hoping for a miracle, our second baby boy was born healthy, thriving, and 7.5 pounds of absolute perfection.
I remember those very sad, skinny days when I wasn’t a mother all too well, and I absolutely don’t want them back.
In fact, I wouldn’t trade them for the world, and what a beautiful, miraculous world I get to live in now! I am a mother, a real mother! I’m so proud that I want to shout it from the rooftops! There are moments that I cannot believe this incredible little boy chose me to be his mother.
I tiptoe to his crib in the middle of the night to make sure he’s real. I marvel at his every sound and touch. I kiss him and breathe in that delicious baby smell hundreds of times throughout the day. I love him so much that overjoys and terrifies me all at once; and the wildest part is that with every passing day, I love him even more than the day before, which I didn’t think was possible. Motherhood is a true blessing.
And he loves me, too, so very much. I see it in his eyes when he first finds my face every morning and lights up like a Christmas tree with the most joyful smile I’ve ever known. He loves me for me, because I am his mother. He doesn’t care that I don’t wear makeup anymore, or that my old jeans are still too tight, or about any of the other superficial things I used to waste time worrying about.
These shapelier thighs I now have? They supported my gargantuanly pregnant body for the nine, let’s be honest, really the ten months that it took to grow this miracle. They carry me through these wonderful days of motherhood and have served me all of my life doing activities that I love. I love these legs and am fortunate to have them!
This round, squishy stomach of mine? That is where I grew this beautiful child! Thank you, stomach, for being so flexible and stretchy; for providing a safe and nurturing environment for my baby! I think my son would agree that it’s his absolute favorite place in the world to be, snuggled against my squishy belly while I breastfeed him. I am so grateful for my soft stomach, which, by the way, healed at incredible lightning speed after major abdominal surgery, thank you very much.
These leaky, veiny, swollen breasts? They are feeding my child; yes, legitimately giving life to my sweet baby multiple times every single day. And my, how he is growing because of them! Thank you, breasts, for working so well! Being able to breastfeed is a gift, and I know that it is not this easy for some mothers. I am beyond grateful for these soon to be sagging, yet very healthy breasts.
And yes, self-care and exercise are still very important to me. I haven’t neglected to recognize the benefits they provide. I am trying to exercise every day, but with a new intention: to be the best version of myself with mental, emotional, and physical health…not just to fit into my old clothes. I still love running and yoga because they bring clarity, calmness, self-awareness, and peace so that I can be the best mama, wife, daughter, sister, friend, and teacher I can be.
So to all of you mamas out there learning to love your mom bod, I salute you with the utmost respect and admiration. In fact I have so much more respect for you when I see you on the street—in your yoga pants, that may or may not be used for yoga, in a shirt covered in spit up combined with that delightfully dirty hair—than I ever will for anyone else. You go, mama!
I hope you find peace within your heart to love yourself no matter what your body looks like. You just performed a true miracle growing a human being for nearly a year, and now you spend every waking moment keeping that baby happy, healthy, and alive! Be grateful for all that your body has done and will continue to do for you. It is a work of art, a miracle maker! May you spend this time only immersed in pleasure and love, enjoying your sweet, perhaps long-awaited miracle. These moments of motherhood won’t come around again, not in this way, not with this baby; so I hope you can treasure them, jiggles, leaks, extra pounds, and all.
You, my fellow mamas, are the strongest, most beautiful women in the world.
Author: Julie W. Patel
Image: Flickr/Alena Getman
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina