An Honest Letter to my Post-baby Body

olive chan —  July 22, 2013 — 12 Comments

Dear post-baby body,

To everyone else in the world, you probably look pretty much the same as you did three years ago, before pregnancy and childbirth ran their course. But you’ve changed. We both know it. I didn’t mind the changes so much during the first year of motherhood when breastfeeding melted off the pounds and moved me up a bra size, but now that the baby is weaned and things are back to “normal,” it’s quite a different story.

honest letter to post baby bodyMaybe I am being too critical of you. Correction: I know I’m being too critical. All the glossy magazines at the check-out aisles that advertise “surefire ways to flatten your belly” don’t help your cause. Neither do the plethora of Pinterest pins that showcase how to “get your pre-baby body back.” They tell me that this mid-section flesh is extraneous and not pleasing – to be done away with. They insist that these breasts have become too empty and diminished. They say that these marks that trace the story of this skin should be covered up. They maintain that every body needs to be kept strong and sculpted.

And it’s not just outside voices that are affecting me. I have fears, too.

I’m afraid of growing old. I look around at the middle-aged women I see while I cross the street and notice their filled out waists. I feel like I’m moving inevitably toward having that kind of a shape (as if it’s undesirable!). And along with that, that stage of life. The colony of grey hairs on top of my head also testify of this progression.

I’m afraid of being ugly – of losing my beauty. While shopping the other day, for the very first time, I actually felt a pang of envy when I saw how thin and smooth the mannequin’s abdomen was. Seriously, I was jealous of a doll. “I used to look like that,” was what crossed my mind. I know, these fears are irrational and based on how others define beauty, but the internal conflict is real nonetheless.

I’m afraid of becoming weak. My back gets kinked up more than I care to admit. And ever so slightly, I notice myself slowing down and feeling more worn at the end of each day.

Post-baby body, I will be honest. I’m struggling to love you.

And yet, there are moments when I look in the mirror and recognize that this pooch with its wrinkled skin and cavernous belly button is a precious reminder of the life I was privileged to carry; a gift that is unfortunately denied to many women. You worked so hard to nourish, protect and birth another life. Why would I want to look like all that had never happened? And these shrunken breasts, have they not given life to not only my child but to a hundred others? These jiggly arms, this grey hair, these fine lines that track their way across my face… This is what experience looks like. This is what it means to be a woman and no longer a girl. This is all part of being human.

I am learning to see you anew with eyes of courage. I will not be afraid of looking my age. For not everyone gets to grow old. I will aspire to smile my way into my golden years so that my eyes will dance with twinkle wrinkles. And I will not be afraid of looking like a mother. For this body bears the marks of giving. And generosity is one of the most beautiful ways of being in the world. I will not be afraid of growing weaker. For in weakness, I join with the rest of humanity.

So, dear body, I thank you for being exactly what you are. I may not always feel affectionate toward you, but I pray that I would love you well.

Because all is grace,

[Note: This post was inspired by the synchroblog entitled, “A Love Letter To My Body,” that took place a year ago in July 2012 at SheLoves Magazine.]

[Update: After posting this and receiving some feedback, I realized that I want to differentiate between having a defeatist mentality – not trying to change the things I can change – and acceptance – not trying to change the things I can’t change. This letter for me was an exercise in acceptance. Doing my best to keep my body healthy and in shape is still part of loving my body.]

  • Lily

    well said my friend <3

  • Love these beautiful words, Olive. xoxo

    • olivechan

      Thank you, Teen! So blessed by you. xoxo

  • Love that you linked this with the synchroblog, Olive. As for my post-baby body,let’s just say jumping on the trampoline isn’t as uneventful as I’d like it to be. ;)

    • olivechan

      Every time I read your comment, Idelette, I can’t help but laugh! I was deeply inspired by the synchroblog last year and I knew I had a letter in me – the time just wasn’t right until now. So glad I can still participate.

  • Holly

    As I stare down the last weeks of my third pregnancy at my “advanced maternal age” I am all too conscious of what awaits me on the other side… exactly what you’ve described above. But you’ve been honest and kind and graceful to yourself and that is what I need to remember, above all else. This life, this body–all of it–is such a gift. Thank you, Olive.

    • olivechan

      Thank you, Holly. As I wrote, I thought to myself, “If I’m struggling like this after ONE baby, what am I going to be like if I have more children?!” But yes, it is all a gift. And even if it’s saggy, flabby grace, it still is grace. Blessings to you as you prepare for your third child!

  • Erin Wilson

    Dear Olive- this is such a beautiful letter to your body. I see so much wisdom here. So much love.

    • olivechan

      Thank you, Erin. I appreciate your kind words and encouragement!

  • Fiona

    Thanks for posting this, Olive. There is so much truth, even pre-baby! Hope you can remind me if and when the day comes in the future :)

  • Beth In the City

    Olive, I’m so glad you are digging deep on these issues! As a 42 year old middle aged mom, I would like to offer some encouragement and perspective, if I may. I want to start by saying that I struggle with my own body. I’m trying to loose weight, for health and for appearance. I do not like that squishy middle and I am doing what I can to make it better. My aches and pains have receded as I have added exercise to my weekly routine. I am so grateful. Don’t give up on stretching and toning your body. Google exercises that will close any muscles that separated during pregnancy.

    In addition, you have some things to look forward to in your middle years. I have become more self-aware. I am more at ease at expressing what I want – at even knowing what I want to start with. I have more to offer my friends and family because I have more experience to draw from. I enjoy my husband, my friendships, my teenaged children so much. My faith has deepened by the hardships I have experienced. God has softened me and drawn me close.

    It is hard to see my gray hairs, my sagging jaw, my wrinkles emerging. But when I look at what I have become I cannot say I would go back to my 20 year old self. Blessings to you!

  • natashajonesdavies

    What an apt and moving letter. Thank you for posting. I just started my own blog and posted a little about my post partum rollercoaster