I stood in front of the mirror. As I allowed my eyes to run up and down my body, a few stray tears escaped and rolled down my cheeks.
It just wasn’t fair. This isn’t what I wanted.
“What’s wrong?” my husband said, looking concerned, as he came around the corner.
“N-nothing,” I said hastily as I wiped the tears that were now flowing freely down my face, “nothing at all.”
“Look, you need to tell me,” he said, rounding the corner, and holding me in an embrace.
“I shouldn’t look like this!” I blurted through my tears, “it’s been six months and I STILL haven’t lost the weight! I’m-a-personal-trainer-I’m-better-than-this!”
“Look, hun,” he sighed, “you’re beautiful. You’ve just had a baby, and you’re doing so well with looking after yourself. You’re doing such a great job.”
I laughed, more because it was unbelievable than because it was comical. More tears rolled down. “All I want is my body back,” I said, quietly.
Everyone told me I wouldn’t get my body back after baby. “You’ll never look the same again!” they’d say, almost gloatingly, like they were happy at the thought that I’d finally join the ranks of women with mom-bods, “Just you wait, it gets worse with each baby!” they’d say, with a twinkle in their eye.
In the few weeks after I gave birth to my son, I didn’t care what my body looked like. I was in a state of euphoria. I felt my body was amazing. My body had given birth to this absolutely beautiful little human being and I couldn’t have felt stronger, more beautiful, or more useful to the world.
But as the weeks and months went by, the satisfaction with my strength faded, and I saw less and less to beautiful about my body.
Slowly, slowly the weight was creeping off, but oh so slowly. Who was it that said breastfeeding makes you lose weight quickly? I was struggling to even maintain my weight with how hungry this whole feeding-another-human venture made me. Not to mention the fact that I felt a little like a cow-on-demand.
I went to the gym frequently but was shocked at how much strength I had lost. I was weaker than during my pregnancy (which I wasn’t expecting) and after being cut after a stressful delivery in unmentionable places, there were issues with certain exercises I hadn’t anticipated.
There were also things I was sure ever be the same. Breasts that had been engorged to be larger than Dolly Parton’s (and shrunk and inflated and shrunk numerous times over as they filled and emptied and filled again), stretch marks across thighs that had already been stretched during awkward teen years, and a body that just overall didn’t quite look the same.
On top of all the normal bodily changes and pressure, I just happen to be a personal trainer. I know how to lose weight fast with diet and exercise, often felt like a total failure, and felt like everyone was looking at me like I needed to be skinny yesterday. I mean, just try telling someone you are a personal trainer while carrying a six-month-old (that looks like a 1-year-old) and a few extra kilos on your hip, and just see how the eyes quickly dart over your body, expectantly. Just google “pregnant personal trainer” and you’ll see all the tiny trainers with tiny bumps that disappear the moment they give birth. That wasn’t me, but I desperately wanted it to be. So bad that I would complain, cry, and fret about it.
…all I wanted was my body back.
We as women are obsessed with this.
“Get your pre-baby body back fast!” says the svelte trainer in the glossy picture with the fake tan. She’s holding her baby up in her arms with a little sign that says, “6 months.”
“What’s your excuse?” says another through smiling teeth while kneeling on the floor in a sports bra and crop top with her three smallish children.
If you do a google search for “lose baby weight” or “pre-baby body back,” you’ll be presented with an endless glut of information on the subject. Titles like, “Easy Ways to Get Your Body Back !” “10 Ways to Achieve Your Pre-Pregnancy Body,” and “Lose That Baby Weight – FAST!” scream out at you, telling you that the body you have needs to be changed yesterday, if not before.
They promise it’s easy, they promise it’s fast, and they imply it’s necessary.
…and so there I was sobbing in my husband’s arms, feeling like a sad, stretched-out version of myself. I’d love to say that it was an isolated event, but the truth is it has happened many times postpartum. I’ll swing like a crazy pendulum out of control. I’ll be happy and contented, and then I’ll suddenly crash and burn. Because I just want my body back.
But I’m coming to realise that I will never have it back.
In fact, not only is it impossible to have it back but it is also a terrible thing to desire it, because to have my pre-baby body back would be to have never had a baby – and to desire to have it back is to consider my beauty worth more than my son.
The body I had didn’t have skin that was stretched to its limits in order to grow a healthy baby boy. The body I had wasn’t cut in order to let out a distressed baby after a whole hour of trying to push him out into this world. The body I had hadn’t fed a baby with its own milk, day after day, month after month.
When I really think about what it is I am wishing for when I wish for my pre-baby body back, I am ashamed. I realise that to wish for my body back in all it’s pre-baby glory, without the scars and stretch marks, would be to wish that my son was never conceived. That I never carried him. That I never held him in my arms. To wish for that body back, the one that had never housed another living soul, is to wish for a life without my son.
Because of this, I never, ever want to have my pre-baby body back.
In worrying about gaining weight during pregnancy and worrying about losing it postpartum, I’ve robbed myself of so much joy. I’ve wasted so much precious time and energy sobbing in front of the mirror, snapping at my husband, and hiding the body that he loves and wants to see despite all its changes. I’ve ruined countless moments with my self-deprecation – desperately wishing I had my body back when such wishes are futile.
I may look the same again with time and effort, but I will never, ever be the same again. Being the same again is impossible. I’ve been irreparably altered: mind, body, and soul.
Changed, forever – and for the better.
So, from now on, I choose to be more about celebrating life, than commiserating over youth and beauty lost. I choose to be more about becoming a stronger, happier, and healthier version of myself than worrying about looking like I once did. I choose to be more about living life fully alive than letting my warped perception of my body make me miserable.
I choose to take joy in everything it took to bring about my son’s life – because were I to have to choose, I would give it all again. I would be stretched and cut 1000 times over again to have exactly what I have now.
Right at this moment, I’m looking at my son and it breaks my heart that at times that in my moments of selfishness, I have wished for a body that never carried or birthed him.
I never, ever, want my pre-baby anything back.
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Read my birth story here.
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