When you give birth, I’m convinced that there is absolutely no way to be prepared for the overwhelming love you feel for that fresh, tiny – or maybe not so tiny…bless you – human. The moment they first handed me my 6 lb, 9 oz little boy, I was downright giddy. Deliriously giddy. As in, I had no clue what was going on nor what I was actually doing. Those moments felt comparable to my wedding day on steroids; hours flew by like minutes, and before I knew it, it was over. All of the sudden we were driving home with our sweet baby on Christmas morning, knowing nothing about how to truly care for him or how to do this whole parenting thing.
Those first days at home were honestly a blur of celebrating the holidays and spending time with family. To be completely frank, though, it didn’t take me long to hone in on the wreckage I’d been left with following the birth of my son. When I looked at myself in the mirror, I cried (thank you crazy hormones, for exacerbating the situation). I simply couldn’t accept the idea that what I saw staring back at me was, in fact, me; that midsection could not be the same one that used to grace my body before my son began to grow inside of me. It was a flabby, bulbous, wrinkly, protruding, dangling mass of fluids, fat, and skin. I felt infinitely more uncomfortable in my own skin than I ever had as an awkward teenager navigating puberty, and I came to loathe my own body. I would avoid looking in the mirror, peeking down at “the blob” in the shower, or wearing anything tight enough to expose the world to my pudgy self.
I knew that with many friends who had also recently given birth, the best thing to do was to talk about the way I was feeling and be honest about my newfound self-hatred to avoid isolation. Here’s the part that both surprised and hurt me: no one was willing to talk openly about this feeling. Many wouldn’t even allow me to fully express my discomfort, cutting me off mid-sentence only to tell me, “But you just had a baby,” or, “You look so great, give it some time!” Of course I understood their beautiful, sweet intentions as friends trying to lift me from a dark place, but what I needed was for someone to get deep down to the nitty-gritty of motherhood with me. I needed someone to tell me what I’m going to tell you, Mama:
This is such an incredible, miraculous, unique time in your life, but you’re right, sometimes it sucks. Sometimes you will feel like you are an alien. You will feel like you’ve given your absolute all to this little being that has no way of thanking you for your sacrifice. When you look at yourself, you may cry, scream, cringe, dry heave, panic, or all of the above. You’ll probably feel like you will never be “you” again, and that will make you feel inadequate. You might feel weak, helpless, overwhelmed, vain, confused, unworthy, selfish, ugly, embarrassed, and unlovable.
But know this, Mama. You are not alone. Billions of others have felt what you are feeling. And let me set one thing straight for you, one lie that is fed to us that really ticks me off: your feelings regarding your new body do not make you selfish, and they in no way negate the joy and gratitude you feel when you look into the face of your precious babe. Many will also tell you that you should suddenly feel strong and powerful and untouchable now that you’ve birthed a human, and if that’s you, what a blessing that is! But if not, it’s okay. You will get there, and you’ll be all the more grateful for that feeling because you had to journey to find it.
Now, mamas, go forth and be courageous. Don’t be afraid to jump into the trenches with your friends. Don’t be afraid to stop sugarcoating everything you say. Don’t be afraid to get real and actually listen to the heart of your friend before allowing yourself to speak into her life. It might not be her newly soft tummy that bothers her, but there is something that she needs you to hear. And maybe all she needs you to say is, “I know, I’ve been there, too. Now, I’m here for you.” That right there is both uncomfortable and genuine, and it’s probably exactly what she’s been missing.