I'm seven weeks postpartum, and I cannot wait to get my body back. That is by no means a novel statement in the land of new mommies eager to drop the pounds and carve out a few minutes of much-needed "me" time in an effort to get back into shape. But seldom is that admission met with anything other than well-intentioned words of encouragement. "You just had a baby; don't be so hard on yourself!" Or, "It took nine months to gain it, so expect it to take nine months to lose it!" Herein lies the problem.
For me, and I daresay a lot of other new moms, it isn't just about losing the baby weight. I would be lying if I said that wasn't part of it, because whether we like it or not, we live in a culture that idealizes thinness and praises the (incredibly unrealistic) postbaby celebrity "bounceback." So yes, while I think most of us mommies do long to see a certain number on the scale, there really is more to it for a lot of women. For me, it's about rebuilding my strength, rebalancing my mental health, and reclaiming my physical autonomy.
I spent the better part of my life battling near-constant stomach issues, which eventually culminated in surgery to remove my gallbladder and an allergen-free diet. Before my surgery, I struggled with my weight as a side effect of my illness. I always felt bloated and sick, had gained 25 pounds, and forgot what it meant to feel good about myself in the process. After my surgery, I worked hard to get my health back on track, build my strength, and lose the extra weight I had gained. The time I spent in the gym also greatly helped my anxiety, another lifelong struggle of mine. My physical and mental health merged for the first time in my life, and truly earning that through hard work in the gym and sacrificing foods that didn't agree with me was nearly as empowering as it was to give birth to my beautiful daughter.
"I 'joked' (and later cried about) with my husband that the only time my body feels like my own is when I'm in the shower."
We compromise a lot when we become mothers, and I don't mean that to sound contrite. But it is simply the reality of pregnancy, labor, breastfeeding, and mothering in general. Our own wants and needs suddenly plummet to the bottom of the list the moment we see two pink lines on a plastic stick. And while our babies are certainly worth the many changes our bodies and lives endure, the continued lack of physical autonomy experienced by new moms is one of the more shocking realities of motherhood. And for reasons that deserve an entirely separate essay, we're made to feel guilty or selfish for wanting "me" time and a few precious moments of personal space.
I "joked" (and later cried about) with my husband that the only time my body feels like my own is when I'm in the shower. There is no baby in my arms, there is no breastfeeding-friendly clothing covering my skin, and I don't smell like spoiled milk . . . until my boobs start to leak and I'm instantly reminded that my body is still very much shared.
As incredible as our bodies are for growing, birthing, and sustaining our children, there is nothing wrong with longing for them to feel like "ours" again, however we define and achieve that. Self-care and self-love are more important than ever when you become a mother. After all, a healthy and happy mom is an important prerequisite for a healthy and happy baby.