I stepped up to the station to have my mandatory flu shot at work (yes, mandatory. That’s a whole other post yet to be written). The nurse was prepping the shot, not looking up at me while I confirmed it was okay to get even though I am still breastfeeding (it was – dangit). Right before she stuck me, she stopped abruptly.
“Your arm is so small, let me switch to the smaller needle”
“Oh good… yes. Please do that.”
As she is switching the needles, she says “Well honey, is your baby just sucking you DRY?”
I didn’t realize what exactly she meant. “Uhhh, I guess so…?”
“The same thing happened to my daughter when she was breastfeeding. She looked just terrible!!”
Silence. Awkward, awkward silence. I only stayed long enough to grab my band-aid and signed form, hoping the line of people behind me hadn’t heard her humiliating comment.
I’ve told this story to some family and friends and we joked about how this nurse would for sure take home the Foot In Mouth Award. But truthfully? It stung.
Here’s the worst part: I don’t think it ever even occurred to her what conclusion I must be drawing about my own appearance based on her comment. Did she mean to hurt my feelings? I’m sure she didn’t. But this is just one of so many body remarks I’ve received since having my baby. And I know I’m not the only one. I’ve learned one thing through it all:
During your pregnancy, you either gain too much or too little according to the medical professionals and nosy, non-experts surrounding you. Then, post-pregnancy, everyone is keeping an eye out to see when you will “bounce back,” which is probably (definitely) the farthest thing from your new mom mind, considering your all of your thoughts are laser-beam focused on keeping your tiny human alive and well.
So, basically one of three things happen: you don’t shed the pounds as quickly as everyone expects, you look like you were never pregnant to begin with, or you lose too much because your baby is “sucking you dry.” All equally looked down upon, especially from other women.
I still had a legit baby bump in those first couple of months postpartum and very few of my old clothes fit – but hey, who cares, because I JUST GREW AND BIRTHED A HUMAN, by the way. I had a front row seat to witness how powerful and expertly built our bodies are as women. It’s actually insane, what we are capable of.
Looking back at my daughter’s newborn photos, I see my ten day postpartum body and think that body just performed a miracle. Being pregnant and giving birth were my proudest and most empowered moments. I learned so much about overcoming fears and gained a whole new sense of confidence. I vividly remember leaving the hospital believing that if I can give birth, I can do anything. A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G.
Never before had I experienced God’s strength through my weakness in such a real and tangible way.
I became very comfortable in the new softer and curvier body my baby gave me. I carried those extra pounds proudly for over a year altogether, from pregnancy through postpartum, and I actually wanted some of them to stick around. (I’ve never been the “curvy girl” and you know what they say about the grass being greener.) Maybe I’ll gain a few back when I stop nursing. Maybe I won’t. So when the pounds began to really drop, I felt too thin. This body felt bony. sharp. too many angles. unfamiliar. It no longer reflected the enormous change I had gone through.
Physically, I was looking more like my “normal” self. But my heart would never be the same. With every body comment made, I could feel the insecurity start to creep in and those feelings of confidence I had felt so strongly were fading. How could such a supernatural event already be a foggy memory? But then God sweetly reminded me: whatever I may look like, this is the same body that assisted in His miracle. I never want to betray my body by shaming it for the miracle it performed. Instead, I want to celebrate it.
Did you know your appearance has no bearing on what kind of mother you are? Baby weight to lose, underweight, C-section scars, stretch marks, grey hair, still wearing your maternity jeans a year later….none of it matters. Loving your baby well? Now that matters.
…..and all the insecure mamas said amen.
Can we just agree to a little mom to mom grace? Let’s choose to walk alongside each other instead of sizing up the person to our left or right. We need to be built up, supported, and loved on. And then loved on some more. Let’s be more intentional and constructive with our words. Let’s show each other overflowing grace, not just about our bodies, but all of it. No one wants their insecurities drawn over with a highlighter. How about asking that new mom how she feels? Ask her what her favorite part of being a mom is. Ask about the newest milestone her baby just became a pro at. Give her a safe space to talk about the tough and lonely moments of motherhood. These are the important things.
And to you mamas who are in the thick of this, struggling with your post-baby body image…whatever side of the scale you fall on, I don’t need to know you or even see you to be able to say this with 100% sincerity: You Are Beautiful. Really, truly, honestly beautiful. The kind of beauty that reflects from your heart and shines on your face. Beauty in its purest form.
When you become a mom – rest assured, you have been marked with beauty. That is a title you can carry proudly.
All professional photos in this post are credit D. Crowe Photography.