I am often surprised by how readily I am praised by people for my after-baby body. I don't fault the givers of the compliments, I, many times am the one offering up similar comments, but I haven't felt quite right about it since I had Thea. It's true, I weigh less now than I did when I got pregnant, and I weigh about 20 pounds less than I did when I was pregnant with Remy, but I can't take a lot of credit for the way my body looks at this point. I just ebb and flow in the armor of my skin and sometimes I am bigger, sometimes I am smaller and for me, the actual pounds don't have that much to do with my food and exercise.
I have been a generally poor responder when people comment on how great I look for just having had a baby because I don't know what to give back except an awkward thanks and 'oh, we just do a lot of nursing,' which is really my only explanation at this point. I've been wondering for weeks now why I feel a little bit sad every time someone compliments me and I think the reason is wrapped up in the common comment, "You don't even look like you had a baby!" I want to respond, "But I have had a baby!" I carried her in this meadow of a body for nine months. She stretched me and rested her sweet head against my ribs. We listened to each other late at night and tried to learn what the world would offer the two of us. She moved her little legs when I lay still and in the end she came wailing into the world through the same c-section incision her brother did, and it was sacred. I am not eager to erase the evidence of that for the sake of looking awesome. I don't think we should have to ask our body to snap back into something it once was, because the fact is, after being pregnant, it is not the thing it once was. I see so many friends who want to have children, but can't, and I think they would trade imperfection for the opportunity.
I remember when I was pregnant with Remy, I was looking through baby things online and came across a product for post-baby moms. It was a band so tight the company warned you it would be quite uncomfortable, but they also promised that if you wore it for six hours a day for six weeks, your hips would again be the size they were before having your baby. I guess that's fine? But not really. I remember laying against my grandma's chest as a little person and feeling like the world could never do me harm. She was soft, and round as an old quilt, and I inherited that from her. I know she didn't get that way easily though. I've seen pictures of a wee college grandma before she had four kids. I'm so glad she didn't demand her body into something other than a mother's body. It served not only her children, but more than a dozen grandchildren.
I'm all for health. I'm all for feeling good. I think we should eat right and exercise, I can certainly do better. I know it's hard to be overweight because I've been there, but I also know that it is even harder to feel you should be something you don't need to be at a time when you don't need to be it. When I was pregnant with Remy I had surgery to remove a tumor from under my ribs and so I have a terrible, jagged scare that stretched because I was pregnant down the middle of my belly. It is not pretty, but it is. I've grown to love the story my body tells. I am not eager to erase the evidence of my motherhood. It's something I've worked too hard for to pretend it isn't there.
So, I'll love this body. It is marked, scarred, stretched out, bigger, wider and older than when I started out this journey, but it has also carried with it two other people, Remy and Thea, and someday, I want them to love their imperfect/perfect bodies. I want them to carry their stories proudly and not shrouded in unreasonable expectation. I want us to be evidence of very real things because I think that is part of our love.