Letting go of the old me and her favorite jeans
I was twelve days postpartum when I had an epic meltdown in my closet. It was my first Mother’s Day, and somewhere along the line, I had naively agreed to eat dinner at my in-laws’ house with the whole family in tow.
I decided to dress for the occasion as it probably was not acceptable to attend the event in the mesh underwear and padsicle combo I had been rocking for the last twelve days. Google that sentence if you have any questions.
Confidently, I pulled my size ten, pre-pregnancy jeans off my closet shelf. I had only gained 35 pounds throughout my pregnancy, and in my delusional, sleep-deprived state, I was confident that they would fit. I was breastfeeding after all.
When the jeans didn’t work, I reached for my favorite romper. With extreme determination, I stuffed, and I pulled, and I crammed. Each time I removed a garment off of its’ hanger, I was positive this would be the one that would work.
Eventually, I was surrounded by piles of clothing that were too small for me. My body was aching a slow-dull ache as tears fell softly on my cheeks. How was this possible? How could I not fit into any of my clothes?
It pains me to tell you what happens next. Please don’t ridicule me. I have grown and healed and transformed since this moment in my closet, but my feelings were real.
I looked in the mirror, grabbed my postpartum belly, and called myself ugly. And then I called myself fat. As tears streamed down my face, I proceeded to do something I swore to myself I would never do.
With a hand full of belly, I wished it away. All of it: every last ounce.I wished that I hadn’t been pregnant. I wished for my body back. I wished for someone to make it all better.
I know what you are thinking. It feels so awful to write these words on paper. The guilt and shame that comes with telling you the inner workings of my brain at that moment are hard on my soul.
I had wished something away that I had desperately wanted for the last three years of my life; something I had promised myself I would accept with open arms regardless of what it looked like on the other side.
Yet at that moment, I hated my postpartum body. What’s worse, I didn’t even recognize the body I had grown to resent.
She was tired. She was saggy. And she was foreign.
As the weeks wore on, I was doing as much self-care as I could manage. Between cluster feedings and sleepless nights, I was trying to meditate, write, and gently move my body to stay grounded.
I tried positive affirmations- telling myself I was beautiful over and over again as I stared at myself blankly in the mirror. Yet I didn’t believe it.
I found myself envious of the women I saw online – proudly touting their tiger stripes as they blissfully modeled the mesh underwear I had secretly grown to hate. I tirelessly wondered if I would ever enter that space of contentment about my body after pregnancy.
When I did decide to talk about my postpartum body image issues, I regularly got the same responses from both friends and family. And each one enforced the idea that the “old me” would be back someday- just not today.
It took 10 months to grow that baby Rachel, nothing happens overnight.
It’ll happen. These things take time.
Instead of a battle with the scale, I found a different way to sabotage my postpartum body. Remember the size ten jeans that turned me into a self-deprecating monster two months prior? Yes, those. Every Monday we had a date. And every Monday, I ended up right back in the mirror, shaming my body for what it had become.
After posing for a picture at a barbecue, a girlfriend told me she would crop a photo of me from the waist up. It was an unintentionally devastating statement.
As I meditated on the couch that night, the word embrace kept making an appearance in my thoughts. I started in on my positive affirmations.
You are beautiful, I chanted over and over to myself.
Except for tonight, it was: You are beautiful from the waist up.
Embrace. There it was again, hovering thick in the air.
When I was finished, I wrote the word down on a piece of paper. I stared at it as I nursed my daughter back to sleep. She moved her hand back and forth across my belly, unphased by what was or should be.
As her hand grazed my skin, she guided me through my thoughts. It was as if she was gently giving me permission to embrace my feelings as they ebbed and flowed.
I wanted to feel beautiful, but I didn’t. And that was okay.
I wanted to feel strong, but I didn’t. And that was also okay.
When she was asleep, I went into my closet and pulled everything down that no longer fit me. I felt sadness wash over me as I placed my size ten jeans in the giveaway pile. I hoped their next owner would feel as beautiful as I did wearing them one day.
I felt safe and calm, knowing the “old me” would never be back.
And finally, I felt content.
I am four months postpartum today. Four months in the throes of motherhood- shedding and learning and transforming.
I have stretch marks and more cellulite than the old me. My hair is falling out, and my hips are wider than before. My arms jiggle when I lift my smiling daughter in the air. Oh, and postpartum body odor? It is definitely a thing.
Some days I am confident. Other days I am not.
Some days I feel beautiful. Other days I do not.
Some days I desperately miss the old me, and other days I am proud of the woman I have become.
I find myself in a state of competing emotions about my body after pregnancy. I waver between complete awe for this powerhouse that created life and pushed a tiny human earthside and complete disdain for the wreckage left behind.
I have a beautiful and healthy baby girl, and the body to prove it.
My jeans now? Well, they are a size 12, vintage, curvy, and they fit like butter.