Letting go of the old me and her favorite jeans.
I was twelve days in my post-baby body when I had an epic postpartum 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 wasn’t acceptable to attend the event in the mesh underwear and padsicle combo I had been rocking for the last twelve days. (I’ve you’ve had a baby, you’ll understand.)
My Baby Body Closet Meltdown
Just before the meltdown, I confidently 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 on my new baby body. I was breastfeeding after all, and doesn’t that help your body after pregnancy bounce right back into its former glory?
When those didn’t work, I reached for my favorite romper. With extreme determination, I attempted to stuff, pull, and cram my reluctant postpartum body into it – it didn’t work.
Each time I removed a garment from a hanger, I was positive this would be the one that would work on my baby body.
Eventually, I was surrounded by piles of clothes that were too small for me. I could feel my new postpartum body throb 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?
I Wanted My Pre-Pregnancy Body Back
It pains me to tell you what happens next. Please don’t ridicule me. I have grown, 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. I called myself fat. As tears kept coming, I proceeded to do something I swore to myself I would never do.
With a hand full of belly, I wished it away – every last ounce of my baby body. I wished I hadn’t been pregnant. I wished for my pre-pregnancy body back. I wished for someone to make it all better.
I know what you’re probably thinking. It feels 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 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 body after pregnancy. What’s worse, I didn’t even recognize the baby body I had grown to resent.
She was tired. She was saggy. And she was foreign.
My First Attempts at Baby Body Acceptance
As the weeks wore on, I did as much self-care as I could manage. Between cluster feedings and sleepless nights, I tried to meditate, write, and gently move my postpartum body to stay grounded.
I tried positive affirmations – telling myself my body after pregnancy was beautiful over and over 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 – those postpartum women proudly bearing 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 finally decided to talk about my postpartum body image issues, I typically got the same responses from my friends and family. Each one enforced 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 in my closet? 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.
Embracing My Postpartum Body One Day at a Time
Another low point came after I posed 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 appearing in my thoughts. So I tried to work on loving my baby body by practicing 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.
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, her former home, unfazed 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.
After she fell asleep, I went into my closet and pulled everything down off the hangars and shelves that no longer fit my body after pregnancy. Sadness washed 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.
But with my daughter’s help, and just by taking this one small action, I felt safe and calm, knowing the “old me” would never be back.
And finally, I felt content.
The Journey to Loving My Postpartum Body Continues
I am four months postpartum today. Four months in the throes of motherhood – shedding, learning, and transforming.
My new body after pregnancy has 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.