A woman’s body, before ever carrying and bearing a child, is brimming with untapped power and potential. Her anatomy is, in every way, designed for the journey of motherhood — down to her last chromosome. Her pelvic bones are set wider than a man’s, so that they can expand to accommodate the passage of her baby’s tiny body (which, at that moment, doesn’t seem so tiny!). Her breasts are filled with ducts — unique to the female body — to accommodate the milk that her body will begin to manufacture before her little one is even outside of the womb. Once he is born, just watching him sleep or hearing him cry will trigger her body’s milk-making powers.
During pregnancy, her blood volume will increase to meet the needs of sustaining a life inside of her, and her hormones will dramatically change over the stages of pregnancy to ensure that her body meets the needs of the life it is growing. A woman’s body will also begin to designate “maternal fat stores,” like a rainy day account ensuring that during the first few months of the baby’s life her body will have what it needs to guarantee a milk supply to the little one.
Her own skin will stretch to accommodate her burgeoning uterus as baby grows. Her seesawing hormones may cause changes in her skin and hair, and these fluctuations don’t usually taper off very quickly after birth, as the body transitions from caring for a baby inside of her body to caring for the same baby outside of her body.
So, the pregnant-and-then-postpartum female body is truly a fierce and incredible thing to behold. Despite this magnificent reality, in a culture where “flat,” “firm,” “toned,” “thin,” and “flawless” are the verbiage du jour for characterizing the ideal female body, the postpartum form is quickly downgraded after birth. By the time the romance of holding her baby for the first time has passed, and she has recovered enough from the marathon of birth to lift her own body out of bed unassisted and stand in front of a mirror long enough to take in the effects of pregnancy and childbirth on her body, something that merits awe can suddenly begin to seem like something that needs to be fixed, right now. That’s why so many of us moms — whose postpartum bodies may never “go back” to what they were before children — were encouraged and affirmed by the following blog post from we seek joy:
Babies Ruin Bodies: An Ode to My Postpartum Body
Before I became pregnant, someone told me, “don’t have a baby, babies ruin your body.”
It has been over a year since Anabel began her life. This time last year she was a microscopic speck in my stomach, and we were announcing our pregnancy. Between then and now, I have gained and lost fifty pounds. Four months after her birth, and my body still carries proof of her existence.
I have dark pools under my eyes. A valley where my belly button once was. Hips with a new amplitude that my teenage self wouldn’t recognize. I have lines mapped across the mountains of stretched skin left over on my midsection. Lightening bolts on my sides proving I once was too small to contain all of the love that filled me. Lines indicating that my daughter once lived inside of me.
Do you realize the significance in that? Every limb, finger, toe…her heart, even, developed near the very place my own heart beats inside of my chest. Those mountains of skin are all I have left to prove that we were once one and not two.
How can I be ashamed of that?
I have so much to say about seeing my grandfather’s eyes embedded into the sockets, and under the brows and lashes of her father’s. I see the seventeen year old boy I fell in love with, and my grandpa as a child all at once every time she looks up at me. She even wears my ears and my chin. The two very things I cursed having the most growing up. Not much makes me feel more beautiful than seeing tiny renditions of those same features on Anabel, and realizing just how special they are.
My body grew that.
Not everybody has that privilege.
Sure my belly is a bit softer nowadays, but the way it moves when I jump up and down sends my girl into fits of giggles. And yeah, my hips are hardly as narrow as they used to be, but they sure know the perfect figure-8 motion to sway her to sleep. My twenty-one year old hair is even beginning to gray, but not much soothes her more than my hair between her tiny fingers.
I am not something flawless in the eyes of society, or even close to what I once was physically, but my perfect girl sees me for who I am. To her, I hang the moon. She knows my heart. She knew it long before we met.
And she loves me for it.
I cannot tell you how much worth and validation I feel because of that truth.
My body is only a vessel for my spirit. An incredible vessel. It is strong, well, abled, and undefeated.
My body is full of life.
My body is powerful.
My body made me a mother.
If anything, I was ruined by the world before I knew her & she made me whole again.