It started out innocently enough. A few times a week, I popped in a T29 workout video. My infant son slept sweetly in his bouncy chair just a few feet from me, his sweaty mama with the burning thighs and (aspiring) buns of steel. Next, I decided MyFitnessPal would be a helpful addition to my foray into acquiring a body worthy of admiration and approval. I longed for this — especially having just birthed a (giant) baby. What followed was a 2+ year-long backslide into anorexia — and a new exercise addiction. Despite being no stranger to the world of eating disorders, I didn’t see it coming.
There isn’t enough space provided here to even begin to scratch the surface of the underlying issues at play in my personal story, but what I can tell you? Our cultural expectations of a woman’s body remain brutal and undeserved —especially that of a mother.
Throughout pregnancy, people often say, “Eat for two!” and, “Rest while you can!” Sometimes people even treat pregnancy as a debilitating illness: “Don’t carry that/pick that up/move that way!” Curiously, however, your weight is also monitored meticulously at every gynecologic appointment. Constant reminders given all the while of a “healthy” range of weight gain for your particular body. For some (if not most) women, this creates a confusing dichotomy regarding our bodies and what exactly we should be doing with them.
Sadly, this isn’t where it ends. It gets worse.
The minute you manage to get your baby out of your body in the safest manner possible, the countdown begins. Sometimes, it’s silent and insidious, sneaking into your psyche via magazine headlines and social media ads. Other times? The attack comes booming and blatant — spoken frankly and openly from your mother-in-law or a supermarket stranger. (“Oh! You already had your baby? Oops!”) You feel the pressure to “get your body back.” (I mean, where did it go, exactly?!) You struggle to fit into your pre-baby jeans. Forget the fact that you still pee when you sneeze and you still can’t quite figure out how to swaddle. You feel as though society expects you to hurry and get right back to looking as though . . . you never had a baby at all.
And this is where I get angry. Our bodies just took two individual cells and CREATED HUMAN LIFE. And yet — they are only acceptable if they manage to look untouched? Unchanged? I am calling our society out on this nonsense.
Our bodies were meant to change. They will expand and contract. Our shapes will stretch — and parts will sag. They will grow bigger. And sometimes, they will stay that way. And it is all good. You are still good.
I am now recovering from that backslide. I am grateful for the reminder that my body is my instrument — not an ornament. These days, my sweet boy loves to cuddle me. He loves to wrap his arms around my soft, comfortable body. He frequently rests his head on the belly in which he used to reside.