“What a cruel scheme to keep a woman from knowing her power. To put the focus on what pregnancy did to her body rather than focus on what her perfect body just did. Here we sit, creating and nourishing the future and we are diminished to “baby weight.” I will not succumb to your demeaning ideals.” – Amethyst Joy
That about sums it up, doesn’t it?
But how do we do that? How do we look past the unrealistic ideals that society has set? The distraction from what our amazing body did to what became of our body?
Here are some concepts and realizations that may help you shift your mindset from one of shame to one of pure amazement and gratitude.
Forget the concept of “normal”
There is no such thing as “normal.” Not a single person is the exact same as another, so rather than try to look like someone else or be like someone else, embrace the unique individual that you are. Your body is yours – there is nobody else like you now, and there never will be. Be 100 percent true to yourself, because this is your time on earth and the only shame comes in wasting any time of your life trying to change who you are.
The naked bodies you’re used to seeing are not the norm
Trigger warning: we’re talking about naked bodies, here.
Society has done something interesting to our mindsets. We’re generally taught to cover up our bodies, protect our nakedness, yet we stand in line at the grocery store and see nearly naked models line the shelves of the magazine racks. We walk past huge banners of nearly-naked, very skinny women without loose skin or stretch marks at the mall and then go into a dressing room and feel bad about ourselves because we don’t look like them. Why is it okay to plaster uncovered pictures of a very specific body type but not others? We MUST realize that body type is not the norm.
If only from a young age we saw a true representation of bodies on these covers, or better yet, we didn’t see bodies being the focus of covers at all. This may seem like an unconventional suggestion, but educate yourself about the truth of the human body. Study art. Go to a women’s spa, or the beach or the pool, even the grocery store, where you can see various body types. (Obviously not in a creepy, staring way, but just look around and take notice of how different every single person is from the next. And not everybody is a cookie-cutter copy of those on the magazines).
That is the norm. These are the regular people in your life, in the world, and our bodies are all different. The body types propped up on display are not, although yes, some women look like that, too, and hopefully they are happy in their skin like everyone else should be. However, one thing to point out is that more people than not have stretch marks – men and women, mothers and non-mothers, people of all sizes, shapes, ages, overweight people and people who have never been overweight. They aren’t worth a single thought of shame, so don’t waste a single minute worrying about them.
Without the weight gain your baby MAY have been less healthy, be grateful
Healthy weight gain is a normal part of pregnancy. It is usually essential for your baby to grow and your body to regulate the growth of the baby and still take care of itself. If your baby was born healthy, realize that your body did its job, and be proud, and grateful. Realize that there are several women whose bodies struggle during pregnancy to provide for itself and their baby, and women who struggle to get pregnant at all. Your beautiful, postpartum body is a testament to an incredible, miraculous feat and opportunity not afforded to everyone.
*Talk to your doctor about healthy weight-gain during pregnancy, as the weight gain and medical needs for each woman is different (because our bodies are all different, whaddyaknow?!)
What would you say to your own daughter? How would you want her to feel?
Perhaps the most eye-opening train of thought when I find myself in a body-shaming mindset is how I would want my own daughter to feel. My heart breaks at the thought of her staring in the mirror at her stretch marks or loose skin while her new baby sleeps in the next room. I cringe at the thought of her scrolling through the internet at these idealized body types with a sad expression on her face as she realizes she doesn’t look like them. Thinking about my own daughter snaps me back to reality real quick and empowers me to set an example of self-love and acceptance, with the hope that she never questions her worth or abilities based on her appearance.
Our lives are short. We each have a mere 100 years, give or take, on earth. Then that precious baby of yours has their time, and so the world goes on. Change is an inevitable part of life, so rather than spending our time and efforts focusing on changing what we look like for our short time here, do what makes you happy. Spend time with those you love, serve those around you, travel, read books, engage in your hobbies, and become so caught up in what your body can do that you never get caught up in what it does or doesn’t look like.