During my pregnancy, slathering on a luxurious tummy butter every morning and night was right up there on my priority list, next only to eating well. I spent hours online, hunting for the right tummy tucking belt that I planned to wear after giving birth. In my naiveté, I even packed it in my hospital bag with the intention of wearing it even before leaving the maternity ward! Of course, it didn’t happen. Real life took over.
The early days postpartum went by in a haze fuelled by lots of pain-killers, hours of breastfeeding and nights of no sleep. And the belt that had taken a substantial amount of my savings with the promise of giving me back my pre-baby body in weeks lay discarded, to be chanced upon again many, many months later. Even when the haze of the early days lifted, I didn’t find the time or inclination to jump into a schedule to get a toned figure ASAP.
Of course, I wanted the excess weight gone and with breastfeeding picking up steam, the kilos dropped off on their own accord. By the end of week 2, I was even fitting into my pre-pregnancy jeans albeit a little snugly than before. However, when I stood in front of the mirror with the top lifted to take a peek at my belly, I saw one I wasn’t acquainted with. It wasn’t the one I had lived with for all those years before I conceived and the miracle of a life started inside me. It wasn’t the belly that remained straight even when I sat slouching. It was rounder and softer than before. It wasn’t the body I had taken for granted. It was fuller, the muscles a little less defined than I would have liked.
One’s relationship with the body is a complex, ever morphing one. Something that changes with every new stage in life. It would be a lie to say that I readily accepted, much less loved, my postpartum body from the very first time I bothered to look at it. Whenever I looked, I saw things I didn’t want to see. A roll of fat, a misplaced dimple, magnified by the ever critical mind’s eye. I started to hide my body behind my husband’s lose shirts and PJs, taking solace in the fact that those ill-fitting pieces of clothing blurred the line between reality and perception.
And one fine day, a realisation hit me as I sat looking at my baby. Her long limbs, her sweet round face, her head of soft, dark hair had only recently nestled snug inside my belly. All of her inside of me. My body, the one I had stopped being friends with, had stretched and pulled itself all around to accommodate my baby, to give her a safe cocoon to lie in, to grow and prepare for the world outside. It had allowed me to carry her full time without breaking down.
Among all the undue expectations us new mothers pile on ourselves, expecting to go back to our pre-pregnancy bodies as soon as possible is perhaps one of the most unfair ones. Mostly because it rudely expects us to erase the sensation of carrying a beloved child within us before we are ready for it. Because it makes the new body seem inferior to the old one without realising that morphing into its pregnant state was actually one of the most amazing things it has ever done.
Since that day, every time I look at the extra weight that still calls my body its home, I don’t despair. I am reminded of what the once fragile body did so remarkably and it makes me feel a little proud for that.
I love the body I now have not because it fits anyone’s description of perfection but because it gave me the beautiful gift of my daughter’s life. I now respect it because it has surprised me with its strength. I nourish it with food and not starve it with harsh, fad diets. I strengthen it with exercise but never punish it with any extreme form of it. I pamper it with clothes that embrace it and not try to hide it behind shape and formless sheets. Whatever be the shape, I have finally come to accept and love my postpartum body and call it my very own.