I fit into my old jeans but not into my old dresses or shirts. I’ve always favoured the stretchy denim. My old bras won’t even do up. My stomach is soft now, my belly button stretched, my skin marked by purple lines. I am torn, always, between respect for my body and everything it’s done and dismay at the ways it is now marked indelibly by our ordeal. Maybe my stomach will still shrink, it probably will, but I will be forever changed. How could I not be? I grew a human, and not a small one.
There are two common threads when it comes to the post-baby body chat. It seems you are either expected to hate your new shape, punishing it with buggy boot camps and bemoaning tight waistbands after months of maternity leggings, or you’re supposed to not care, so in awe are you at the feat your body has performed. Am I allowed to admit that I sit somewhere in between?
I miss my old body. It was a good body. We had a pretty easy relationship, which is more than most people can say. I have always been lucky that I fit the mould when it comes to societally-approved body shapes, and without too much effort. I could have lived happily with that body forever. It was easy-ish to dress (short legs notwithstanding) and it was healthy, for the most part.
I don’t mind my new body. There are probably plenty of people for whom this body is their ideal. That’s probably true for everyone, actually, now I come to think of it (that their body is the ideal body for someone else, not that they all think my body is the best body – because it’s pretty average, all things considered). But it doesn’t feel like my body. It looks a bit different in my old clothes. I’m more aware of it, more self-conscious, which I don’t like. I was used to just living in my body, not thinking about it all that much. A privilege for sure, but not one that I wanted to give up.
I don’t like the stretch marks which now cover my stomach; an unwelcome reminder of one of my most unpleasant experiences and a badge of honour for the best thing I’ve ever done. Again, you are either supposed to religiously moisturise them away or wear them as a mark of pride. Again, I sit somewhere in between. I am not ashamed of my body; it did something pretty incredible. But I am also not head over heels with those little purple lines, even if they are a by-product of the thing of which I am most proud.
It’s only been three months, so I know there are more changes to come. I’d like to get back to where I was before, in attitude if not in shape (although the shape would be nice, too). But me and my body are in it for the long haul, whatever happens…