This post is for moms like me who really struggle with their weight after having a baby. I’m writing this because I came out of my latest postpartum check-up weighing more than when I left the hospital. I’m still wearing maternity clothes three months after giving birth. And I live not too far from Hollywood, so I’m surrounded by women my age with “perfect” (plastic) bodies. When I first moved out here, I was shocked at how many moms in my Christian moms’ groups casually mentioned getting a tummy tuck and having other “work done.” When everyone else has artificially returned to a pre-child body, those of us who haven’t feel like there’s something wrong with us. As someone who gains more weight with each pregnancy and struggles to lose it until I’m done breastfeeding, it’s hard. I have cried more about my body image in the past two years than I did as a teenager.
To make it more miserable for me, two of our brothers have gotten married right after I had a baby. I’ve twice found myself trying to find appropriate formal attire to wear less than two months postpartum. There’s nothing like the prospect of appearing in wedding pictures while still in maternity clothes to make me think dark thoughts.
But because I need to remind myself of some basic truths, let’s review the facts, shall we?
- God made our bodies uniquely to be able to bear children and (hopefully) sustain all their nutritional needs after birth for months. When our skin stretches and our breasts sag, they are working as God intended them.
- Throughout the centuries, the standards of women’s beauty have changed drastically. Today’s ideal skinny body is not objectively the most beautiful shape and size—it is a cultural construct.
- Biblical standards of beauty don’t mention the presence or absence of saggy skin or stretch marks or dimpled thighs; objectively, true beauty comes from within.
- The Hollywood icons who seem to have it all—the kids, the bikini body, the perfect skin—do not have it naturally. They have tummy tucks. They wear Spanx. They have personal trainers working with them daily (and nannies watching their kids while they work out). They have dieticians and chefs planning and preparing their meals. They have make-up artists and hairstylists doll them up before they go out in the public eye.
- Most of us don’t have the time or money to compete with the airbrushed women on the covers of the magazines in the grocery store. And we shouldn’t want to compete with them. Those images are fake. Google celebrity airbrushing, and you’ll see what I mean.
For those of us with daughters, we are modeling what a woman’s body should actually look like after bearing children. In my case, that means that I’m several sizes bigger than I was at 20. It would break my heart if my quest for the unrealistic were to have ramifications with my daughters’ views of their bodies in 10 or 20 years. And for those of us with sons, it starts with us to give them a healthy and realistic understanding of what their future wives might look like after childbirth. Some of my friends do immediately bounce back to a slim pre-baby body, but most of us end up looking a little different.
Last night, we actually had a conversation about body size at the dinner table, totally initiated by the kids. I was so struck at how perfect each of their little bodies are, just the shape that God made them to be. It’s so easy for me to tell them these things now, while I’m still the primary influence in their lives. But they notice my attitude as well as my actions, and I don’t want to send them mixed messages.
So yes, I really hope that I can find the energy to work out and eat healthfully so that I can lose this baby weight and fit back into my normal clothes someday. I do want to show my children that caring for our bodies and being healthy is important. But because my body is doing what God made it to do, stretchy skin and all, I’m not going to get a tummy tuck.