‘There is no such thing as ‘my body before pregnancy’ and ‘my body after’ it’s simply, ‘my body.’: New mom discovers postpartum body ‘may look different now, but I haven’t changed bodies like an outfit’

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“Nothing could prepare me for motherhood. ⁣⁣No book, no video, no pamphlet, not anyone’s pre warnings, comments or advice. You don’t know how it will be until you’re ‘in it.’ And once you are, it’s full-on. There are drastic changes in your body and your emotions soar to new heights and dip to new lows.

Photo credit: Elle Peterson

While I was pregnant, there was so much discussion around the ‘birthing plan,’ but the conversation about postpartum recovery seemed to be less popular of a topic. I felt confident checking into the hospital the night before I gave birth to my son. I had researched and read up on all the different scenarios that might happen during labor, yet I was ignorant about how my life would be reshaped in the days and weeks to follow.

I ended up giving birth to my son via emergency cesarean. As I was recovering in the hospital, I felt discouraged with my limitations and sometimes felt like I would never completely heal. Not being able to sit up on my own was deflating; not being able to lift my baby without assistance was depressing. But then I would try reminding myself to focus on the positive and progress, rather than the setbacks and limitations. I went from brushing my teeth in bed to going on short walks; from being hooked up to multiple IVs and popping pills, to only occasionally taking Tylenol; from wearing adult diapers to only wearing granny panties (a very big improvement, indeed).

Photo credit: Elle Peterson

After giving myself time to heal and regain strength, my belly was still swollen and made me look six months pregnant. The swelling went down more and more each day, but I was nervous to have it eventually stop. I knew that once I couldn’t blame my uterus for being expanded any longer, it would reveal my altered body. I was eventually greeted by loose skin and stretch marks around my middle. When I run my hands over my stomach, there are dimples imprinted on a doughy surface. I first felt embarrassed by my new look. How was I, or especially my husband, supposed to accept this body? However, the changes didn’t faze my husband — he even embraced them. He helped me realize how remarkable my body is, which led me to be proud of what I went through to receive these ‘badges of honor.’ I am able to celebrate the fact that there is no such thing as ‘my body before pregnancy’ and ‘my body after’ — it’s just simply, ‘my body.’ It may look different now, but I haven’t changed bodies like an outfit.

In the midst of all the postpartum physical changes, a rollercoaster of emotions also ensue. After coming home from the hospital, I remember my husband and I questioning if we had made the right decision to have a child. ‘Have we rushed into being parents?’ ‘Our lives were so easy before our son – now look!’ ‘We have no clue what we are doing.’ Having a human life be completely dependant on you is stressful and upright terrifying. I discovered myself feeling immense love for my baby boy while experiencing extreme anxiety.

Photo credit: Dean Peterson

Every day I would find things to stress about. Diapers, breastfeeding, vaccinations, bathing, breast-feeding, sleeping too much, sleeping too little, burping, breastfeeding, sterilizing bottles, the colour of poop, have I mentioned breastfeeding? ‘Mom guilt’ is something I heard about before becoming a mom, but I thought I would be able to shake it. However, the doubt and shame seeped in without an invitation. ‘If I give up on breastfeeding, I’m not giving my son the best.’ ‘If I ask someone to help watch him at night, I’m neglecting my child.’ ‘If I don’t establish a nighttime routine, he’ll establish bad habits.’ The negative voices were endless, but as I gained more confidence in my role as a mother (realizing that there are many ways to skin a cat), those voices quieted and faded.

Photo credit: Elle Peterson

My journey into motherhood has had its highs and lows, but the ultimate high is the love that perpetually grows for my child. When I hold my baby boy, I feel like his body just melts into mine — like we are truly one. I can physically feel a change occur within me, as if my love for him may overflow and spill out from my heart. ⁣I am continuously experiencing the special bond between mother and child. There’s a richness to it; a fullness.

⁣⁣⁣Postpartum is a peculiar thing. I feel empowered yet vulnerable. I have been weak but also never felt stronger. Even when exhausted, I have difficulty sleeping. I’ve cried tears of joy and tears of frustration — at the same time.  I am learning to allow a lot of patience and grace for this postpartum body and mind of mine.”

Photo credit: Elle Peterson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elle Peterson of Arusha, Tanzania. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear about your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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