Parenting Perspectives: Get Your Pre-Baby Body Back…at a Cost

How should a mother's body look? The answer might surprise you.|

I drive by a local billboard every day that proclaims, “Get your pre-baby body back!”

I’m no dummy. As a marketing expert, I know this particular plastic surgery clinic has chosen this line because it resonates with their target market. Women in our society want to look as if they have never had children. And for most women who have, all of the diet and exercise in the world is not going to do it.

It’s a fact: after pregnancy, a woman’s body is never the same. The number on the scale might be, but after the skin has been stretched, organs rearranged, and hormones skyrocketed off the charts, it’s pretty obvious why some things will never go back to those “pre-baby” days.

As a mom who has been a natural healthy weight all my life and who bore her three children in her own body, I’ve received many “compliments” on my body over the last six years. But I wish I wouldn’t.

During each pregnancy, I’ve heard the generic “You look great!” or “You’re beautiful pregnant.” Generic is okay. Generic is good. A woman in pregnancy more often than not feels huge and uncomfortable. Even in the first trimester.

Then there is the next level, the pseudo-compliment:

“Oh my gosh, you have NOT had three kids!”

Um, yes? I mean, some days it feels like there must be six or seven based on the state of my kitchen, but pretty sure it’s just three.

Finally, there’s the last level, the angry-compliments.

This is when my appearance (typically in conjunction with learning I have three children) triggers something in other people (95% of the time, women) which reminds them about something in their own physical appearance with which they’re unhappy.

“I hate you. I can’t believe you just had a baby. Stop it.”

Yep. I have the under-eye circles and leaky breasts to prove it.

So I don’t take it personally. I know most people making these comments believe they’re being complimentary, in some backwards way. It has nothing to do with me and my body, not really.

But it creates a definite feeling of unease. It’s that awkward moment when you aren’t sure if someone has just insulted you or flattered you; when you don’t know if you should apologize and gain ten pounds or be grateful and say thank you.

I say neither.

I have nothing to be sorry for. I was pregnant and my body grew. Then I had the baby and my body shrunk. If my lack of belly fat makes you uncomfortable, it certainly has nothing to do with any poor behavior on my part.

I used to take pleasure in the comments. A twisted type of schadenfreude, feeling good about myself for pulling off the feat that most women can’t. But now, I see how that only fuels our cultural belief that women being pregnant and having children is wonderful; however, we don’t want them to actually LOOK like they’ve carried and nursed these children as well.

This is an issue for all women, but now that I have a daughter, the spotlight is on. I need to set a positive example for her, or she will never stand a chance. I need to look in the mirror and be happy with who I am as a person and with how my body looks and works if I ever expect her to do the same. No comparisons to other bodies allowed.

If my body looks like I have grown three children inside it, as well it should. I no longer want to take pride in looking like it hasn’t. Most of the changes aren’t visible to the common observer, and that’s just fine.

I don’t want my pre-baby body back. Because that would mean a me who is pre-baby, and that’s not who I am or who I want to be.

“You have three kids? You don’t look like it!” I wonder then…how SHOULD I look?

Hopefully patient. Tired. Kind. Loving. Often surprised. And probably happy. That’s how a mom should look.

I have a feeling you might also like:

It’s been an idyllic summertime experience. It has brought me joy and even made me love my children more, to see them running and laughing and enjoying the simplicity of childhood. When I see the viral posts saying how we need to “give our kids a 1970′s summer” again, I just shake my head. Regardless of the decade, everything we need for a perfect summer is within us.

In a book I was recently reading, the author referenced a Facebook post that was going around a few years ago. In it, Facebook users were prompted to share a list of (somewhat random) things about themselves. Things their closest online friends might not know about them, but maybe should.

The author used it as an opportunity to pull back the facade on her life and be vulnerable with experiences from her past, feelings in her present, and fears of her future that most people didn’t realize about her. It resonated with all who read it, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

It occurred to me that I could make a list for my children. 15 Things I Want My Kids to Know About Me.

When I am laughing with my daughter on the floor as she pretends I’m her baby, watching the joy unfold on my middle son’s face as I “fly” him on my feet, or feeling the comfort of my oldest son’s arms around me at bedtime, sometimes my mind will think, “I should take a picture of this.”