Dear postpartum body of mine,
Most of the time, I start letters with something like, “You know, it’s been awhile since we talked …”
Except that would be a lie. I talk to you all the time.
In fact, you may be cringing now, wondering what I might have to critique you on today.
After 5 years of infertility and loss, well, we have a bit of history between us.
I used to be frustrated at you over silly things. Like acne. And cellulite on my small frame.
But then we lost our second baby.
On my good days, I blamed you. On my bad days, I blamed God.
But no matter who I blamed, I’ve never felt the same about you since.
You were supposed to do the one thing a woman’s body is supposed to do. Grow a baby. Instead, you let my little baby, the one I wanted, the one I loved, leave my body without ever meeting my arms.
Oh how that has cost us.
I’m not sure our relationship ever recovered.
I struggled to love you each month we didn’t get pregnant again. And when we did get pregnant, our babies wouldn’t grow.
I maybe sort of hated you after that.
Maybe you were trying to communicate something … Something you needed, or something that was wrong. But I didn’t understand, and neither did the doctors.
It’s like we were speaking two different languages. I couldn’t fix you. And you couldn’t make me happy.
I put you through so many tests. Tried experimental diets. Took medicine and exercised. I spoiled you at times in the effort to do “self-care” — but any care I had for you was limited at best.
The truth is — I didn’t trust you anymore.
You prevented me from knowing my children — from holding them in my arms, and seeing their smiles, and watching them grow up.
I begged and begged and begged you to just get it together.
And once I gave up, and finally accepted that maybe you just weren’t capable — then you gave me what my heart desired.
Oh, don’t get me wrong. I credit God with the miracle. But you bore the brunt of His holy work.
I wanted to love you then. I wanted to feel so thankful for you doing your job.
But the truth is — I still didn’t trust you.
History is not so easily forgotten. Or forgiven.
I waited on eggshells to find out if you had failed. To find out if you were going to try to take my life or my baby’s life again. Every appointment showed that things were right on track. But somehow, that was never enough.
As my hormones surged, I hated the crippling nausea. I just wanted to feed my baby and keep hydrated … You wouldn’t let me.
When weakness and breathlessness overtook me, I felt powerless and angry.
When prodromal labor fueled my anxiety, I wished you would just labor like all the books say you’re supposed to.
Even after you did exactly as I had asked … After you gave me my healthy beautiful baby in a safe, unmedicated vaginal birth … I still found myself critical.
I had asked you to give me a healthy baby … And so you flushed my whole system with the hormones baby needed right from the beginning — even as they made me so sick. I forget that this was not easy for you either. You went through the nausea, dehydration, and vomiting with me. You felt the hunger pains you couldn’t relieve. You bore the ridiculous nausea triggered by everything from sight, movement and smell.
You did this for me — and yet I cursed you for the sickness.
I asked you to protect the baby — and you made sure I took things slowly. Sometimes that meant giving me a racing heart, sometimes it meant making me feel breathless — but either way, you knew it would make me slow down, and my little love would get everything she needed.
You did this for me — and yet I cursed you for your weakness.
I asked you to give birth vaginally, full term, without the use of any medicine. And so you practiced for weeks and weeks, making sure my uterus was toned and ready for when baby was also ready. You prepared. Big time.
You did this for me — and yet I cursed you for the long wait.
I asked you to not fail me by having HELLP again — and you honored that.
You did this for me — and yet I cursed you because I was still too scared to do anything else.
I asked you to grow my pelvis wide, to open up my hips so my beautiful daughter could pass through on her own.
You did this for me — and yet I cursed you when my hips didn’t fit into my prepregnancy jeans.
I asked you to be strong, so strong that you wouldn’t let anything stop this baby from coming out when she was ready. And so you tore to accommodate my baby’s head when she came so quickly and there wasn’t time to stretch.
You did this for me — and I cursed you for the hard recovery from birth.
I wish I could say I have been kind to you since.
I have not.
It seems my critical spirit has become the default now.
I was so focused on just having a healthy baby during pregnancy, that I was wholly unprepared to meet you face-to-face when delivery was done and my baby was safely in my arms.
And you, dear body, were completely ravaged by this undertaking.
Your belly, soft and swollen. Your love handles thick and fleshy. Your hair, thin and falling out. Your skin breaking out from hormone changes. Your lady parts, terrifyingly swollen, torn and bruised — enough to make me cry the one time I was brave enough to look. Your breasts, swollen with milk, uneven and hurting, bearing stretch marks from engorgement. A dark like still stretching from your aching chest down the the c-section scar from my first birth.
I could have been kinder, considerate, or at the very least, have had a bit of compassion for you. You who turned into this for me and for my baby.
Instead, I have demanded that you look cute right away.
I expected the skin which had stretched into a beautiful bump quickly tighten back up.
I became angry with you when you didn’t lose the weight I put on, even though I know it’s to safeguard extra calories for breastfeeding.
I resent the acne, the hormone changes, the moodiness, and the hunger. My gosh, the hunger.
And I continue making demands.
To feed the baby sufficient breast milk even on days when I’m not giving you enough calories or enough water.
To be even-keeled and loving with my older children, even when I choose to have alone time over getting enough sleep.
To look cute and put together even the days you are running on fumes.
And so I find myself here … Staring at my saggy belly and cellulite-ridden thighs in a mirror before taking a shower. The discarded scale next to me, boasting a weight I had hoped I’d never see again.
I am not proud of any of these admissions.
But today, I realized that I am actually proud of you.
It takes a resilient body to keep trying again after multiple losses. You pushed through.
It takes so much sacrifice to nurture the life of another. And you have proven you are up to the task.
Unmedicated birth is no joke. You were a warrior. A freaking woman warrior.
Sure, you don’t look the same, you don’t feel the same, and you don’t even smell the same.
Sometimes in these postpartum days, I looked at you and saw a stranger.
But why would you be the same?
You and I? We went though the most intense, incredible, life-altering journey.
And any journey worth taking is one that will inherently change you. Grow you. Impress itself upon you.
How could giving life to a child do anything less?
So today, I am changing the way we talk.
I’m making less demands — you’ve already done so much.
I’m giving you more grace — you and I both deserve it.
I’m putting away the scale — it doesn’t tell me how much I love, and right now, that is the only measurement worth my time.
I’m going to try my best to nourish you, love you, be kind and gentle to you, and honor you for the sacrifice you made.
Oh … And there’s one more thing.
I’m going to say thank you.
Thank you — for all you have done and all you have yet to do. I am forever indebted to you.
Love (yes, so much love),