There is no job with greater reward than motherhood. Carrying a life within your body is something that you can only try to explain to others, and only those who have done it will understand the tremendous amount of sacrifice it takes and the amount of love you feel (and to mothers who have not carried their own children within their bodies, I do not exclude you from those feelings that become all too familiar with motherhood). Being a mother is a spectacular journey. I remember when my husband and I made the decision to have our first. The moment we looked at that pregnancy test and saw the noticeable absence of the word, “Not” in front of pregnant, we were ecstatic! My whole world changed that morning, and all for the better. I felt so much love for something that was nothing more than a few cells in my body. I never imagined I could ever love another person as much as I did that baby – and it amazed me to feel the same amount of love and devotion when I became pregnant with our second (and our surprise twins a few years later!).
Four kids to love is something I cannot explain. There is so much laughter, there is always a hug and a kiss, someone always loves me even when someone else thinks I’m the worst mommy (ever) and there is always something to look forward to. Watching them grow, seeing them change, and hearing the compliments they receive from family, friends, strangers and teachers provides me with this amazing sense of pride. I made these people. I helped mold them into the people they are today (okay, I’m going to be honest and say most of the good stuff probably comes from my amazing husband). They are mine, and I love them.
But carrying four kids (two at once) takes a toll on the body. Now, before anyone I know in real life goes around rolling their eyes and telling me to shut up, my body is different. In full disclosure, I am a very petite woman and my body did bounce back to pre-pregnancy size and weight within a week after all three pregnancies. And yes, I am grateful to that. But that does not mean it’s not different. From the outside looking in, I think people see only the good. From me, I see the changes that have happened to my body. My mombod is different, even if it’s not carrying baby weight around.
The mombod, no matter what it looks like, should be celebrated. We’ve all done something amazing and beautiful and wonderful, and we could not have done that without our bodies. It saddens me on every level to see so much of the mom-shaming and body-shaming that happens when a woman gives birth. Her mombod is her body, and what it’s done is something powerful, and we should celebrate that. Unfortunately, it seems that no one is happy no matter what happens.
There are those of us that bounce right back or get procedures to assist in getting our pre-pregnancy body back through services like ICT Eye – skin tightening. Then, we are called terrible mothers who are entirely too vain and self-involved to really love our kids and we are clearly hurting them in some way shape or form by obviously not eating well or by ignoring them so we can exercise for 6 hours a day. There are those who don’t bounce right back, and those that call them fat and lazy. There are those who want so badly to get past that 6-week mark so that they can begin working out again and they are called hardcore and self-involved and too concerned with their weight.
So let’s ask this question; what is the ‘right’ way to look after having a baby? Kate Middleton looked amazing 10 hours after giving birth. I didn’t think that there was anything wrong with that. I did my hair and makeup after giving birth (okay, I was already in it when I gave birth, but I touched it up) and I did get dressed up to leave the hospital. It’s just who I am. It was shocked to see so much hatred from other women. What’s wrong with looking nice after giving birth, especially when you know millions of people are going to watch you leave the hospital and those photos will be forever in history? I would be just as shocked if people made comments about a mom in yoga pants and a tee shirt leaving the hospital with her new baby. New moms are beautiful, and they should be celebrated for their own beauty and not some sort of unimaginable standard that doesn’t even seem to exist.
The mombod is the body that gave birth. It might have stretch marks. It might have a scar from surgery. It might have fed and nourished one or more babies and areas that were once perky and firm might not be so much anymore. The mombod might have glowing skin, hair that’s falling out in record numbers, thick, luscious hair that would make any Victoria’s Secret Angel envious. The mombod might have a little extra weight. It might have a lot of extra weight. It might bounce right back but never, ever tighten up again when mom sits down. It’s a body that changed. It’s not the same body it was before a baby was born.
My body has changed. My ‘girls’ as you might call them, which are quite naturally small anyway, are pretty much non-existent after nursing four kids (there’s a small chance I look more like a 10-year-old boy than a 31-year-old woman). I’m the same size I was before having four kids, but it’s all a bit softer than I’d like no matter how much I jog or how much yoga I do. My arm muscles are bigger than I’d like them to be after a 14 months of carrying around two babies at a time every single day. I have a layer of hair growing along the entire perimeter of my head that stands up straight and requires too much product and effort to keep it down – it’s called baby hair and in a few months it will blend right in with the rest of my hair. But for now, that new growth is the bane of my existence. I’ve given birth to four kids – there are moments when I laugh too hard that make me worry I might wet my pants just a little bit. In fact, I wouldn’t even be surprised if it happened one day.
When I look in the mirror, a part of me knows that I look great. But there are bits and pieces of my body that have changed and make me feel a little less than great. My mombod is not the same 25-year-old body that wanted to have kids and hadn’t gone through it yet. But you know what? When I’m having a bad body-image day, I remind myself that I have four kids. And they’re cool.
But I will always, always, always feel so much more confident when I wear my bikini at a resort or by the pool when my four kids are with me than when I’m alone with my husband. You know why? Because I know people will look at me and at my four kids and say, “Wow. She’s had four kids and looks amazing,” and that is, quite honestly, how we should all be viewed.
“Wow. She’s a mother and she’s raising kids and shaping our future and changing lives. She’s the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.” That’s what the mombod means.
Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images