Many mothers are victims of postpartum body shaming.
Recently I was the victim of a well known crime, one that isn’t punishable by law. The offender, a close family member. The charge, body shaming. To summarise the offense - a family member called me, not to check up on me or my son, but to talk to me about the increase in cellulite that she noticed on my legs. I allowed her to “vent”about one of my biggest insecurities. I said nothing. In my mind I deserved it. At the end of our conversation an email popped up from her, with exercises I needed to do to minimize the appearance of my cellulite. I deleted it without opening.
I immediately went to the mirror where I stood for about 10 minutes looking at every dimple, extra skin and stretch mark, wishing my body away. What I did not see was my son sitting , looking up at me and observing my every move. He was looking up at me and I was looking down at me. I sat on the floor. He quickly crawled over me with the biggest smile , grabbed my face and gave me wettest kiss. He laughed and crawled away to his favorite toy. It was then I realised my body is for him. Every imperfection I cried over , created the perfect being that he is.
Postpartum body shaming is a common phenomenon. Let us face it, many mothers struggle with their body image after having a baby. They view their post-pregnancy body with a mix of dread and resignation. Even the skinny girls are body shamed. I remember having a conversation with two of my close friends . They both lost a lot of weight post pregnancy and they were very insecure about it . In my mind I was thinking , well that's a good problem to have. I wish I was that skinny, why are they complaining.
Our society places a lot of unrealistic pressure on women to look a certain way, not only postpartum but all the time.Time and time again I hear people say,” many of our Caribbean men prefer their women to be thick.” They love the extra meat around the hips. Not too much though , just enough so that they can be categorised as “slim-thick.” It's a huge compliment for women to be placed in that category.
As mothers we need to learn to celebrate our postpartum bodies. This does not mean that we should not exercise and get back in shape. It means we should ignore the pressure and appreciate every stage our body goes through. It is perfectly normal to gain or lose weight post-baby. It is also normal to not “snap back” as soon as your baby pops out. As a matter of fact, it is down right impossible!
After my meltdown that day I accepted that I didn't have to look like my pre-baby body self immediately - or ever! I was not in a competition with anyone. My body, though not perfect, created perfection and for that I am immensely grateful. I am by no means saying that I would just sit back and let myself go. I enjoy working out but I do it because I want to. I do it for me and not to satisfy or justify unsolicited comments about my body. I trust that my family member was coming from a loving place. Therefore I channeled the shame into satisfaction and strength .So every time I have a negative thought about my body, I quietly say to myself "thank you for housing and growing my son. Thank you!"