Like most women I know, I have not always loved my body. From stretch marks during puberty to slightly asymmetrical breasts that I jokingly called “my fraternal twins,” I focused so much on how it looked that I barely registered how it felt for decades. Now that I’m in my 40s, of course, I can see that I was certifiably insane for nit-picking my flaws as a teen and twenty-something; looking back at photos, I want to reach through the time-space continuum, shake my former self, and yell “Stop worrying about your thighs, babygirl, and start appreciating that dewy, unlined skin, ‘cause it won’t last forever!” But short of time travel, I won’t be swapping bodies with my younger self anytime soon. And guess what? I wouldn’t want to. Because surprisingly, after two kids, I love and appreciate my body more than I ever have. Here’s why.
I Finally Know How Strong My Body Is
Sure, going to the gym is great and all, but once you’ve gestated a whole human being, growing them cell by cell from an amorphous speck invisible to the naked eye to a watermelon-sized person with a fully functioning brain? That’s some next-level strength. The ways my body changed during my pregnancies amazed me; I would stand in front of the mirror staring at myself as my thighs, belly, and breasts swelled with the miraculous work of supporting the life growing inside me. In my second and third trimesters, I would rub Bio-Oil® Skincare Oil over my tumescent tummy feeling almost superhuman. As for the actual births, while I’ve tried to keep the memories rosy and far-off, since remembering the sensation of a contraction makes me reflexively kegel in panic, I can confidently say that no Marvel superhero has ever done anything more badass.
My Marks Remind Me I’m A Mom
I just LOLed at my own little headline there, because you know what else reminds me I’m a mom? My children, who are constantly jumping on me and/or yelling down the stairs to ask me for some ice water! But when I’m toweling off after a shower, or doing yoga in a sports bra, and look down to see the loose skin hanging around my belly button, or the faint lines snaking across my hips and stomach, I don’t think self-punitive thoughts like I might have in my youth. Instead, I think, reverently, “I can’t believe my body did that.” And then I get on with my day, because my free time is precious (and I know those kids will find me soon).
I Take Better Care of Myself After Having Kids
There’s something about spending nine months being forced to really treat your body right — slowing down, eating well, cutting out alcohol and limiting caffeine, resting, and slathering your skin in rich, healing moisturizers, like the ultra-soothing Bio-Oil® Dry Skin Gel — that really redefines “self-care.” While I’d thankfully cut out major vices like smoking years before becoming a mom, the habits I developed during pregnancy helped me to truly care for my postpartum body from the inside out. From stepping up my multivitamin game to drinking more water, getting more rest (not a lot, mind you… my kids were both terrible sleepers!), and eating delicious meals even if all my children were willing to touch were goldfish and cut-up fruit, I’ve taken pampering my postpartum bod to the next level, and I’m loving it.
I’m More in Tune With My Body Now
Listening to our bodies is so much harder than it sounds. Who among us has not ordered a salad when in her heart of hearts (and stomach of stomachs), she knew she wanted the chicken parm? But going through pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum healing means I have a deeper understanding of what my body needs, and when. Whether it’s a headache telling me to drink more water, a twinge in my ankle that tells me to skip the gym for a few days (ok, twist my arm!) or just that soul-deep knowledge that I need a hot bath and a glass of wine, stat, or else I will go all Mommie Dearest on my sweet babies, I have a dialogue with my body now that I never had before.
I’m Sexy and I Know It
I did not feel particularly sexy during the first few months postpartum, apart from my truly glorious breasts which had never before and have never since been as full and luscious (although the constant nipple-sucking and pumping took its toll).
But still, I mean it: I feel sexier postpartum, and more confident, than I think I ever have. And it’s not that surface-sexy feeling from my 20s that depended on makeup, hair, and jeans so tight I had to do a ridiculous dance just to get them on. I mean, don’t get me wrong — I still like to look cute, and the older I get the more likely I am to look in the mirror and be like, “Damn, who gave you permission to look that hot?” But the way I feel sexy after having kids is more authentic, I think, and comes from a more inward place. Becoming a mother changes you forever. I truly believe it makes us wiser, kinder, stronger, and more deeply and sensually rooted in both our bodies and our souls. And what could possibly be sexier than that?
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