Ten weeks ago I gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
This being my first pregnancy, delivery and postpartum experience, my expectations were low because as many friends and strangers told me: “Every woman’s experience is different.”
I didn’t know how my body would feel being pregnant. I had no clue what giving birth would be like for me. And I didn’t know what my body would feel like afterward. It was (and is) all new to me.
I gained a healthy amount of weight while pregnant (sometimes surprising with all the crackers and Oreos I ate daily). Labor and delivery was relatively quick, due to a strong pain tolerance, a wonderful anesthesiologist and an episiotomy. Postpartum has been surprising in some ways and uneventful in others. I’ve encountered new emotions, extremely overwhelming emotions and downright joyous ones.
I tried breastfeeding and it didn’t work for me so I’m exclusively pumping to produce milk to feed our daughter. They say this practice helps my body adjust and lose some of the extra weight I gained while said daughter grew inside me. That’s all well and good, but I haven’t had one discontent thought about my physical body in the last 10 weeks.
And disclaimer, I wrestled with an eating disorder while in college, so I know what it is like to spend most of your thought energy focusing on, critiquing and expecting more from your body. And then a few years ago, dealt with a neck injury that is still causing me pain sometimes (and disappointment, honestly).
Sure, after my doctor gave me the ‘all clear’ did I want to begin exercising again? Yes! Because movement is vital to me enjoying life. Because exercise is enjoyable and helps me feel like myself. Not because I was ashamed of my body and needed to fix it.
My sister is getting married in a few weeks.
When I took my bridesmaid dress to be altered, this is what one of the friendly seamstresses said to me: “Good for you, your body is back to normal!”
I think I know the sentiment she intended with her compliment, but internally a bunch of rather spicy thoughts came to mind:
My body is changed forever because of a remarkable thing, why do I need to make it what it was before?
Normal is such a relative, subjective word for a physical body. Normal means healthy, in my opinion. And even then, if your hearing is impaired or you have chronic pain somewhere, who is to say your body isn’t normal?
What is with culture’s pressure to ‘go back’ after something like childbirth instead of forward?
No matter how disciplined we are in exercise or intentional with our diets, our physical bodies we are wasting away a little bit every day, says 2 Corinthians 4:16. Our bodies will continue to weaken, change shape and fail us in small and large ways. Our bodies will excite us and discourage us. We’ll have days we’re thankful for them and days we’re annoyed with them.
Friend, all I’m saying is that there is freedom from the pressure you might feel over your body, postpartum or not.
I don’t know what healthy or strong means to you. I don’t know how you’re feeling about your physical body. I don’t know what about it makes you feel like it isn’t enough as it is. I don’t even know what kind of hopes you have for it.
I’m here to extend the invitation God gave me: do not expect your physical body to give you what only Jesus can give you. And with that practicing hope in Christ, be free to hold stewardship of your health in one hand and a consuming love for God in the other.
Take a long look at what your body has been through thus far in life, call out shame and fear where you see it, and move forward believing a more beautiful pursuit of your life is Jesus.
“The gospel frees me from being controlled with the changing emotions of my postpartum body. The gospel reminds me that I’m not defined by what I feel, but by the complete work of Christ on my behalf. My hormones might make me feel like I’m in a rollercoaster, but the Word of God is a sure foundation to hold fast in the midst of my confusion. The gospel gives me a solid foundation for my identity to be placed. My feelings are not God; they can be submitted to the truth.” Betsy Gómez, via