By Elise Boutin
The following was actually written in July, seven months post-partum. Eight months later and one comment sparked the same feeling and thoughts. It reminded me of this piece and that maybe it was time to share it. I’ve updated it and hesitantly hit “post”…
I’m going to be a little vulnerable in an effort for connectivity.
This is not for compliments, but for camaraderie. It’s for the woman who is breastfeeding at 3 a.m. scrolling through Facebook desperate to hear adult conversation. It’s for the mom who had to go back to work and doesn’t feel like herself. It’s for the woman who has had multiple children and has fully embraced motherhood and her feminine essence.
I’m talking about what it feels like in your own skin after you have had a baby.
I’ve just had my fourth child in under five years. I say just, but he made a year in January. I have had three c-sections where my tummy acquired a thin, discreet, horizontal line. For my fourth, however, it involved a vertical line straight through my belly button that connected to my previous scars. It looks like an anchor, pulling me into motherhood.
The difference with this anchor is that organs came out as well as my baby. At 33 years old I had a full hysterectomy to prevent me from bleeding out after birth because my placenta was attached to my uterus.
I am reminded of this fact sporadically during my reality. It’s strange how our brain copes with major issues. But that’s an entry for another time.
In July, I had a friend’s wedding to attend. I felt radiant when I left my house. I had been swimming daily and I no longer had the bedridden pasty look. I fit into an old special dress and I knew it was the best I had looked in a year. I received compliments all night, but there was the one unintentional, “So, is this your fifth baby?” I laughed it off and explained that I just had a baby. And added a little somberly that I can no longer have children.
I know it was a completely innocent comment, but no matter how exquisite I felt, I still looked pregnant. And it’s a hard thing to carry around sometimes. Some days I am empowered by the strength it takes to have four children. Other days I’m more conscious of my soft tummy.
It’s not the first time I’ve been body aware. During my freshman year of college I gained 40 pounds of Jim Beam and Taco Bell. After years of unhealthy choices, I returned to an athletic life style. It took a year to lose 50 pounds. Never once was I asked if I was pregnant during my heavier phase.
I’ve been asked for up to a year after having a child if I was still pregnant. A week after birthing my 11 pound 10 ounce first child, my youngest sister (who was 19 at the time) asked me why my stomach wasn’t flat yet. Uummmm. Because I’m 29 and life’s natural processes aren’t instant? I have to admit, I did wonder the same question. Five years and three more children later, I now understand that your body changes with each child and that your shape is never quite the same.
The expectation to have it all appear perfect is so ridiculous. Not only am I supposed to keep this child alive, but I’m also supposed to feed them Pinterest worthy snacks, have a home that Joanna Gaines could have designed (I love you, Joanna), and also rock a bod that could be on the cover of Self magazine…all while having a full-time job, too. This makes my brain hurt so much that my only logical response is to quote Cher from Clueless, “OH, As if!”
My body is finally starting to feel like my skin is sinking back to its original form. Even though I’ve lost 30 pounds, my belly still looks like I could be expecting.
After the mortality scare, I shouldn’t care about such superficiality, but here I am squaring off with the most trivial human inadequacies. Maybe it’s what distracts me from contemplating my loss of a uterus. Even though I know it was the right plan, there is a strange emptiness that exists within me. It’s not sad, just different. Slightly empowering, yet equally as weird. My body won’t be doing something it was designed to do. No periods each month. No more babies. At least the no period thing isn’t that bad.
There are no perfect words to describe the swirling vortex of emotions and thoughts that occur after you’ve had a child. Whether it’s your first or fourth, there is always something new to adapt to. Our bodies are how we interact with the world. Whether it’s the internal thoughts and pains that lend to spiritual growth or the outward shape that constantly changes, the body is a miraculous creation.
I just want to offer the reminder to work with it and respect its pace.
When that well intentioned, “When are you due?” pops up, remind yourself that you are a goddess. You grew another human being. You created life! You are strong and powerful and will celebrate your divine opportunities. Let it allow you to feel connected to your creator and your child.
Then take a cue from William’s character on This Is Us. Roll down your windows. Turn up your favorite song. And let it go. Because You, sister, are a rock star.