It is incredibly hard to feel like yourself again after having a baby. Your body becomes foreign; you have rolls where there were none, things stretch and droop and bulge in new ways. It is not necessarily good, nor is it bad. It is just different, and kind of weird.
An encouraging post about finding beauty in a postpartum body is currently going viral, likely because other people who have had a child can see themselves in this mom's words.
On the Facebook page Love What Matters, mom Laura Mazza writes about the changes her body endured and the alienating feeling of being in her own skin — while her husband's body hasn't changed at all. "The body he fell in love with was toned, it had muscles, there were no stretch marks on my belly, none on my boobs, no gut from muscle separation," she writes.
"The body he fell in love with fit into tight jeans, could walk into a shop and grab any size and walk out, knowing it fit. This body now couldn't shop at those stores, and mostly wears leggings," she continues. "His body stayed the same, but mine changed in every way. It isn't fair."
It's a sentiment that's been expressed by women across the internet lately. An essay at Racked by Emily Mohn-Slate reads, "I don’t have the belly to hold up my maternity jeans, but jeans with a zipper and button dig into my bulge. I’m constantly hiking my jeans up. I’ve become the Sisyphus of jeans."
She shares the feeling of "living in someone else's body." At the same time, she writes, she feels more useful than ever. "I carried two people in my body for a year and a half total; I feed these people, I clean them, I sing to them, I make sure they don’t drink laundry detergent... But useful isn’t enough."
And perhaps the reason this feeling is so universal amongst postpartum people is because postpartum education and care in the United States is absolutely dismal. It's a reality we're only recently beginning to understand, thanks to research from the 4th Trimester Project.
According to Vox, the research has found that not only are new parents who have carried a child unaware of many of the more common complications, but they're often too embarrassed to discuss their symptoms with providers and don't know that there are treatments that could help them. In fact, about 60% of postpartum women have a separation in their abdominal wall called Diastasis Recti — the type of separation Mazza talked about in her post — and many more have weak or injured pelvic floor muscles. However, most women haven’t even heard of these conditions until related problems like pain or incontinence become an issue for them.
This silence and shame can create an incredible sense of discomfort and isolation, so it's comforting to hear other parents, like Mazza, share the feelings or experiences that have felt like ours alone. Sometimes the most helpful two words to hear are, "me, too."