I’ve had this photo sitting in my Instagram drafts for three months. It’s been something of a conundrum for me, since it makes me feel proud and embarrassed all at the same time. The reality is that it doesn’t look much different to this day, over five months postpartum. The stretch marks are definitely less intense, but the wrinkly skin is still there, and my belly button is, well, we won’t talk about my belly button—you already know it’s a sore subject for me. I see photos of moms two or three months postpartum with totally normal tummies that, even if not totally flat, are at least taught and toned. You’d never know they’d just been stretched to kingdom come. Apparently my genetics aren’t coded that way. After my bout with stomach flu last week, I got down to a few pounds below what I was before I got pregnant with Perry, and my arms and legs are finally starting to tone. But my tummy, I fear, will never be the same. And I’m struggling with that. I was afraid to post this because it felt almost like admitting failure. It makes sense a few months out. But at some point, it must mean you’re not trying, right? Or that something is “wrong” with your body? And then on the flip side, I felt like a failure for not owning what motherhood has done to my body so far. I’m trying not to be embarrassed at the pool or wonder what the other girls think when they see my stomach. I try to tell myself they’re not feeling sorry for me or sending up subconscious thanks that their stomachs are flat and toned. I try to be realistic, too, because number two is not far behind and I know I can’t worry about what my body looks like when my baby making days aren’t even over. I don’t have any ground breaking statement to make or lesson to share since I’m still deep in the trenches with this one. My original caption simply said, “We did it all for the glory of love.” Maybe I should have just left it at that.
Last night Perry slept 5 hrs and 3 hrs. Much better than the atrocity that was the night before. And we just woke up from a delicious two-hour nap. She has never been a consistently good sleeper, and sleep training has always felt like, “It’s all Greek to me.” I’ve resorted to letting her (carefully) co-sleep with me a lot of nights. Which is precious, but not entirely practical. She’s also always been a bit of a noisy sleeper (much less so now) and Matt had to start retreating to the couch to get any sleep, cause unfortunately he’s not blessed with the typical male brain that can sleep through night time feedings and diaper changes. Sleep deprivation is a crazy thing! It rewires my brain for mild insanity. But morning always comes, and with it, a renewed sense of strength. Honestly, I don’t know how mothers physically survive pregnancy, and then survive childbirth. Then, with no recovery time, have to survive sleepless nights and more physical changes while our bodies try to heal. Then you get brave enough to turn around and do it all over again. It’s shown me in a whole new way how strong the power of Love is. Matt and I look at each other daily and comment on how we’d do anything for our daughter. We’re wrapped around her finger. This life is savage and yet beautiful. Rugged and yet irresistible. With love as the sinews and rivers that flow through and bind us together. I’ll remind myself to take a few more deep breaths on the long nights. The nights may be long, but the years are so short.
Disclaimer: I resisted the urge to edit out my fluffy belly button. The reality is that most of you wouldn’t even have noticed if I hadn’t said anything (go ahead, zoom in. I give you permission). I don’t mind the stretch marks, but I’m having a harder time embracing my new belly button. Around week 22 of pregnancy, my belly button started to protrude like a little balloon. I thought it would go away after Perry was born, but the balloon remains. Any other issues I have are totally self-inflicted because I keep telling myself I’m gonna do planks and exercise every day. Guess how many days I’ve done planks (or exercised) since she was born? One. Yep. ONCE. So I’m not allowed to complain cause I haven’t put much (any) effort in. Breastfeeding has taken the weight off, but I don’t feel as healthy or strong as I wish I did. All of this aside, motherhood has filled my heart and soul and I’ve never been more convinced of God’s love and goodness. My body is a vessel, not a vase.