Flab, Jiggles, and Back-Fat: Learning to Love my Post-Partum Body

by Carrie Bornstein, Executive Director

There’s nothing that lowers one’s body image quite like giving birth.

Within a matter of hours, I felt like my body went from its cutest, most beautiful form to its least attractive possible form. I know that it’s a good problem to have – many woman with fertility issues would give anything for it.

But with so much focus on the body following birth through the gory details and aftermath of delivery, learning to breastfeed, and the conundrum of too-small-for-maternity / too-big-for-regular clothes, it’s hard not to feel down. Thank God for this beautiful baby I get to wear instead – as a distraction to both others and myself.

That being said, if one more person asks me when the baby is due… “Any day now?” inquired the supermarket bagger. After telling her I already had the baby, she followed up with, “Oh, so only six weeks ago?” She happened to be right, though I knew that based on past experience, I’d probably look the same way at six months post-partum too.

Not long ago I returned to Mayyim Hayyim for a post-partum immersion and found myself reciting words from the ceremony that I never would have intuited on my own:

I stand here today having given birth to my child; feeling grateful for the miraculous workings of my body. I honor my body for its wisdom and for its ability to nurture the creation of another human being, for sheltering that being, for completing this pregnancy. As I prepare for this immersion, I look in the mirror and notice the ways that my body has been transformed by this act of creation.

Take a few moments to really look in the mirror

And then I did. And for the first time since giving birth, I looked without disdain.

Before I started working at Mayyim Hayyim, and before this ceremony existed, I wrote my own following the birth of my first child. I shared it with the ritual creation team with the hopes that they might write one for others to use. While it’s nice to see echoes of my language incorporated elsewhere in the current ceremony, sometimes total creativity leaves something to be desired. Using the ceremony they created, I found these words I didn’t even know I needed.

The following night, yet another stranger asked me if I was pregnant. This time, though, somewhat surprisingly, the question didn’t bother me.

This baby of mine is growing so fast. Whenever someone oohs and ahhs over how little he is, I retort, “No – he’s huge!” In my post-partum, sleep-deprived haze, I often have the feeling that I’ve missed his newborn stage. My still-flabby body, though, is a reminder of just how little he is. I know that in time, the weight will come off and I will go back to looking like my old self. Then he really won’t be so little anymore. But for now, I still have this reflection in the mirror as a reminder of what I’ve done.

My two older kids continue to ask, “Ema, why is your belly still big?” Before my immersion I shook it off with nervous laughter and redirected them to anything else. (“Hey, look – bubbles!”)

Now, I no longer dodge the question. I know that I am setting an example – for my six-year old daughter, who, God-willing will do this with her own body one day if she so chooses – and even for my three-year old son, who should have just as positive an image of women’s bodies.

“Ema, why is your belly still big?”

“It’s because my body made a baby. Isn’t that amazing?”

Carrie and Family

Carrie Bornstein is Mayyim Hayyim’s Executive Director, and blogs regularly at mayyimhayyimblog.com. She and her husband, Jamie, added baby Jonah to the family in April, joining big siblings Dovi (3) and Eliana (6). Follow her on twitter @carolinering.

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