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Finding Peace With My Postpartum Body
April 16, 2016


I am a 5'2 petite woman. The heaviest I weighed during my pregnancy was about 160 lbs. After our daughter was born, all of my "baby weight" fell off rather quickly - in large part to my constant pumping. Breastfeeding burns calories - which helps you lose weight. So not long after my delivery - say four weeks - I was actually back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

Often in the discussion about moms' bodies, there are two camps: the battle scars vs. the snapbacks. Much like our current presidential races, they represent two extremes of a very wide spectrum.

The Battle Scar view often encourages acceptance of the female body after birth, and blast those who expect women to look the same after carrying and delivering children into the world. Stretch marks are not flaws, but the proud marks of a woman who brought life into the world. Understandable.

The SnapBack view is about our country's obsession with postpartum bodies looking as if the woman never had a baby in the first place. Do this exercise, detox with this smoothie. Don't get me wrong, when I saw Teyana Taylor's snapback I cried a little inside because I knew that was not me, and would never be me. Again, I get it - superficial standards of beauty plagued by coverage of celebrity moms who don't represent the everyday woman.

Instead of those two extremes, I want to focus on us women in the middle, moderates, (sorry Bernie) who don't really like our battle scars, but also don't want to starve and/or don't have time to work out every day to achieve a snapback that may only last a year until we are pregnant again. Where is our happy place?

This search for peace was great when the only humans I saw every day were my husband and a newborn who have no choice but to love me. I could wrestle with the complexities of the female body in the quiet of my own home, not having to defend my position to anyone. Then I ended my maternity leave and returned to work - cue substantial contact with humans again, and I quickly learned I was living in a fantasy world.

Not only did I have no idea how to handle all the attention my body was receiving, but I especially wasn't prepared to deal with the perception that I was "back to normal." I want to be clear: I have been small my entire life - at this point, I am pretty sure it is genetic, and not because I am a rock star gym rat and/or healthy eating guru. Yet, I was fascinated, and then very frustrated that my coworkers judged my body based only on my weight. One look at my clothed body and they saw a woman who looked similar to how she did before she got pregnant. Then one of two things occurred: they congratulated me on my snapback or they proceeded to body shame me for losing weight so quickly. Almost daily for a month, I would hear statements such as "Must be nice," or "You don't even look like you had a baby." Yet, I did have a BABY! I delivered a 7 lb. baby after 20 hours of labor. It was hard, it was exhausting, and you are never REALLY the same after. Remove the layers of clothing, and I was just as fragile mentally and physically as many new moms. And yet, because my weight matched my pre-pregnant self, I was not afforded the "luxury" to not be happy with how I looked.

In the era of the humblebragger, there is little room for new moms in my situation. If I complain about my battle scars I am anti-feminist. If I complain about my body I am ungrateful, given my rapid weight loss. The psychological toll of being repeatedly told to accept and love your body is exhausting. And the more I thought about it the more I realized it was crap.

I do not like my stretch marks. I wish I could pay them away. Yes, they represent the beauty of life and how remarkable our bodies are - creating humans and such. But when I see them, I see regret for not using that body oil every day. Likewise, I want a flat stomach. I really want a four pack, but that is not realistic given my current workout situation. I had a flat, OK maybe a flatter stomach, before being pregnant and I want it back. Does that make me a bad person? Have I succumbed to the pressures of mainstream standards? I seriously doubt it.

So I decided I am done being apologetic about my small size, my disdain for my stretch marks, or my desire for a flat stomach. I am also done trying to ration to other people how I feel about my body. Shame, disagree with me and feel as you wish. My peace is not tied to others opinion of my views on body image, or how I choose to describe my current emotional state. In the form of feminism that I subscribe to (the super complex one with many layers of race, class, religion, and geography) I call the shots.

Only when we remove the labels, remove the either-or mentality that plagues both Black women and the feminist movement as a whole are our minds and bodies really free. The battle scar and snapback moms should be able to coexist in a world of acceptance. They are both equally entitled to fee how they wish about their bodies. Yet, in this world of whole acceptance, I'll still be somewhere in the middle trying to figure it all out.

Written By
Victoria Graham
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