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How I learned to love my postpartum bodyt

Yes, the rumors are true — I have, at long last, discovered the secret to everlasting peace with my postpartum body.

You could say that I’ve never had what one could call a healthy relationship with my body.

In high school, I lived on a diet of apples and cookie dough Slim-Fast bars (yes, they are a real thing) and I absorbed a heavy dose of self-berating body comments from the adult females in my life. After I had my first daughter, I was lucky (?) enough to have some pretty severe complications that left me hospitalized and losing weight faster than you could say rampant infection, but when kids #2 through #3 came along, I had long entered into “overweight mom body” territory.

I struggled greatly after having each of my kids, alternating between beating myself up about my weight gain and exercising like crazy. Each time I had a baby I swore I wouldn’t gain a lot and that the weight would “fall off” with breastfeeding this time like it was supposed to before. And each time, I did and it didn’t.

But oddly enough, when I became pregnant with our fourth child, when I was still over the weight I wanted to be and when I still gained 50 pounds, I found myself at a crossroads of sorts when it came time to face my postpartum self in the mirror.

At six weeks post-birth, I was nowhere near my pre-pregnancy weight. In fact, I had somehow even managed to gain weight since my three-week checkup, a most depressing accomplishment. But instead of beating myself up about my weight gain, this time around, I had the experience of three other kids — and a lot more insight into how my body worked — to fall back on.

When I looked into the mirror, I realized that I had two choices. I could either choose the path I had gone down before, the one where I complained constantly about my body, insisted that my husband stop calling me beautiful because it was obvious I was too fat and lusted over food that I was convinced was “off-limits,” or I could choose the path of acceptance.

I could accept, that after 28 years in this body, I knew it pretty well. I knew that I wasn’t going to magically transform into one of those women that never show any signs of having a baby (and they do exist, of course. “Real” moms can look like supermodels just as much as us mere mortals… ). I was always going to be the woman with the body I have always had — the one that tends to gain weight in my arms and my stomach, the one that is shaped the opposite of what a woman’s body is “supposed” to look like, with broad shoulders and narrow hips.

I could accept that I had been down this road before. I had felt gross and huge and wasted months of my previous babies’ lives in depression simply because of my weight. But eventually, with a lot of hard work, the weight did come off. And it would again.

I could accept that I had always viewed exercise as work and eating healthy as punishment, lusting over cookies and muffins that I would sneakily eat in the Starbucks drive-thru, instead of the self-care and treat to myself that working out and eating healthy could be.

And I could accept, at long last, that beating my body down with bad food and despairing thoughts and relentless demands never did me any good — and that maybe, just maybe, being kind to myself, seeing the beauty in a body that had borne four children and moving forward to treat it well would get me a lot further to where I wanted to be. Or, in other words, it was OK to be fat and happy, even if I wasn’t happy with being fat because the reason I was fat actually was a pretty happy one indeed.

Makes sense, right?

More on your postpartum body

Workout moves with baby in tow
New moms, it’s time to tone your “lady parts”
Reasons new moms should get dressed

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