“I have a confession to make,” I nervously reveal to my best friend. “I’m contemplating a mommy makeover.” Just saying those words out loud makes me feel better because I am finally releasing what feels like a dirty secret I’ve been harboring.
I deliberately haven’t told any of my friends until now, because I am afraid of what their reactions might be. Will they judge me? Will I be considered a stain on feminism? I have a real sense of guilt and shame to even be pondering plastic surgery. I feel like I’m letting down Lizzo and the entire Girl Power movement by even mulling it over.
But should I be ashamed? Isn’t part of being an evolved, modern woman the freedom to boldly make whatever choices are best for us, without apology or explanation?
I spent my teen years and 20s feeling self-conscious about my body. This was during the era of “heroin chic,” where the more skeletal you looked, the better. I can remember putting up what I thought were inspirational quotes on my college dorm walls: “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels,” and “Don’t eat anything today that you’ll regret tomorrow.” When my crush didn’t reciprocate my feelings, I would spend hours running laps around the school track, convinced that if I could just lose 10 pounds, my love would no longer go unrequited. When I look back on that time, I feel sad and disgusted with myself, and our culture, for engaging in such a dangerous and preposterous mindset. Not to mention the time and energy so foolishly wasted.
My 30s have brought confidence that I could’ve only dreamed of in my earlier years. I have a healthy relationship with eating and my body. I got off the crash diet hamster wheel and have learned to eat real food. I no longer force myself to work out excessively; instead, I actually enjoy exercising by hiking or biking with friends.
Now, there is a major body positivity movement that I’m so proud to be a part of. Women are no longer expected to be size zero. People of all races, shapes, and sizes are being embraced and celebrated. I’m 100% here for all of this.
“Dang, girl, you look good,” I said to myself just this morning as I checked out my reflection in the mirror. There’s no denying that pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding have permanently altered my body. But even though I don’t look perfect, I walk around with my head held high and I feel fantastic. I am powerful and unstoppable. Hear me roar!
Then: “Is the baby in your belly a boy or a girl?”
The question comes from a random child at the park. Spoiler alert: There is not a baby in my belly. There hasn’t been for a long time. And — poof — all that hard-earned body confidence goes right out the window. I feel weak for being susceptible to other’s comments, but I have to admit that it gets to me. This is not the first time I’ve heard this kind of comment. I’ve been asked several times if I’m pregnant by well-meaning people, and it’s a real shot to my self-esteem.
After years of infertility, I feel so grateful I was afforded the privilege of carrying and birthing three babies and being somebody’s mom. On top of that, my body allowed me to feed these infants nutritious (free!) milk, which is also tremendous. I have a whole new respect and appreciation for women and their incredible bodies.
Considering all that’s happened in this body, it’s no wonder it looks a little different than it did pre-baby. I grew a human in there! That’s nothing short of astonishing and should be celebrated. So why am I still having these negative thoughts about my postpartum body?
I begin to chip away at the baby weight with a healthy diet and exercise, in hopes of losing my faux baby bump. I do lose a lot of the weight and start to look toned for the first time in my life, but that belly is just not budging.
I start to think about surgery, but I wonder if getting plastic surgery and body positivity are mutually exclusive. I want to do my due diligence, so I make an appointment with a well-respected female plastic surgeon. She explains I have a condition called diastasis recti, where my abdominal muscles have become weak and lax from being overstretched by the three massive babies I housed in my uterus. Hence, the perma-pregnant look I’m sporting. “Your case is severe, and there is no amount of weight loss or exercise that can fix this condition. Your only option is surgery,” she tells me. It was partially a relief to hear and partially a huge buzzkill because now I have a real decision to make.
After meeting with the doctor, I now realize that body positivity means the acceptance of all bodies, including those that have been surgically enhanced. We shouldn’t be shaming mothers for choosing the surgery route — or not. If you want to go all out and get surgery, good for you! If you want to wear your stretch marks and extra pounds like a badge of honor, good for you! No one should tell a woman how to feel about her postpartum body or dictate what’s right or wrong for her.
I realize what it comes down to is motivation. I need to ask myself some tough questions about why I’m struggling with this. I do have discomfort from the diastasis. But the honest answer might just be for the sake of vanity as well. And it’s perfectly acceptable if changing my appearance increases my self-esteem and makes me feel like my best self.
It’s not that I want to look like a supermodel. I just want to look like my old self again. At the end of the day, I am not doing this for anyone else but myself. My husband understands and appreciates all that my strong little body has done, and he has made it clear that the decision is mine to make. He supports me either way.
So here I am, with a million what-ifs running through my head. I haven’t made a final decision about what to do. What if the surgery goes badly and I’m botched? If I don’t do it, will my self-esteem suffer, and will I regret not going through with it?
I’m still wrestling with the pros and the cons. But I do know this: If I go ahead and pull the trigger, it will not make me any less body positive or feminist. For me, feminism is all about emboldening women to make whatever choice empowers us to live our best lives. And that includes modifying our bodies if it suits us.
I still firmly believe that badass bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Nothing will ever change my view on that. Whatever choice I make in the end, I will feel confident and unapologetic about my decision. I believe Lizzo would be proud.
These gorgeous photos show moms who love their postpartum bodies.