How do I feel about you?
The truth is, it’s complicated.
In pregnancy, I love you. I’m proud of everything you achieve. I love those early days, when I start to notice a bump, standing in front of a mirror and taking those first photos as you start to swell. I love pulling my maternity clothes out of the wardrobe, dusting them off, and feeling the instant relief of an elasticated waistband. I love watching you dance in the bath as you grow bigger – and even when you pop to dramatic proportions and people turn in shock when I pass them in the mall, I am amazed by your ability to stretch (even if it feels like you are going to pop at any moment).
After all, I do believe – I do really, really believe – that the pregnant silhouette is the most beautiful silhouette in the world. And for that reason, I am never more confident of my own body than when I have a child curled up inside of me.
And then that child comes out – and how wonderful that is – and the attention shifts instantly to the baby that now kicks, cries, and hiccups in our arms.
The show isn’t about you anymore. And what a fall from grace!
In the instant that the baby appears, you go from a beautiful, swollen bump that turns every eye in the room, to a jelly-like, empty sack that makes me recoil in horror when I reach down to touch you.
And that’s when our relationship gets complicated.
Every day, I stare in the mirror.
One day postpartum, I still look 30 weeks pregnant. My eldest child says to me: “If baby sister is out now, what is in your tummy, Mummy?” I struggle to explain that one, but I know you are doing your job. Every time I feed the baby, you contract so painfully. “Can I get another epidural?” I laugh to the husband. And I’m only half joking.
Two days postpartum and I look like I’m in the second trimester. I stroke my bump in the mirror, amazed at the body’s ability to do its thing after birth. But as I pull on maternity clothes and discover they now look ‘empty’ (whilst those from pre-pregnancy pinch my waistline and cling to all the wrong bumps), I am struggling to love you anymore.
By a week, you are shrinking still. Just a little bump now, like the first swollen days of pregnancy. If I wasn’t pushing my newborn in a stroller, people might even assume I had just eaten a big meal. Still, I don’t like looking in the mirror anymore and I position the baby carefully to hide you in photographs.
But I am starting to regain some serious respect too.
You see postpartum tummy; our relationship really is complicated.
Because whilst I miss that taut, swollen, gigantic bump from just a few weeks ago, staring at pictures of those last days of pregnancy with a mixture of disbelief and sadness (it’s amazing how quickly you forget what it felt like to have a 9Ib8oz baby stretching your skin), I feel more respect with every baby that joins us.
You might wobble. You might have an angry stretch mark where I pierced my belly button as a teenager. You might be far removed from the washboard abs of my gymnast days.
T-shirts might cling, belts might not fasten, and underwear might pinch.
Just look at what you did!
And for that reason, I love you postpartum tummy.
I really, really do.