Women often have complicated relationships with their bodies, and having a baby complicates it even further.
Even in this enlightened age, women's magazines devote significant space to "losing the baby weight" and "getting your body back". Celebrity mags, in particular, focus on how quickly these poor women can bounce back to a pre-baby state (You're wearing a bikini six weeks after giving birth? When was the last time you ate something?) rather than what led to the weight in the first place: bearing a new life. The cosmetic and health industries have a wide range of products and services designed to erase, as quickly as possible, the fact that you ever carried a life inside of you.
So let me say for the record, I'm not on board with that.
The counter-culture reaction has been to celebrate the post-partum body. You may have seen the poems that are circulating on Facebook and mom blogs these days about embracing the sacred womanliness of child-bearing. They're lovely poems, and I'm sure they help some mothers feel more self-confident about their post-baby bodies, so they serve a good purpose. But why does the pendulum have to swing so far in the other direction?
Don't get me wrong: having my girls was the best thing I've ever done. They're adorable and funny and smart. They keep me honest, keep me laughing and keep me on my toes every day.
I celebrate the joy they bring into my life. But that doesn't mean I have to celebrate the stretch marks.
I'm not ashamed of my body now—far from it—but I don't think it has to be an either/or scenario. I can dislike the loss of cleavage after nursing or the silvery stretch marks that still reach like thin fingers across my hips and belly. I can dislike the pale surgery scar that shows how my babies came into this world.
And none of that discounts, even a little, the love I feel for the astonishing little miracles that caused those changes.
Making women feel that they must love everything about their post-baby bodies is, I fear, as much of a high standard to meet as getting back to a pre-baby state. And the last thing we moms need is more guilt.