Why You Don't Have To Love Your Postpartum Body
Gaining and losing nearly 140 lbs. in the span of four years, well, that'll do a number on your body.
After every baby, at about four weeks post-partum, I've looked longly at my pre-baby jeans and wondered why I ever thought I wasn't skinny enough. I looked at the width of the leg opening, the number on the tag and I prayed that, 1) someday I'd fit into them again, and 2) if I do, that I'd actually appreciate it and love my body for it.
But you know what happens? About three months after buttoning up those desired jeans, I start wishing I was skinner. I start wishing I could tuck in a little here, tighten up a little there, and I start hating my body for all the ways I feel it has failed me.
Culture tells us our bodies should be flawless, unblemished, perfect – even after babies – but the reality of our post-partum bodies shows us we are everything but.
As Hannah Anderson writes in Humble Roots, "We do not hate our bodies for what they are; we hate them for what they are not. We hate them for not being godlike ... for being imperfect ... limited."
So is the solution to "learn to love our bodies," as culture often tells us? To work them hard to make them the best they can be and learn to love the skin we're in?
No, as Anderson so aptly points out:
"...Simply learning to 'love your body' will not free you from shame, because at times, your body will feel very unlovable. What will free you from shame is humility; what will free you from shame is accepting that you are not and were never meant to be divine."
Once we admit that we are not God, we can finally have freedom to embrace who we are and the body we are in. It doesn't mean we love and adore everything about it, but it does mean we make peace with it; it means we can move beyond being ashamed of it to enjoy who we were made to be.
Anderson builds on this point in our Risen Motherhood interview by saying, "It means we choose to listen to Jesus and not the culture around us. We listen to the voice of Christ who says, 'Come to me, I've got the same kind of body and mine is just as messed up as yours is. It's not what the world says is beautiful, but I honor and value and love the things that the world does not.'"
She talks about how Christ wasn't ashamed of his human flesh. Of marred skin. Of scarred hands and feet. He used his body to serve and sacrifice, a tool for the overflow of his love for us. And so for every stretch mark, every c-section scar, for the lumps and sags and lines the world tells us we should erase, what if we shut out the shouts of culture and instead listened to the voice of Christ? What if we celebrated them as beautiful, simply because of what they represent? The gift of our children from God. The sacrifice and service of motherhood. Love scared forever on our bodies. A connection with Christ.
So instead of trying to force our bodies in to some culturally-acceptable mold, striving to get back to "pre-baby perfection" before we can love them again, what if we all took a step back and realized that "loving" our post-partum bodies isn't the answer? Because we all know, that no matter how much we diet and exercise, our bodies will never measure up to the world's goddess-like ideal. If we don't deal with our bodies from the right perspective, we will always carry a certain amount of shame because we're asking our bodies to be something they are not, and never will be.
Our bodies were never meant to take the throne. They are a unique way we can be identified with Christ – and what they really are is a recognition of our limits, and our service to a limitless God.
Admitting we are not God, takes our flawed and failed bodies off the throne and puts God in his rightful place. It tells us that while we are made in his image – we. are. not. him.