The bigger postpartum picture…

Mamas, I want to take a minute to talk about all of the things postpartum. Well maybe not all of the things, but at least some of them…

There is SO.MUCH.PRESSURE. to “bounce back” quickly after giving birth… physically, mentally, emotionally. In some ways, it feels like we are expected to be back to “normal” as soon as we walk out of the hospital doors. And if we aren’t, we are weak. Or needy. Or a burden to those around us.

Not only are these [unrealistic] expectations placed on us [both implicitly and explicitly] but people also tend to assess how we are “doing” based on our physical appearance alone. Why? Because that’s the most obvious and visible way to measure people up, and looking more than skin deep tends to make people uncomfortable.

I have always been a “skinnier” person, and after both of my pregnancies I regained my figure in a fairly short amount of time. But I am so, SO tired of hearing “WOW, you look great!” Not because I don’t appreciate the compliment, but because it just feels a bit canned to me. It feels like it’s the safe thing to say. It feels inadequate…incomplete.

Today I had my 6-week postpartum appointment. I got the “all clear” from my doctor, who said everything looked great and I have healed up really well.

Almost everyone I see comments on my physical appearance…how it doesn’t look like I just had a baby.


But the thing is, I DID. And when I look in the mirror, what I see is a mama still struggling through this phase of postpartum. I can obviously see it physically — in my squishy, saggy middle, in my my weary eyes and unwashed hair. Clothes and concealer may cover those things on the outside, but I know what’s underneath.

I can also feel what’s underneath. It’s in my heart that is both overflowing with love and aching from the weight of my new responsibilities. It’s in my soul that is always slightly unsettled and often anxious. The exhaustion runs deep in my bones as I single-handedly sustain another human being with my own body. I feel the changes in my relationships…with my husband, my family, my friends. I feel overjoyed but overwhelmed. I feel blessed but burdened. Do you feel it, too?

That’s why it doesn’t necessarily feel good when someone says you “look” good. Because how we look on the outside…that’s only the frame that holds the bigger picture. It is dependent on superficial factors like how longs it’s been since we last took a shower, if there was time to put on a coat of mascara between changing diapers / feeding / folding the hundredth load of laundry for the week, and if there happens to be spit-up on the front of our shirt. I don’t want to be seen for these things or for the fact that I do or don’t fit back in my “pre-pregnancy” pants. I want to be seen for the whole picture. And sometimes…that picture is not pretty.

This phase is no doubt magical, but it can also be mundane. It is exhilarating, but also exhausting. And even when it is happy, it is so dang hard.

Hang in there, mama. There is someone out there who sees you…all of you.