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National Editorials & Columns

Pregnancy is beautiful

“How many months do you have postpartum to lose the baby weight before losing the excuse of having a baby?”

That is a loaded question — and one that I have been asked numerous times. Folks ask this question with a slight nod, hoping I pick up on the not-so-subtle hint that I am quickly running out of time to hide behind the “I had a baby” excuse.

Loved ones who read my column last week, which stated my desire to make only attainable 2013 resolutions, responded with: “Funny column, but you were joking, right? I mean, obviously you still are going to try to lose the baby weight. Right? Right?”

Our society proclaims that everything about pregnancy is beautiful, but not the woman’s body after giving birth. If that is true, clearly, I missed the memo.

My pregnancy was not beautiful. It was not beautiful to vomit multiple times a day for nearly seven months. It was not beautiful getting pimples and oily hair. It was not beautiful to have everything smell rancid. My waddle was not beautiful. My back pain was not beautiful. My constant sweating was not beautiful. And the purple cottage-cheese coating on my son when he was born most certainly was not beautiful. The only thing beautiful about my pregnancy was the beautiful boy who came out of it.

Trust me; I wanted nothing more than to hone my inner Kate Hudson and rock the Earth Mother vibe with bohemian grace and midriff-baring blouses. And though I know I’m supposed to support a feminist idealism and spout some collective narrative about the beauty of the pregnancy, I can’t. It simply wasn’t my experience.

Equally shocking to the beautiful-pregnancy propaganda is how quickly our society turns on women’s bodies after giving birth. We are inundated with articles in parenting magazines on how to lose the baby bulge. Celebrities compete to see who can look as if she is not a mother the most quickly. And I am asked that loaded question, “How many months do you have postpartum to lose the baby weight before losing the excuse of having a baby?”

I simply don’t understand. My pregnancy was not beautiful. And I never have loved my body more.

No matter my weight or fitness level, I never have been excessively kind to myself. I always could point to my love handles or thighs or armpit fat. I always could find something I didn’t like. And I certainly could find things I don’t like about my body now. The difference is that I’ve stopped trying to find them.

I don’t know how many months I have until I lose the excuse of having just had a baby. I’m not looking for an excuse; I’m looking for a new perspective.

My body is covered in scars — scars that I love, scars that tell stories. There is a gash from when I slid down a mountain face during a 13-hour hike in Papua New Guinea. I have a faint scar on my leg from when I was sitting on top of a lifeguard stand and was so startled by a boy trying to kiss me that I fell off. My thumb points the wrong direction after a biking accident. And don’t even get me started on my elbows and knees.

I love every one of those imperfections. They are my battle wounds. They show a life well-lived. And I’ve taken to seeing my post-pregnancy body the same way. Like other scars, my postpartum body may fade in time, but until then, it is to be celebrated. My soft tummy and my fuller breasts and my linea nigra and my larger feet are my pregnancy battle scars. They carry a story. They carried my son. And I think they are beautiful.

How many months? I couldn’t care less.

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