Postpartum Bodies

I’m tired. Three months with these twins and I am still in survival mode most of the time. I’m doing okay. But I’m tired.

I want to talk about the fact that most conversations on postpartum bodies are strictly about weight loss and why that’s complete utter crap and a major reduction of a complex situation. Look, I have only my own experience with two postpartum periods, but come on, is baby weight really all that most people are worried about? I am lucky in a big way — I didn’t gain a lot in either pregnancy and lost my pregnancy weight very quickly, like by the time I got home, so I concede that I can’t speak to how others feel about wanting to lose pregnancy weight. But I also can’t be the only person to experience pelvic and back pain, to have abdominal weakness and pain from diastasis recti, to have such tense back muscles that lying flat hurts so much it steals my breath. I’m so sick of the conversation being about how postpartum bodies look. Can’t we talk about how they feel?

Right now, I feel weak. I feel frustrated that the very things I must do to care for my kids are the things making my abdominal separation worse — lifting weight, twisting, hunching, sitting, carrying weight on my front. I can’t stop holding and feeding my babies in order to heal my body. If I were healed, I could hold them longer and care for them better.

I’m angry that the DR was likely caused by having a twin pregnancy. I’m angry that my body is doubly taxed with twice as much weight to carry as I care for twin infants. Anger is stupid and useless, but I’m tired, and anger is there.

I just want a massage, free chiro, something. I want to feel better. Every time someone tells me I look great — skinnier — I try to appreciate the compliment, but I feel so physically taxed that my appearance seems so trivial. I want to laugh at the absurdity of the implication that I should be, what, proud? I lost weight because I literally could not eat enough calories to keep up with my babies. Should I feel like I achieved something? I don’t.

I just feel tired, tense, achy, weak, in pain.

Why do we have to label excess in our bodies? Muffin top, mummy tummy, thigh gap, etc. I have been reading about healing my DR, and everywhere I look, I’m told I have mummy tummy. My injured stomach is now a cutesy, rhymey label, generic, cliche even. It’s reduced to A Problem Area. It’s made a point of surface level vanity, a simple unappealing bit of excess, a morsel of shame. But the term conflates round, post-baby stomachs so there’s no differentiation between a bit of extra weight and a separation in the abdominal wall. One you can address with diet and exercise or with spandex or just, I don’t know, not worry about for awhile; the other requires splints, rest, exercises, sometimes surgery. I’m not saying that carrying more weight than you like is a silly non-issue. I’m saying that the labeling of our “problem” body parts is unhelpful at best and, on a really crappy day, just plain mean. I don’t have mummy tummy. I have a stomach that is part of my body. It’s both a bigger and smaller issue than a label implies.

The one thing I’m proud my body is doing is making plenty of milk. Even that isn’t something I’ve necessarily “earned.” Yes, I’ve put in the extensive time it takes to exclusively breastfeed twins, so I’ve sort of earned it, but I’m also just a person whose body lactates with minimal issues. Not everyone is so lucky.

Anyway, I thought the first time around, when I was thinner but also less mobile and in more pain, that I was just being a brat to be bothered by compliments about my body. But now I know there was a good reason: what mattered most to me was how I moved and felt, not how I looked. I felt hindered. I wanted someone to acknowledge that more had changed than my shape, and the changes were at times debilitating.

Some parts of my body, especially after twins, will never be the way they were. Sometimes, that’s hard to accept. But that’s what I want to talk about. The physical. My body how I live in it.

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