No, My Already Fat Body Has Not Been 'Even More Ruined' by Pregnancy

Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

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On the day of my daughter's first birthday, I found myself standing buck naked in front of a steamed-up mirror after a shower. I took a moment to look at my post-pregnancy body up and down amid the fog.

Some people might think I'm still pregnant, I thought to myself, taking in the belly that never stopped sagging. Its stretch marks were still red and fresh, as if they'd only just appeared. Above them, my boobs fell to either side of my body. So completely antithetical to the boobs of a Victoria's Secret catalog. My cellulite seemed more plentiful than ever before -- decorating my rump and thighs like craters on Earth's moon.

My body, which was fat before I had a child and is now even fatter, is forever altered by carrying and pushing out a small person. While mainstream media, diet culture, "concerned" relatives, and douchey strangers on the street may be quick to tell me that pregnancy has only further "ruined" my already "flawed" figure, I can't help but disagree.

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  • The truth is, post-pregnancy body rhetoric is hella problematic.

    Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

    It's also undoubtedly linked to anti-fat messaging. Think about it: From the moment we give birth, women are conditioned to lose the pregnancy weight, zap away any new cellulite and stretch marks, and push up those boobies. The "flaws" that result from pregnancy are no different from the "flaws" we're told to fight against every damn day -- pregnant or otherwise.

    I've existed in a fat body for most of my life, and nearly all of my adult life. As a result, I'm pretty used to hearing about how much happier, prettier, and healthier I'd be if I lost, I don't know, five dress sizes or so. I'm used to feeling like the "before" photo of a before-and-after weight loss ad. I'm used to being shouted at and heckled, both online and IRL, for taking up too much space, for wobbling when I walk, or for daring to wear interesting clothing that doesn't hide my size.

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  • Since I had my daughter, this condemnation has practically doubled.

    Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

    People don't just tell me that I should lose weight. They tell me I should lose weight for my kid. Crash dieting and cleansing make for a better role model than a visible belly outline and the belief that all bodies have worth, I guess. Overall, "how to get your pre-baby body back" advice is arguably just as pervasive as the standard "lose the flab and get some abs" content -- only now, I'm hyper-aware of both kinds of BS.

    What saddens me about "get your pre-baby body back" messaging, in particular, is that it can feel like yet another force striving to make new motherhood one of the hardest challenges of life. Having a baby is a surefire way to get your world turned upside down. It isn't just the sleepless nights, or all the bodily fluids you suddenly find yourself having to contend with. It's the endless struggle to achieve balance. To stay true to the person you were before having a kid while also letting yourself grow into this new parent role. Me-time becomes practically nonexistent for a lot of mothers, as the mantra "you can have it all" begins to feel like a challenge -- a source of direct confrontation making you feel like a failure if you haven't yet managed to actually have it all.

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  • On top of all of that, we're supposed to hate our bodies?

    Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

    We're supposed to look at our babies and feel not joy or pleasure or a sense of wonderment, but only frustration. These tiny people "broke" us. They took away our old selves and replaced them with lesser, sagging, unrecognizable figures.

    It's taken me a lot of personal work over the years, but it's thankfully been a long time since I viewed my body as a problem to be solved. In all of its fatness and sagging -- both pre-baby and post-baby -- I firmly believe that it is worthy of tolerance. That I am worthy of tolerance. Of basic human decency. Of being left to live peacefully without harassment and judgment. I believe that all fat people, all mothers, all women, and -- you know what? -- all humans (except perhaps assholes) are entitled to the same.

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  • So when I look at my post-baby body, I feel no shame.

    Courtesy Marie Southard Ospina

    It had stretch marks before. It has more now. It used to jiggle. It jiggles more now. Whatever the reason for such changes to our bodies -- changes that don't align with conventional views on beauty -- shame is never a necessary response. Bodies grow, they shift, they alter. They, much like the rest of us, are constantly developing.

    For me, my fat body has experienced changes that are directly correlated to having a child. To carrying that child. To agonizingly delivering that child after 50-plus hours of hell. To being part of the miracle that is human frickin' evolution. So if you ask me, I'm not even more "ruined" as a result of it all. Instead, I carry the signs of one of the most difficult things I've ever done. I carry them with love.

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