A few weeks ago, I ran into a friend at Sam’s Club whom I hadn’t seen in more than four years, when my first baby was born. When I saw her, I happily approached her to say hi, and she almost immediately asked, “Are you expecting a third one?” I was wearing one of my favorite pre-pregnancy jeans with a skin-tight sweater that showed my “belly,” the result of my two pregnancies.
Probably, the question was more uncomfortable for her than it was for me, because I really didn’t care about it at that moment. If someone had asked me that a few months back, I’m not sure if I would have even been able to answer, but I have grown happy with myself and the way my body is, including my belly, which reminds me of the best gifts God has given me and that I had “wrapped” inside of me on two occasions. This belly and my stretch marks symbolize the gift-wrap that was opened for my boys to be born into this world and who light up our home with their laughs and happiness.
As women, we face substantial social pressure to regain our pre-pregnancy body in the least amount of time. But we must remember that each body responds differently. Therefore, we must accept ourselves. That doesn’t mean that I’m not doing things to be healthy nevertheless, but I have learned to accept that each body recovers from childbirth on its own time, and I love myself and my body, including my hanging belly.
On several occasions people have told me that breastfeeding would help me to return to my pre-pregnancy body and weight in a short period. Guess what? I breastfed for more than 16 months, and even though I lost weight, my hanging belly was and is still there.
I also used a postpartum corset for my C-section recovery and a Colombian body shaper (faja colombiana) day and night for a long time. I can’t say they didn’t help, but just a few hours after using them, my body was back to its normal state.
My baby was born on October 2017. In 2018, I was in survival mode: going back to work with two kids and trying to breastfeed for as long as possible. Even though I have always tried to eat healthy—for both myself and for my family—I didn’t want to follow a strict diet to lose weight. I didn’t want anything that could make me feel added pressure.
This year started with an extra effort to lose those extra pounds. I’m almost certain I will not get back to the flat stomach I had before my first pregnancy, but I do expect that the healthy eating and exercise will help me to keep my energy up to run and play with my boys.
After climbing on the scale I realized I’m currently at my lowest weight since my first one was born; however, that is just a number. I can maintain an ideal weight and still show my post-baby belly. We all are different. I have friends who look as if they have never had a baby, but others, including myself, who carry a few extra pounds since becoming mothers. Regardless of whether we carry five, 10, or 20 extra pounds, or we just have a belly, we should all try to love ourselves and our bodies no matter what. Despite society’s preconceived vision of beauty, there is attractiveness in all types of bodies, and we project how we feel.
What else have I learned about my body since becoming a mother? I’ve learned that it probably isn’t the best idea to wear jeans that show my “muffin top” with a skin-tight shirt if I don’t want someone to say something. This probably means that I will have to start wearing different combinations of my clothes—not stop wearing specific items altogether.
If you are wondering how I answered my friend who asked about my “belly baby,” I just smiled and said, “This is my regular belly.” After she apologized more than once, both in person and on WhatsApp, I told her it was OK; the belly I have is the “gift wrap” that gave me my children.