”Being a mama has never come ‘naturally’ to me. I don’t mean FEELING like a mama, I mean doing things I’ve always thought mama’s just DID. Before having kids, I based most of my knowledge on parenting around sitcoms, blogs, and the few around me that were already parents. I was conditioned to think that keeping a clean home, cooking healthy meals, play dates a few times per week and staring at a peaceful sleeping babe all day would be my norm. Boy was I in for a reality check!
Imagine my surprise when my children did arrive. Clutter was piling up everywhere. Dishes weren’t done, laundry was unwashed, we won’t even talk about the state of my bedroom. Those healthy meals? Yeah, turns out my kids are carb lovers and 90% of those meals end up on the floor. The play dates? The exhaustion is real and sometimes it takes hours just to prepare to leave the house. I began to take extra ‘shower breaks’ in which I would allow myself to have a fairly epic meltdown. A meltdown that was private, that both shook me yet also gave me release. Sometimes it feels like my husband has to care for me as if I’m helpless, as if I’m a child. Because sometimes it all became too much and I was left curled up on the couch into the fetal position, barely able to answer a question, let alone care for my kids. Motherhood was NOTHING like anything I’d ever done. And I was not prepared.
After becoming pregnant with twins, I noticed so many changes in my body, very early on. I began to get stretchmarks at just 11 weeks along. My lower body gained about 10 lbs in one month. Nothing about that pregnancy was easy. My stomach appeared bruised and battered. I remember grabbing my thighs and crying to my husband ‘how am I so big already? How could I possibly get any bigger?’ It took a lot of encouragement and positive thinking to relax about these fears. My 5-foot frame was being stretched to it’s limit and to this day I’m still in awe that I carried two beautiful and healthy baby girls for 37.5 weeks before my scheduled c-section. I had grown accustomed to the changes my body went through, not for one second thinking about the postpartum healing obstacles I would face in the future.
Fast forward to the birth of my twin girls! Everything went perfectly, we managed to skip the NICU altogether which was one of our biggest fears with having twins. I felt great postpartum. My stomach was a whole different story. It was unlike any postpartum stomach I had ever seen. A week after having my twin girls, my 3-year-old son asked, ‘Mama, what’s wrong with your belly?’ I replied to him, ‘All of my babies have left marks on my belly so that I never forget for a second that I grew them inside of my body, all on my own, and that now they exist with me outside of my body.’ It was in the middle of explaining this to my son that I realized this. I am PROUD of these marks. I am NOT ashamed.
I began to document my postpartum body in a more in-depth way. I was covered by multiple news outlets. At one point I made the decision to read the comments on my articles and boy was that a bad idea. My skin wasn’t quite thick enough yet. From comments like ‘ewww put that away’ to ‘I’ll never get stretchmarks like that when I’m pregnant,’ I began to feel like maybe I wasn’t cut out for this depth of sharing. It felt like such a deeply personal attack, one that reinforced feelings of shame and disgust with myself. Feelings that had me cringing at my husband’s touch, uncomfortable with sharing the truth of my newly transformed body. Feelings that I had thought I buried.
But you know what? When we dwell on those feelings, and we accept that shame, we are freely handing over our very own self-respect. My husband has done nothing but encourage me and lift me up. Whether it’s through complimenting my postpartum body, praising me for all that I do as a mother, or saying things like ‘you’re a BOSS, babe’ – his encouragement has meant the world to me. I also have to mention that the Instagram community in general has also helped so very much. Encouraging comments and sweet messages go along way!
What I have found in sharing my postpartum journey–whether it be physical healing, honest motherhood thoughts, or sharing the ultimate struggles—is that there is SO much POWER in sharing your truth. There’s power in letting someone else know they aren’t alone. That nothing about growing and raising a baby is easy. The more I share, the more I feel an almost cathartic release. My critical thoughts about myself sort of drift away. I’m OWNING my truth.
I recently shared a photo on Instagram of just my living room. There were piles of clutter in the corners, toys strewn everywhere, crumbs aplenty. Something I wouldn’t necessarily want anyone to see. But it was my reality in that moment, and no longer does it bring me shame. And I hope you don’t feel that shame either. Because, Mama, I SEE you. I see the way you love your kids. I don’t see those crumbs or that clutter. I see YOU and THEM. A love like no other!”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Hayley Garnett. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d love to hear your journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
Read from more empowering mama’s celebrating their postpartum bodies:
Provide beauty and strength for other mamas. SHARE this story on Facebook with your friends and family.