Jump directly to the content
Blessed Are the Stretch-Marked and Muffin-ToppedPavel P. / Flickr

Blessed Are the Stretch-Marked and Muffin-Topped


Jan 29 2014
What my pregnant and postpartum body taught me about womanhood.

After I gave birth to my third child, pictures flooded social media, including a few of me holding my newborn. Beneath each, the comments. "You look great, Rach!"

Their remarks certainly assuaged my frustration with my postpartum appearance. My still-puffy body, stretch-marked and filled with fluid, did not look great, but I could post pictures that hid some of these flaws.

Then, after reading (and truly, everlastingly appreciating) some of these compliments, I started to feel like a fraud. The variation that most got to me-- "You don't even look like you had a baby!"—had me questioning people's sanity. Of course I looked like I just had a baby. So why did this compliment make me feel better about myself and at the same time so much worse?

I did not look like Maria Kang, whose Facebook posts of her postpartum rock-hard abs have taunted women across the Internet in recent months. I had read just days before giving birth about how women should not be expected to erase the marks of childbearing from their bodies. Blogger Matt Walsh wrote:

There's nothing wrong with being a mom who looks like a mom. We would never tell someone to hide their cultural or ethnic identity, so why do we pressure moms to hide their maternal identity? It's insane. It's wrong.

I've had issues with my pregnant and postpartum body for a while, but I don't want to ignore the physical changes of these stages of life. Through the God-given gift of childbearing, I gained a new, invaluable understanding of myself and my womanhood.

My first pregnancy made me feel gendered as a woman, trapped by my female body, in a way that I had never before experienced. Until then, I always felt my body belonged to me. As an athlete, my body empowered me, even paid for my college tuition. It never restricted me to any so-called woman's role. When it came to gender issues, I looked around me, and I saw my education, my right to vote, my career opportunities, and my husband folding laundry, and I said, "It is good."

It was also good, then, that when I got pregnant, I felt betrayed by my body. The all-day "morning" sickness made it impossible for me to do my job competently. My back went out. People stared at me (because pregnant) and asked intrusive questions or tried to touch my burgeoning belly. My shape was the subject of open discussion. "You hardly look like you've gained any weight," said all the liars. "You look ready to pop! I can't believe you have two more months left," said all the jerks. My GI system rebelled with a vengeance.

Related Topics:Feminism; Parenting; Pregnancy

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Latina, Pentecostal, and College-Bound

Latina, Pentecostal, and College-Bound

How the church stands to benefit from rising educational attainment.
What’s the Truth Behind Serial? Only God Knows

What’s the Truth Behind Serial? Only God Knows

Inconclusive storytelling stirs our longing for justice.
Bringing True Joy to the World

Bringing True Joy to the World

How we can avoid over-sentimentalizing the holidays.
Christian Colleges vs. Hookup Culture

Christian Colleges vs. Hookup Culture

The good intentions behind conservative campus rules.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

The One Thing to Tell Pregnant Moms: ‘Congratulations’

No family too big, no mom too young to hear our affirmation of life.

What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
Blessed Are the Stretch-Marked and Muffin-Topped