It's not easy
But unless you're one of the .00073 percent of women who can't wait to pose in a bikini on the cover of a national magazine a month after giving birth, you may be miserably refusing to accept your new figure, even stopping short of buying clothes to fit your current shape or of shedding them in front of your mate. It's disheartening that so few of us can revel in our bodies' life-bearing capabilities, but it's also not surprising. Most women aren't happy with their looks in the first place. So it's not like the physical changes wrought by pregnancy, delivery, and just getting a little older -- weight gain, stretch marks, spider veins, belly overhang, among others -- are going to make us feel better.
These insecurities can become cemented when we're thrown into the often out-of-control first year of parenthood. Tack on another child (or a third), and the stress of it all can make any mom feel vulnerable in lots of areas. "Times of transition are when negative feelings about your body tend to bubble up," says Margo Maine, Ph.D., author of The Body Myth. When it's too complicated to deal with the new emotions that having a child makes you face, you focus on old complaints.
"After giving birth, I thought, I'd walk out in my prepregnancy jeans, but I wound up leaving the hospital in pants I wore when I was six months pregnant," says Melissa Rickey, a mom of two in Russellville, OH. (Looking six months pregnant postpartum is totally normal and to be expected, by the way.) "It was somehow easier for me to deal with being upset about that than the fact that I now had to care for a little, fragile person I knew nothing about."
If you're working outside the home during these tumultuous times, it can be even harder to accept your new figure, says Maine. When you're at home, it might be that few people besides your husband, your baby, and some mom friends see your body, but at work, it's on display for all of your coworkers. They may not actually be scrutinizing you, but it's harder to feel good about your shape when there are thin non-moms around and you're busting the buttons on your shirts every a.m., trying to fit back into your work clothes.
Then there's Heidi Klum, the fembot mom who turned the post-pregnancy figure into a cottage industry -- and sparked an insane game of one-upmanship when it comes to "getting your body back." Even if you've got a highly tuned bullsh*t meter and you know that Angelina Jolie's apparent two-day bounce-back after a twin delivery isn't normal or necessary, it's hard not to feel like you should be able to wear low-rise jeans to the two-week pediatrician appointment. "I had my baby a week after Denise Richards had hers," says Tiffany Haller, a mom of two in Santa Barbara, CA. "Six weeks postpartum, she looked great -- and I still looked pregnant."