When I was newly pregnant with my first baby, I bought a gorgeous and slinky dress that hugged every curve of my body.  My cute little baby bump stretched against the fabric of this non-maternity dress, and I was aware that it wouldn’t fit in another week or so.  But that didn’t matter.  The dress wasn’t for the pregnancy, it was to wear directly afterwards when I was small and thin again.  It was my mother who burst my bubble when she informed me it would likely never fit my body, since my body was going to be changed forever.  I ended up returning the dress, though I didn’t believe my mom at all.  I couldn’t wait to prove her negativity wrong 8 months later.

Throughout the pregnancy, I gained a whopping 80 pounds. As in 8-0. (With my son, it was a more modest 50 pounds.) The “normal” 30 pound weight gain? That felt like something out of fairytales.  That slinky dress would never fit over my still pudgy belly, my widened hips, and my swollen calves.  In fact, I had to wear my maternity clothes and husbands over-sized shirts for weeks after the pregnancy.

And the myth that you lose weight when you breastfeed? HA! Maybe it would have been true if I weren’t so dang hungry all the time and forced to sit countless hours with a baby on my boob…..while snacking. Hey, if the baby got to eat, shouldn’t I be able to also? I thought I could exercise when the baby was sleeping, but between my lack of energy and desperate need for a nap, it just wasn’t happening.  I probably gained most of my lasting weight post-partum than I did while pregnant, and it took years to take off rather than weeks like what we witness from post-baby celebrities.

That’s why I love this NY Times article about a REAL mom with a REAL body who is calling out the media for saddling us with the unrealistic expectation that pregnant women should easily be model thin after having a baby.

As if having a baby doesn’t stretch out every single part of your body and change the way you look forever.

After being asked about her due date when she was in fact 4 months post-partum, Janice Min, author of the article (and ironically enough, the editor of US Weekly) writes “In today’s celebrity narrative, just two kinds of desirable maternal female physiques exist: the adorable gestating one (with bellies called “bumps”) and its follow-up, the body that boomerangs back from birth possibly even better than before. Me? I’m currently stranded on an island like the one on “Lost,” only this one is inhabited exclusively by still-pudgy moms struggling to find their way back.”

She goes on to note the thin-wars going on in the public post-partum world – from celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow claiming that there’s no excuse to not get back in shape after pregnancy, to the changing bodies of Jessica Simpson and Hillary Duff being slammed for being larger mere weeks after having their babies, to bodies of celebrities who really do shed all that baby weight instantly after having babies (via means the normal human being couldn’t possibly afford) and posted all over the magazines so that we feel bad for our newly acquired rolls and loose bellies.  Even the infamous Times Magazine article on breastfeeding toddlers – titled “Are You Mom Enough” – showed a highly attractive mother breastfeeding her son who stood next to her, blurring the lines between sexuality and mothering in a way that deferred from the actual subject of breastfeeding and leaned more towards what moms are “supposed to” look like.

The truth is, the post-partum body is different from the pre-pregnancy body.  And regardless of any exercise or dieting you do, it will always be different.  Bones move, creating wider hips.  Muscles soften to make room for a growing uterus.  Skin stretches, often resulting in scars of stretch marks.  After pregnancy, you don’t go back to your pre-pregnancy jeans.  Likely, you’ll still have to wear your maternity clothes for a few weeks, even months, more.  And you will still look pregnant after you have your baby.

The post-partum body is a new kind of beautiful, the result that happens when a woman grows a human being inside of her.  And while eating healthy and keeping active should be a part of everyone’s day-to-day lifestyle, the pressure to reach society’s view of what a mother should look like is a stress no new mother should have to feel.  And no one should be so self-loathing as to hate the skin they live in.

So love your body, treat yourself well, and cut yourself some slack.  You are a beautiful mama, and don’t let anyone tell you different!