I'm currently reading a series of books called The Queen's Blade, by TC Southwell. In one of the books, a character has recently given birth. A comment is made that, in just five days' time, she's completely regained her old figure. This, then, reminded me of another book I'd read (The White Queen, by Philippa Gregory) wherein the main female character remarks that, despite having numerous children, she still has a flat tummy.
These literary references have gotten me thinking about how society views mothers. Women strive to get their old figures back, and fast, without considering that the different figure may be here to stay. It certainly isn't reasonable to expect to be back in pre-pregnancy clothes so quickly; some are, but most aren't. It is nevertheless a point that causes stress for many mothers.
The thought that the new figure may even be desirable or preferable is rarely considered. Why not? Surely the changes wrought by the miracle of nourishing a life within one's body are to be valued, not scorned. But perhaps this is just part of the lack of value placed on motherhood anyway.
The irony in all this is that our society does value the look of milk-engorged breasts, but not breastfeeding. Women are told they should have breasts that occur naturally with breastfeeding and are sold various things to achieve that look while simultaneously being told that breastfeeding will somehow ruin their breasts. This part of a mother's figure is then divorced from motherhood, relegating breasts to being purely "sexy" and not a sign of motherhood/fertility.
I wish I could say I've been immune to these thoughts and influences, but I haven't. I am trying to remind myself to see my figure in light of the gift of motherhood and to take joy in it.