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Motherhood, it's nothing like we expected...

Updated: Jun 17

Nice to meet you! As a wife and home-school mom of three who also owns two businesses, I can tell you that motherhood is the hardest thing I have ever experienced...but it is also the most wonderful.

I feel like pregnancy and childbirth uniquely prepare us for motherhood. As our little baby grows in our womb, we become accustomed to forfeiting our personal space to provide comfort for our little one growing inside. While morning (or all day) sickness push us to our physical limits, we somehow still manage to mash our swollen feet into our shoes and head off to work or stay home to take care of our toddlers who seem to have endless energy, our bodies are secretly preparing us for years of sleep deprivation and selflessness.

The culmination of months of changes and expectancy: childbirth takes over every part of our being. We are raw and vulnerable, and from the depths of our soul, in a life-changing moment, we let out a roar and give birth to our precious baby… and are forever changed. Whether it is your first baby or your tenth, you are changed, no longer the woman you were before. Our ever-changing bodies excite us during pregnancy, amaze us during birth, and shock us during postpartum. So much change occurs in such a short time.

Sometimes it feels like we don’t recognize the woman staring back at us in the mirror. And that’s okay. You aren’t the woman you used to be... you aren’t supposed to be. Society tells us that we are supposed to “bounce back” after 6 weeks. We are completely and totally changed from the inside out and we are somehow expected to be back to “normal” as soon as possible. But what is normal?

When a caterpillar undergoes the life-altering transformation of becoming a butterfly, no one tells it to go back into the stare in awe as it flies. My dear sister….you are a butterfly. No longer the person you once were, you entered the cocoon of pregnancy and emerged, giving birth to not only your beautiful baby, but to your own motherhood. Embrace the transformation and fly!

You are stronger, more resilient. You are wise and intuitive. You are patient, you are graceful, you are growing and learning every day. You now have mama bear instincts that will help you protect your babies. You are softer and compassionate like never before; more sensitive. You see the world in a different light. You feel more deeply, not just for your own kids...but for others as well.

Your body is softer too. This one bothered me for so long. (And if I’m honest, it has been well over a decade since I became a mom for the first time and I still struggle some days) After I had my first baby I remember just staring at myself in the bathroom mirror on my first full day home from the hospital. I only had on a light robe (which was hanging open because I was too tired to tie it), my milk-stained nursing bra and hospital mesh underwear- stuffed with all the necessities. (If you know, you know!) My husband was already back at work. The baby was napping. I just stood there. Staring.

Who is that familiar stranger looking back at me?

I don’t know her. My tired eyes stared back at me in the mirror. Lost. It felt like I was in shock, like someone surveying damage after a tornado or something. I expected sleepless nights. I expected to look tired. I expected infrequent showers. I don’t know what else I expected, but it wasn’t this. While I was staring in the mirror it occurred to me that I had never seen a postpartum body or felt the weight of being fully responsible for another life. I am not close with my half-sisters and I was by far the first of my close friends to have a baby. Everything I knew about pregnancy and birth, I learned about from books or the hospital birth class. What to expect postpartum was barely mentioned, aside from the six-week check-up and birth control.

No one prepared me for this… The engorged breasts and sagging stomach. The puffy face and extra 20 pounds. Soft rolls that would hang over my pants. Arms and thighs that just a few months ago were toned and muscular were suddenly squishy. It wasn't that I was surprised by the change in my appearance. I knew that would happen. I just didn't think that it would be so drastic of a change or that it would bother me in such a deep way. Having worked with elderly patients in my high school CNA classes, all I could think is, “I'm only 24! How do I look and feel more like and old lady than myself?" "Will I ever feel like me again?” Silent tears slowly streamed down my face as I stared at the stranger looking back at me.

That’s when I heard the baby crying. Wiping my tears, I took a breath and as I fastened my robe, I tried to forget about the strange girl in the mirror.

While breastfeeding my sweet little girl, I felt the Lord gently tell me to love every curve, every roll, every squishy place. The tears came back with a vengeance. In those quiet moments with my baby, as the tears flowed, I closed my eyes and thought of all of the special women in my life. My Mom, my Nanny, my Grandma, my aunts, women from my church who had mentored and prayed with me. In my mind, I saw each one of them hugging me and embracing me… they were so warm and gentle, strong, yet comforting and soft. If I had a question or needed advice, they were there. If I was feeling lost or lonely, they would offer a kind smile and pull me in to them for a comforting hug. If I needed prayer, they would surround me. If I had a bad day, they would give me a reason to belly laugh. If I needed a shoulder to cry on, they would wrap me up in their arms and just hold me. They were oh so comforting, and were my safe place throughout my life. Even now, there is nothing like getting wrapped up in a hug from my mom or grandma.

I opened my eyes and looked down at my little girl nestled into my chest and a supernatural peace washed over me. “I am a mom now. I feel like a mom.” The softness of my postpartum body that I despised was what made my daughter feel safe and comforted. I felt the Lord remind me again, “Love every curve, every roll, every soft place. It may not feel like it, but it is a gift. It is good. Trust me. Embrace all of who you are as a mother. I don’t waste anything." You are her safe space. Your breasts nourish your baby. Your soft arms gently hold and protect her. Your soft curves embrace and comfort her.” My tears slowly melted in to a smile as I realized for the first time in my life that my body had a purpose beyond being skinny or pleasing to the body was nourishing and caring for my baby in every way possible...and it was so beautiful.

I tried to embrace God's design for my body then, but it has taken me over ten years to understand and embrace what the Lord was saying, and even now I have days when I forget. All of the rolls, scars, stretch marks, wrinkles, and soft places that I have mistaken for ugliness or brokenness, are all part of what makes my babies feel safe and comforted. Even my husband loves my post-baby body because it tells the beautiful story of our life together.

My body tells the story of my motherhood...of my womanhood. It is beautiful.

Now, in the shower when my four year old daughter asks, Mommy, will I have a squishy butt and belly like you one day? Will my boobies be big and floppy like yours too? I have to smile and chuckle quietly to myself before I reply, “Yeah, honey. They probably will look like mine someday.” You know what she always says next?! “Oh, Yay! I hope so!”

When we are watching a movie and my toddler boy lovingly scoops my rolls and deflated boobs together to make a pillow and says, “Mommy, I just love snuggling with you” as he plays with my soft arm doesn’t hurt my feelings or make me sad. No. I smile and it makes my heart so happy that I am his favorite place, even if it just for a few years.

Embrace the beauty of your motherhood...even if it doesn’t look like you had expected. You are a safe place. Mama, you’ve been through some stuff. Be there for other women who may be feeling alone too. Push that pile of unfolded laundry to the side so you can offer her a cup of coffee, a listening ear, and a hug. Embrace the changes that motherhood brings. With each baby you stretch and grow. Physical changes are just the beginning...If you embrace it, you may find that the woman you are becoming is pretty amazing!

Allow yourself the grace to get to know the new’re gonna love her! You aren’t the woman you were before. You are so much more, and I am so proud of you!

xoxo, Ayla


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