The Postpartum In-Between: Searching for Joy While Waiting for a New Normal

The Postpartum In-Between // jessconnell.com

Have you been in this place?

  • In between sizes
  • In between hormone swings
  • In between “normals” in your daily routine
  • In between feelings of competence & incompetence
  • In between very little sleep and normal amounts of sleep
  • In between a variety of very STRONG feelings

My precious little man is 8 weeks old today, and I’m there.

The “in-between” is the place where I’m currently parked.

I’ve been moved to tears (for joy and for sadness). Amazed at how beautiful life is. Overwhelmed by how messy the house is. Ready to conquer the world. Down in the depths because I’m fatter and uglier and older than I have ever been before in my whole life. Excited about the new relationships growing in our home. Frightened by internal fears (playing on auto-repeat in my brain) that maybe I’m not going to be attractive to my husband anymore.

The in-between isn’t an easy place to be.

I’m not normally one who struggles extraordinarily with insecurity. But these last few weeks, y’all– phew! It has come to a head in the area of physical appearance.

  • I have cried real tears over “not having anything to wear” (I have heaps of clothes in a variety of sizes between 8 & 16, y’all– don’t feel sorry for me).
  • I’ve caught myself trying to convince my husband of what an ugly, fat, old wife he has. (Why would I want to convince him of that?! Am I being the Proverbs woman who “tears down her house with her own hands,” or WHAT?)
  • I’ve diligently counted the calories, put miles on the bike, and watched the pounds go UP rather than DOWN. (These are the moments I inwardly rue those women who said, “breastfeeding makes the pounds melt away!”)

So what’s a girl to do? Well, here are some of the ways I’m battling it in my heart:

I’m trying to live in the realm of grace.

Just like the way to deal with postpartum stress, things becomes less stressful when we quit expecting perfection or anything close to it.

I’m trying to identify the things I’m believing, and combat lies with grace and truth. 

So, instead of “I’m the ugliest and fattest and oldest I’ve ever been,” my friend encouraged me yesterday to reframe the way I’m seeing myself. Yes, I’m 35. But I’ve never been postpartum and 35. I need to remind myself of the truth:

“Yes, I’m heavier than I’ve ever been (while not pregnant). I’m keeping a careful watch on what I’m eating and being self-controlled. I’m working out regularly and being active. Over time, my body will respond. I’m also breastfeeding and keeping this precious baby alive and healthy. That’s an amazing gift! I don’t need to downplay the significance of all that my body is doing right now.”

When God opens my eyes to other places where I’ve placed my “confidence,” I am trying to confess and repudiate those false foundations.

I’m just going to lay myself bare for y’all, and not try to pretty up these truths. These are some of the places that He has graciously exposed as places where I’ve wrongly put my hope and trust:

  • in my own “natural” beauty and ability to look relatively good without much effort
  • in my body. Even when I’ve been bigger, my height and curves have given me confidence that I didn’t realize I rested in until this time around, when the weight is staying on more than normal.
  • in the idea that my husband will always find me attractive

Now, I have no reason to think that Doug doesn’t currently find me attractive. He is being every bit as encouraging and kind and gentle toward me as He always is.

The difference is in me. I’m seeing things in me that I didn’t see before, particularly in this area of attractiveness. I didn’t realize the degree to which I’ve previously derived confidence and joy from the previous EASE with which I could make myself feel pretty.

Now, it’s like everything has converged and there’s no mistaking it. Even while thinking that I was pursuing soul-beauty above physical-beauty, there are clearly ways that I’ve rested on external rather than on internal beauty. 

So now that I see it, I’ve confessed that confidence in the flesh. (And I’m confessing it every time it comes up again in my heart.) I want to shift that confidence in externals into confidence in Christ in me. HE is what makes me attractive. HIS WORK IN ME is what will make me beautiful.

My outward form will continue:

  • wasting away
  • being pulled down by gravity
  • growing persnickety about responding to weight-loss attempts
  • going grayer
  • feeling more weak and more weary

This is the truth. I can try to contort, twist, and grapple with my flesh.

I could plump up my lips and lipo my hips and powder and pluck and nip and tuck, but no matter what magic I try to work, this outward form is DYING.

But in Christ, do you see it? IN CHRIST, there is everlasting beauty to be had.

In Christ, my inward form will be:

  • being renewed daily
  • being pulled up
  • growing more responsive to the Spirit & His guidance in my heart
  • becoming more vibrant
  • feeling stronger and more alive

Proverbs 4:18 // jessconnell.com

Every DAY, while my outward form is wasting away, my inward soul can be growing brighter and brighter, just as the sun grows brighter and brighter until full day.

THIS is where joy is to be found… in taking my insecurities and fears and all of the frustrations of the in-between and calling them what they really are, and then replacing any false foundations with the one true foundation– the cornerstone of Christ.

Then, over time, as I keep hiding myself in Him, He’ll take out this ugly heart of fear and failure and foibles and frustration and work in me joy and peace and gentleness and confidence in Him that will be more beautiful than anything my soul can produce on its own.

Isn’t it AMAZING what God can do in a wicked human heart?

Instead of external, temporary beauty, He has something much greater in mind: He wants to transform my heart into something beautiful. Even as I’ve written this out, I’ve found joy and delight in Christ rising up in my heart. THIS is where joy is found.

Even in the in-between, we can have joy when our joy is in Christ and not in environmental perfection, external beauty, or temporal comfort.

 

IN THE COMMENTS, PLEASE SHARE:

  • What sorts of things did you struggle with in the postpartum weeks and months?
  • How did you (or how are you) combatting those struggles?

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Jess Connell

Jesus-follower, Happy wife, Mom of 8 neat people. Former world-traveler, now settled in Washington. Host of Mom On Purpose podcast (momonpurpose.com). I write and wrangle kids.

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12 Responses

  1. Sara says:

    I think a lot of this also comes because we are assaulted by images all the time! Billboards, movies, ads in newspapers, magazines etc. Even in magazines like GOod Housekeeping there is much emphasis on youth, attractiveness, slenderness etc, diet tips.

    To me conscientiously avoiding these triggers is a great help, but of course I can’t avoid seeing lingerie ads at the bus stop. It’s hard.

    • Jessica says:

      Yes, I agree. I think hundreds of years ago women had so much less of this struggle in that sense. Back then they didn’t see all the ads and air brushed models on the magazine covers every time they went grocery shopping! I have to remind myself how empty these women’s lives are. Yes, they may have a nice shell but really their lives–YUCK don’t want it. It’s really truly sad how empty these model’s lives probably are. Truly they are the ones we should grieve for. Our lives are rich and eternity will be richer for us having surrendered our bodies to our families, babies, children–generations because we loved not our own lives to death.

  2. Jessica says:

    I relate SO much to this. I also have seen these things in my heart. I gain weight post partum while nursing. On average about 15-20lbs. It’s difficult! But you are so right on. If it’s any solace I really do believe the hormones affect different women in these ways. I regret weaning my third early because I wanted to shed the weight. Because of health reasons he could very well be our last and I would love to nurse again.

  3. Holly says:

    In the little bit of time we’ve spent together, and reading your blog on a regular basis over the last year…I can honestly say you are one of the STRONGEST and MOST BEAUTIFUL women around! The journey you’ve traveled is not for the weak and weary. Your heart for your home and family is so precious, and there is no mistaken the love your husband and kiddos have for you! No matter how many shapes and sizes our bodies go through with these precious births, be comforted with Proverbs 31:10, A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.-The blessing of having a wife of noble character is far superior to a husband than the changes our bodies endure. You’re an amazing mom and wife, thank you for being such an encouragement through what you share! I am always challenged in a good way!

  4. Kondwani says:

    I remember reading a poem written by somebody who had struggled with anorexia for many many years (at that time I was also struggling). It went through a lot of feelings, a lot of self-loathing, a lot of punitive diet and exercise regimes etc and ended with the conclusion that her life had been pretty much wasted. ‘I was thin. So what?’ It was powerful to me because it spoke directly to the lie in modern society that weight/ fitness/ outward beauty are worth losing it all for.

    Postpartum is an odd time. The thing I hated most was that other people seemed to think they had a license to comment on how much weight I had/ hadn’t gained. It was as though people were more interested in my weight than in my mothering. I found it really hard – and with my last child (probably last biological child because of medical problems) I actually weighed less at 9 months pregnant than before pregnancy because I was so ill. I got so many compliments, yet nobody seemed to see how ill I was!

    Jess – I think you are so wise to write down what is actually true and fight what you know to be lies. Where is true beauty? The quiet and gentle spirit which is of great worth. Proverbs is clear that physical beauty is fleeting, but that a woman who fears the Lord is greatly to be praised. Your beauty is incredible – and I do not care at all whether you are 100 pounds or 300 (or somewhere in between). But I do appreciate how it is to feel uncomfortable in your own body and to really struggle with negative and untrue thoughts!

  5. Amy M says:

    I sooo needed to read this! Postpartum was a really weird time for me. Good in some ways because I loved having the opportunity to bond with my little man, but weird because of that lack-of-sleep surreal feeling.

    Also, it took me a solid year to lose the baby weight (pounds did not melt off while breastfeeding) and I think in my mind I amplified some of the negative body image stuff out there.

  6. Totally going through this with the last weeks of pregnancy with my 3rd child (in 3 years.) Due to complications etc I can’t work out like I was planning to and just feel large. The Lord has used it to root out a lot of pride in my life and shown me how it is being used for my sanctification and for that I am grateful! Although it’s such a struggle. Love your blog & the truth yku share!

  7. Amber says:

    There are so many things that good in this post, but thing that’s really stuck with me today is where you mentioned trying to convince your husband how unattractive you are. Oh, how I do this regularly! My husband often comments about how beautiful I am when undressing, etc. When he says these things, I often highlight the negative things I see about my body especially changed after 4 babies. Why would I want to plant that in his mind when he sees me as beautiful? Even more so now after 4 children because those changes reflect living life together. He has such a healthy view of my body…what a gift when so many men have also been so skewed by society’s idea of beauty. The Lord has really used this post to convict me in this area. Thank you for being so brutally honest about your thought life as you wrote this.

  8. Jessie says:

    Thank you for writing this. As I’m preparing for my third baby in a few weeks, to join my 4 and 2 year olds, I’m also struggling with how with each pregnancy, I’m that much older and it’s that much harder for my body to bounce back in my outward physical appearance. And that is hard. Trying not to deflect when my husbands compliments me, seeing my stretched skin, the lopsided nursing breasts, the lines etched deeper around my eyes….
    But I love what you say about how our outward form is dying but your inward soul is getting brighter and brighter. Amen to that. I have come a long way in deepening my faith and extending grace to others since having my first child. Always a work in progress though. :-)
    Your words really challenged me in a positive way today. keep enjoying your snuggly new little man! Blessings.

  9. Tracy Grossmann says:

    Yep. Written to me…exactly where my heart is. Oh man. 2 months postpartum and 34 and yes, so much of this rang true. Thank you for the reminders and hope.

  1. April 17, 2015

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