This time around, I'm even more relaxed. At ease. Confident in my parenting abilities.
And yet, while I feel good about my role as a mom, I also feel very much like a 'new mom' at times.
Once again, I'm rounder. Heavier. Tired. Often sporting a messy ponytail and clothes that don't fit as well as I'd like.
I cry easily. I have raging hormones that cause me to sweat and lose hair and develop strange skin conditions.
Needless to say, I'm once again feeling kind of crap about my appearance.
Because this is my third time around the block, I know what to expect. I know that I'll hold onto the weight and look a little bit less like the old me and more like the moms from Saturday Night Live's "Mom Jeans" parody for a while. I know that it won't take months for me to feel and look like I want again - it'll take closer to years. And I know that it's all okay, because I've grown a human and now I'm sustaining that sweet little incredible being with my body.
But that doesn't make some things hurt any less.
A few days ago, I ran into someone I used to work with but hadn't seen in 4 or 5 years. A woman I barely knew - but knew she was nice enough. A working mom who I sometimes crossed paths with in the office. Pretty. Thin. Very nice smile. She asked what I was up to now and when I smiled and said I was on maternity leave, she gestured towards my body and said "I could kind of tell".
I could kind of tell.
I was shocked into silence at the moment and just smiled at her awkwardly until we were able to come up with an excuse to no longer stand there making small talk. And for the rest of the day, I couldn't help but replay that encounter over and over again in my mind.
It hurt me that someone would point out to me that my body is less than perfect (something I already know) rather than congratulate me, or even just pretend to be happy for me. It hurt me that a fellow mom would say this to me. A fellow mom - which automatically made her someone I had an unspoken kinship with.
Yes - I could give this person the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe she didn't mean it the way it came out. Or maybe she's socially awkward. Or maybe she was even just referencing my tank top and lulu pants - widely known to be the uniform of the stay at home mom.
Except. I can't unhear "I could kind of tell". And it will always be in my head that maybe she meant it the way I think she meant it. That I looked like a messy, heavy new mom.
And while I'm reading all the articles about the importance of moms getting into pictures with your children and loving yourself and never letting your daughters hear you say you're fat and ugly - I'm wanting to believe it and live by it and pass it onto my children. I think to myself, "Yes! I am perfect the way I am."
And then someone gestures towards my round stomach that's sticking out over the top of my pants. And I'm sent into a shame spiral.
Which makes me realize... we women have a long way to go yet.
We may tell each other that we have to love our postpartum bodies. We may tell each other that we need to end the "Mommy wars" and stop judging each other. We may tell each other that we need to stop telling our daughters that beauty is very, very important.
But we also tell each other that we're fat.
And that makes me so sad. Not just for myself, but for all new moms who see a completely different person staring back at them when they look in the mirror every day.
I don't really know what the solution is. I don't know what I would say to that woman if I could. But I do know that in a few weeks, when my 4 year old asks me to go swimming with her at the cottage, I'm going to put my bathing suit on and go.
I may still have hurt feelings. But I'm not going to let my little girls know. I will not let the power of words overshadow the joy of being a mom.
Rounder. Heavier. Feeling unsure of my appearance. But always proud to be a mom.