Before I discuss anything else I want to start this piece by giving expectant and postpartum women permission to feel what they feel about their bodies. It is normal to feel all the things about your body as it is going through a tremendous amount of change physically and hormonally. And I know, even well intended, comments can trigger a range of feelings.
At just 8 week pregnant I remember my jeans fitting tighter. I remember being a little taken back being that a baby bump wasn’t even visible yet and feeling a little self conscious when other mamas were half way through their pregnancy posting pictures about how they still fit in their jeans. But for me, my booty and thighs were the first place to gain the fat and the last place to let it go.
It was at this time I decided that my body was going to do what it needed to do to grow a baby and I would release any expected outcomes during this process. It was a great decision but still a process.
Because once that belly started to grow, the comments start to trickle in.
“You ARE HUGE.”
“How did you get so big overnight?!?!”
“Looks like you ate too much and stopped working out.”
These comments were accompanied by charming smiles and hugs of congratulations and asking about how I was doing but still…the need for people to comment on a pregnant women’s body like that is interesting, isn’t it?
I continued to focus on embracing the process and focusing on just doing my best which for me looked like this.
Working up until 39 weeks pregnant.
Eating frozen waffles through my first trimester during my meat, coffee, and veggie aversion.
Working out 2x a week up until the last month of my pregnancy in which I switched to just walking and a few sets of air squats, clams, and rows here are there.
And working on the process of a changing body, a changing schedule, and a changing life.
Because you see, all of this is a process.
I don’t want to tell moms that they should:
“just not worry about their body changing” or “don’t worry when you lose the weight post baby because it is a miraculous process.”
Our feelings are valid.
But I also don’t want moms to put undue stress or misery on themselves either.
When it comes down to it we have 2 options. We can mourn our changing bodies and stress that we won’t lose the weight we gained or we can learned to get more involved in the process and less attached to the outcomes.
It is 100% OK to want to be strong, healthy, and fit during and after pregnancy but this idea that our bodies should or will just bounce back after pregnancy makes me wonder if we are going about this right.
Post birth once I started to heal and was in less pain I actually really enjoyed my body early postpartum in its softness and all. It was nice not feeling the pressure like I had to achieve a certain amount of leanness. I liked being a little less cautious about my food intake and liked working out without all the intensity. I liked the feeling of just moving differently during my return to more strenuous exercise.
Early postpartum we need to let the body rest and heal properly.
And then once it does our lives are not as they were before. We have less sleep, less time, less energy, and more responsibilities that interfere with the preset formula to fat loss. The perfect formula being along the lines of high sleep, low stress, plenty time and energy to workout and the mental energy to make decent food choices.
It feels a little unfair right?! That this is a time moms so desperately want to get “back to their bodies” yet have everything working against them.
But what does getting a body back even mean anyways? Mama, your body never went anywhere.
It is time to change the way we talk about women’s bodies during and after pregnancy. I want to reiterate that all worries are valid whether you are self conscious about your stretch marks, extra cellulite noticed, or weight not lost but they also do not define who you are. Remember that.
Here are some perspective shifts to consider.
It is OK to want to be fit, healthy, and feel hot as a mom.
Choose a positive perspective over a negative one. Address the negative thought as it comes, notice it, feel it, let it pass. Don’t fight it but don’t hold on to it.
Remember it is a process. We won’t love ourselves and our bodies every minute of every day even if we have the most toned arms and flattest stomach. Remind your self of all the things your body is capable of, the things it CAN do for you, and that you are not alone in your feelings.
You can’t teach what you don’t know. If you want to teach positive body love to your children you have to be able to do it yourself. Our kids hear what we say whether it is that our hair is ugly or our body is gross. We can tell them not to talk to themselves that way but they won’t truly believe it if we cannot walk the walk.
Take your time and embrace the process. In the early stages of postpartum the return to fitness (lets say the first year) it is especially hard. For some it can take longer.
Do your best. Move when you can. Eat to feel good mentally and physically. Spend some time nurturing your soul – time to yourself, time with friends, time doing actives you enjoy. Snuggle the baby day in, day out.
Our bodies will change not just now but continually as we age. It is a great time to start the journey of doing the hard work of loving ourselves because what is the other option?