I feel like there are some amazing warriors out there right now doing work around reclaiming the postpartum body, however, the majority of what you see in social media and in our broader culture is all around how quickly we can get back to our “pre-baby body.”
Language and imagery like this does a real harm to postpartum mamas. The postpartum journey for so many people is full of challenges and difficulties having nothing to do with losing weight or maintaining a particular body image. New mamas are struggling with lack of sleep, challenges with nursing and feeding, and for many of us trying to figure out how to take care of a tiny human for the very first time. It's overwhelming
Couple this with society’s unhealthy postpartum beauty standards and we wonder why mamas are feeling overwhelmed, anxious and depressed.
What we don't need are more inspirational photos of mamas who have lost their baby weight in six weeks or who have been able to maintain the perfect figure throughout their pregnancy and postpartum. What we do need is real talk, real bodies, a real picture of what the postpartum journey looks like.
Let me share mine with you:
I had a very active pregnancy, I felt great I was able to walk and hike all the way up to my due date. As a yoga teacher I was of course able to practice a lot of yoga and ate fairly sensibly (though I will admit I definitely gave into my cravings for cookies and pastries!).
As many labors go, mine did not go as planned. After laboring for 20 hours at home, a quick trip to the hospital via ambulance, and an emergency C-section, I found myself in a recovery that I had not planned for.
During my time in recovery not only was I navigating life with a newborn, but I was also managing the pain and physical limitation of having major abdominal surgery. After about four weeks I started getting stir crazy spending so much time on my couch, but found I could only do a walk around the block before I started to experience pain. It wasn't until about eight weeks postpartum that I was able to walk for more than a mile and not feel a lot of discomfort. That being said once my body had recovered, I jumped right back into a fair amount of physical activity.
I say this all to make the point that I have been very active and very healthy and as of writing this over 4 months postpartum, I in no way have my pre-pregnancy body back. Nor will I ever.
And that is the point! Going through pregnancy childbirth and the postpartum period, our bodies are forever changed. Growing, birthing, and possibly also feeding a human from our bodies all take their toll. And I will admit that I'm still learning to love the new shape of my body, but I can also look at the stretch marks weaving their way across my belly like thousands of tiny rivers and tributaries and see the journey of creating my daughter. My body was strong and capable and continues to be so even in the face of very little sleep and minimal self-care. The changes that have taken place in my body mark the transition in my life in moving into parenthood. Every stretch mark, every softening curve and everyplace that jiggles mark the journey that I have taken.
I am amazed by my body. I am proud of my body. And I am constantly working to relearn my body and love my body and its new shape and form. My hope is that others who have gone through this journey continue to share their stories and continue to normalize the postpartum experience.
Instead of constantly looking back to how our bodies were before our babies, take a moment to relish in all the things that your body did to get you to this moment and all the ways it will continue to grow with you as you and your babies grow together.
Wisdom and insight with a dash of humor to help guide you on your journey through motherhood.