Post-Baby Body Image
Having a baby is life changing in numerous ways. Although I love many aspects of my new life, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t long for certain aspects of my “old” life. Ya know, things like having free time to read a book, staying out late without next day consequences (I swear one glass of wine makes me feel different these days!), and exercising without worrying if I’m making my postpartum issues any worse.
The latter brings me to the point of today’s post—dealing with body image after having a baby. I wrote about body image during pregnancy, and what that experience was like for me. I’ve found the postpartum period to be more difficult, mainly because it took my body so long to heal.
After dealing with some not-so-cute issues after my labor, I wasn’t able to workout for much longer than the average woman I come across these days (either on Instagram or IRL). These moms seem to have their sh*t together, at least physically, within a matter of weeks after having a new baby.
I’ll be honest with you—once I started breastfeeding, the weight came off so fast. I was starting to fall apart physically and had lost pretty much all of the baby weight by two weeks postpartum (don’t hate me, I have good genes and breastfeeding made me feel like I was running a constant marathon).
But, it was the holidays. And if you guys breastfed, then you know what it feels like in the very beginning—the insatiable hunger and need for carbs and sugar 24/7.
So, here’s what’s funny. My weight gain didn’t happen during pregnancy. I was actually pretty fit throughout my entire pregnancy thanks to Go Figure Barre Studio in New Canaan and Aaptiv’s pregnancy workouts, along with my thrice-weekly walks.
The weight came on after. I was sooooo hungry all of the time, and since Lacey was born the day before Thanksgiving, I pretty much ate dessert for over a month straight!
Between that and not being able to workout, I lost all of the muscle tissue I had worked for. I still don’t have much of it back, and sometimes I don’t recognize my body when I look in the mirror. Every day and every week, I’m working towards feeling like myself again.
Side note: It's important to remember that regardless of size or shape, many women deal with body image issues. My postpartum body may be someone's goal, or someone else's starting point.
I really only started working out like I used to a few weeks ago, and I’m six months postpartum. The only reason I’m able to fit into my old clothes is because of breastfeeding and my healthy diet (so here is MAJOR proof that diet outweighs exercise in terms of your overall health, both inside and out!).
January through April were tough for me. I didn’t know how I felt about my new body. I certainly didn’t give up, by any means. I did workouts here and there, but nothing like I used to. Honestly, in retrospect it was kind of awesome to have to take time off. As someone who’s always worked out, not being able to—as frustrating as it was at times—was also kind of nice! It was the break my body needed to fully recover.
Will my body ever look the same again? No. Can I find happiness in this new body that is now my home? Yes! And you can, too. Here’s how I’m doing it:
1. Patience: My six-pack abs are gone, and probably won’t be back until we’re done having kids (if ever, ha!). We’re going to try to get pregnant again in a year or so, and I’m not pushing anything during this time, especially since I have diastasis recti. If they show up, great (abs are made in the kitchen!), but if not, I don’t care. There’s a little extra love cushion on my lower abs and in the handle area, and I’m okay with it. I only workout in ways that feel 100% good to my body, which is a lesson I learned a few years ago that carries even more importance now.
2. Taking care of my body in new ways: Exercise is not the only way I care for my body. Instead of solely focusing on the physical, I find the mental aspect of my wellbeing to be more significant as a new mom. This is why I carve out special time every two weeks for therapy, and every week for yoga. Both help me open up in ways that are necessary for me to be my best self. With all of the suicides of people we never would have expected to leave us so soon (RIP, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain), mental health awareness is on the rise and I’m so grateful for that. Therapy is not taboo—I’m proud to share that I go and without it, I wouldn’t be in as good of a place as I am now. (I started going just before Lacey was five months because of PPA.)
3. Letting go of comparison: I wish our society had respect for the process women go through to birth another human, and didn’t expect us to jump right back into normalcy a few months later. Yes, I can only blame myself for my reaction and anticipating this, but the only reason I believed a speedy recovery was the norm was because of the media and social media. It’s NOT normal. In other countries, women get six months to two years of maternity leave, paternity leave is at least six months, and new mommies pretty much don’t move for the first month after giving birth. That sounds more like what life should look like post-birth. The picture we’ve painted in America is completely sad and unrealistic. So don’t do what I did and buy into it. Remember, your process is your process. Your recovery is your recovery. Your body is your body. Let it do its thing!
4. Respecting and loving myself more than ever before: My husband said to me the other day, “you seem different.” I replied with, “I’m in a much better headspace now.” His eyes immediately drew tears. I’m on the other side of things, and we both acknowledged my new attitude. It feels so good to know that I did it…I made a baby, birthed a baby, breastfed (and am still breastfeeding) a baby, made it to the six-month mark of her life, and have a beautiful, happy, joyful baby girl to show for it. I’m proud of her, but I’m also proud of myself. Self-love is the best love, and the only way to get through what can be a difficult time for many first time moms is to remember how amazing you are, because every mom is amazing. There’s no other role in life’s existence that requires such complete selflessness, emotion, and strength.
No matter where you are in your body image journey as it relates to motherhood—whether you’re trying, currently pregnant, or just had your little bundle—remember that there are women out there on this wild ride with you.