Embracing Your Postpartum Body
Body Positivity as a Mom
Motherhood is one of the few things that really kick-started my body positivity journey. My body had grown and sustained an entire human being in just nine months, without me having to do anything extra, and then pushed all 9 pounds of him out into the world. I’ve said it before, but there was no way I couldn’t appreciate my body after that, or at the very least see it in a new light.
For years I had been hating my body because of all the things it couldn’t do and now it had quite literally created a miracle. And that changed everything for me. I know for a lot of women, however, it isn’t that way. Having a baby changes your body in a lot of ways, and for a lot of people it never “bounces” back or returns to its previous state. It can be hard to love and appreciate a body that doesn’t look anything like the one you are used to.
I wasn’t super fit before I got pregnant, I didn’t have a flat stomach, I wasn’t thin, but pregnancy and birth still changed my body. I don’t think my thighs will ever return to the size they were before I had any babies. Yes, you read that right, my thighs. That’s where I gained a lot of weight, with both of my boys. For some people, it might be thighs and for others, it might be their stomach or boobs or even their face, but I think it’s safe to say the vast majority of people will experience body changes during pregnancy that no amount of dieting or working out will reverse.
That doesn’t mean body positivity isn’t for you or the self-love is out of reach. I’ve found the following things have helped me embrace my postpartum body (especially the second time around) and find body positivity as a mom. I also think most of these things could be applied to any big change to your body (significant weight loss or gain for example), so even if you’re not a mom keep reading!
Being Grateful for What Your Body is Capable Of
This does not just apply to the ability to create, grow and sustain life. When you really stop and think about all the things your body is capable of it is truly amazing. I ran a marathon once (okay I walked a lot of it), but still a freaking marathon! I walked/run 26.2 continuous miles. It might’ve taken me 6 hours but my body allowed me to do that. A year ago, I had an ugly, red c-section scar that was still oozing and trying to heal. Now I have to look really hard to even see where the scar begins and ends. My body did that without any help or thought from me.
I think so often we are focused on all the things our bodies can’t do. I can’t do the splits or a headstand. I’m not strong enough to do a pull-up and I definitely couldn’t run a marathon anymore. I’m not a very good swimmer or dancer and I’ve never been very flexible. But focusing on what your body can’t do only takes the attention off all the amazing things it can do.
I find when I am hating my body the most it is really helpful to make a gratitude list of all the things my body does or has done that I’m grateful for. At the top of my list would have to be growing and giving birth to my two sons, but not far behind is the ability to play with those little boys. The health and well-being to be able to pursue my passions, the ability to be intimate with my husband, the strength to carry my not-so-little one-year-old around the house and pick-up, my toddler, when he needs comforting. The flexibility and strength to practice and get better at yoga. And dozens of other things that I often take for granted. The little things that make life enjoyable. All the things that wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t have a body to help us do them.
Celebrating the Miracle of Life
Have you ever stopped and thought about all the things your body does without you even thinking about it? Of course, if you are a mom your body was able to create a new life (with a little help of course), nourish and grow that human being for 9ish months and then bring that baby into the world? And other than the labor part, it really required little to no thought from you. I didn’t have to think about growing a baby arm or leg, I didn’t have to tell my body to nourish my baby for 9 months, it did it all by itself. How cool is that?
It is insane to think two little cells can come together and create an entire human being. That a woman’s body knows exactly what to do with those two little cells to nurture a whole new life. It really is miraculous.
Every single day your heart beats thousands of times without you having to do anything to make it happen, your lungs breathe air in and out, your stomach digests food and sends nutrients all over your body. When you get hurt or sick, your body naturally sends the necessary cells or blood or nutrients to heal you. I could go on but you get the point. When I think about all the things my body does to keep me alive, all the things it does without me even thinking about it, it’s impossible to not be amazed and grateful. It is impossible not to see what a miracle it is to be alive and have a healthy, functioning body. Even when my body is sick or injured or isn’t functioning optimally I’m still amazed at all the things it does just to keep me alive.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Celebrities
This one is a little less awe-inspiring than marveling at and being grateful for our bodies but in order to appreciate my postpartum body (or really just my body in general), I had to stop comparing it to the bodies of strangers on the internet, especially celebrities. You know the ones with the funds to have a nanny, a chef, and a personal trainer, so they can eat well, workout and get the sleep they need to “bounce” back to their former fabulous selves before their baby is even two months old?
It’s not even just celebrities with tons of money though. After my first baby, I was comparing myself to all sorts of people. From close friends and family to acquaintances to Instagram fitness models. I compared myself to anyone who lost the weight quickly and what seemed like easily, to anyone who only gained 20 pounds while they were pregnant instead of 60, to anyone that I thought looked better than me. But those people aren’t me or you. We are all unique and our unique combination of genetics, food choices, exercise, sleep, environment, sources of help after the baby is born, labor and birth experience, etc... determines how our bodies respond to pregnancy or just life in general. In order to appreciate my body, I had to stop wasting my time comparing it to other people, because we aren’t the same for a reason.
Embrace the Changes
I have more stretch marks now than I did before I had my kids and when I gain weight it tends to be more visible in my stomach than it was before I got pregnant and gave birth to two 9 pound babies. Losing weight would be the simple solution to the second “problem” but my stretch marks are never going to go away. They might fade over time but they will always be there. My feet also grew half a size with my second baby and I doubt they are going to return to their previous state.
Maybe your hips grew and you’re never going to fit in your pre-pregnancy jeans, no matter how much celery you eat or how many sit-ups you do. Maybe your boobs grew three sizes and wearing the days of wearing a C cup are a thing of the past. Maybe you have loose skin on your stomach from all the stretching it did. Whatever it is, embrace it. I mean, what good does it do to dwell on and worry about things you can’t change? My stretch marks are never going away, so why should I spend any time or energy worrying about them?
This is not to say you can’t lose weight if you want to and it’s not to say you can’t become the strongest, best version of yourself, but look forward, not backward, because your body isn’t the same as it was before you had babies and it’s not the same as it was when you were in high school or your early 20s, but that’s a good thing. All the changes that have happened in our body are signs of growth. Ways you changed and overcome and gotten stronger. Embrace the strength of your body and the ways it has changed and grown and supported you through the years. Embrace the amazing miracle your body is now and every day along the way.