I’m now five weeks postnatal following the birth of baby number three. Getting to a healthy weight and returning to fitness are on my mind, but I’m not rushing into making big changes. Part of that is because this is the first time I’ve looked in the mirror after having a baby and not hated what I saw. I’d even go so far as to say I’m happy with what I see. For me that is huge, as I’ve fought with my body for my entire life. I don’t think I even liked it very much at my slimmest.
To not be repulsed when I look in the mirror is ground breaking for me. It’s empowering to be comfortable with my postnatal body. It means that I don’t have a dark cloud of body hatred to add to the already stressful and exhausting emotions and challenges life with a new baby can throw at you.
I’d also like to state here that I’m no supermodel. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in reading about women who had flawless bodies before they got pregnant saying they love their postnatal bodies. I know they say they’re doing it to help others, but seeing a woman who had a six pack pre-pregnancy post a picture of a slightly bloated belly with possibly two token stretch marks a week after giving birth doesn’t help me. It depresses the shit out of me. Lets be honest here – even pre-pregnancy I was overweight, with loose skin from a big weight loss, covered in stretch marks from boob to bits from previous pregnancies and with cellulite over practically the whole back of my body. So if I can say I love my postnatal body, I hope you can too.
I thought I’d reflect on what I think has brought me to this point. I hope that it helps others. There have definitely been things from before, during and now after pregnancy which have contributed to me feeling so positive. Hopefully there’s something here that strikes a chord with you. I hope it encourages you to make friends with your changing body.
The biggest thing which has helped change my relationship with my body has been exercise. I had stopped seeing exercise as a chore and found things I enjoyed doing. I wasn’t consistent, and actually hadn’t worked out much for a couple of months by the time we got our positive test, but I was definitely seeing the benefits of being active.
Doing exercise I loved meant that for the first time in my life I was using my body for fun. Before that, my body wasn’t an exciting place to be. But with activity I wanted to do, suddenly my body and I were having a great time together.
I also gained an appreciation for what my body could do. It turned out my saggy, sad shell wasn’t a write-off. It actually could learn to dance, it could run further than I’d ever imagined and it could lift weights. My body was strong and capable, it could meet the goals and challenges I set it. That was an exciting revelation. It has left me wondering how much it could achieve if only I give it the chance.
Exercise also prepared my body for pregnancy. Without intending to, I set myself up to have the best pregnancy of my life by getting active.
Looking after my body during pregnancy and learning all I could about labour really helped me.
I’ve blogged before about how I managed my weight during pregnancy and that I continued to exercise during pregnancy. The temptation to eat for two and hibernate is strong when you’re creating a tiny human. Especially in that nasty first trimester. But nourishing and moving your body is key to coping with the general discomforts and tiredness of pregnancy. I was able to enjoy my changing body rather than freak out about feeling “fat” or out of control. I actually felt pretty damn beautiful.
I’ve also blogged about my hopes for a hypnobirth, and how Hubs and I did a course to prepare us. That experience was a refresher of all the amazing things your body does during labour. The hypnobirthing mind set is that you work with your body rather than fighting against perceptions of pain or fear. My body and I became a team. I had a new appreciation of what it had to do to bring my baby into the world.
No matter how you give birth, you can reflect that your body went through a lot to ensure that both you and your baby are here. I was very lucky this time to finally get exactly the sort of birth I had always hoped for. For the first time I came away from birth in a positive state of mind. Appreciating what my body achieved showed me that what I look like is not as important as what I can do. I just have to gaze at my gorgeous new son to be in awe of the fact that I made this. How can you hate a body that gave you your children?
A bit of self-kindness is vital. Particularly in the time after birth where you’re leaking blood and milk and sweat and drool (seriously, I’ve started drooling in my sleep since having a baby – someone tell me this is normal?!). I cut myself slack when I wanted to fuel myself on chocolate and cake in the first few (ok, five) weeks. And whilst I’m really keen to get back into my exercise I’m also being realistic about my body’s need to recover, the limited free time I have and my non-existent energy levels.
I don’t want to emulate women in the public eye who “bounce back” to their pre-pregnancy size by dieting and hitting the gym before their baby’s cord has even fallen off. I’m taking the time to just “be” in my postnatal body. I still have to get my head around juggling a new baby and all my other responsibilities. My squidgy tummy is not a priority! Physical health isn’t achievable without a good state of mind. I’m focusing on that side of things first.
Loving Your Postnatal Body
It’s always possible to do things which will help you look at your postnatal body in a positive light. If you’re yet to get pregnant you can start right now by finding exercise which you love and which shows you what your body is capable of. If you’re pregnant, putting your health first will make you feel positive and learning about just how incredible the labouring body is will help you appreciate yourself more. And if your baby is already here, reflect on what a wonderful gift your body has given you and practice some self-kindness.
So much is made about “getting your body back” after a baby, but in reality you will never get the same body as you had before. Instead, you have something even better – your postnatal body.