how to love your postnatal body

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.

 

Before Pregnancy

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.

 

During Pregnancy

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.

 

After Pregnancy

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.

Mummy Times Two  My Random Musings  Pink Pear Bear    Twin Mummy and Daddy

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32 Comments

    1. I think it can be very hard when you’ve already struggled. But being positive about yourself is so liberating, I hope you find a way to love yours. I’m in awe of it already – it’s given you six babies, that’s amazing.

  1. Congrats on having baby number 3! Well done for writing such a positive post. I totally agree with you in the supermodels and flaunting their post baby bodies, with that tiny little belly just one week post birth. There’s too much emphasis in the media on “snapping back into shape”, every photo published of a celeb post birth makes a comment about her weight. Why don’t we just praise people for having a baby?? Great post xx #bigpinklink

    1. So true, you often hear more about what diet they’re on than how they’re finding motherhood or what the baby is like. It’s like everything comes second to what a mother looks like, and it shouldn’t be that way.

  2. You are amazeballs for putting this out there – I bloody love it. My third baby is eight months old now and I struggled with my postnatal body for ages after she was born. Now I just cant bring myself to care what other people think so long as I’m happy. I’d rather have my love handles than the body of a model and no lovely kiddies! #BigPinkLink

  3. It think many of your points would work for loving your body full stop. Post pregnancy or not. I could count on one hand how many times I’ve actually been happy with my body. I think I found it easiest when I was pregnant and was supposed to have a belly! #PostsFromTheHeart

  4. Thank you for an incredible dose of positivity! I wish I could join you and say that I’m learning to love my body, but the absolute honest truth is that… I hate it. I have severe diastasis recti-sporting a five finger width gap from top to bottom, so although I’ve lost nearly all the baby weight now-I’ll for ever look 6 months pregnant. It’s so bad that I’ve got permanent back injuries, but not a candidate for surgery as Drs don’t consider diastasis recti serious enough for surgical intervention! I’d always planned on setting myself new exercise goals once I was able (I was a big gym goer before,) but I wanted to do a half marathon-something I’d never done before-but I can’t because I’m plaugued by back injury. I really don’t want to detract from your positivity because it’s beautiful, but I feel let down by a body that I constantly feel I’m working against-I’d love to get to where you are, I just can’t see it happening…!
    #bigpinklink
    This Mum’s Life recently posted…The Big Pink Link Week 71My Profile

    1. This made me sad to read, because it sounds as if you’ve not been very well supported in healing either your DR or your subsequent back problems. I’ve had herniated discs in the past, so I can sympathise with how debilitating a back injury can be. Like you I found there wasn’t a lot of help (though I did get a good physio on the third attempt!), but I found some good advice by physios and personal trainers online. It took a while with lots of baby steps but things have got better. I hope you find a way to heal and do the things you want to do.

  5. Congratulations on your new arrival, after I had my first baby, everyone kept commenting on how slim I was looking, instead of accepting the compliments, I just said it’s because I was so big before, Now after having 3 children and getting older, I think I would rather look like I do and have children than have a flatter stomach and be childless#thatfridaylinky@_karendennis

  6. Congrats and Mazel Tov on both the birth of your third and you’re beginning to love yourself! That is going to go so far in those kids you are raising and your over all health and well being. We are all beautiful! Warts and all! #bigpinklink xoxo

  7. This is absolutely fantastic! I’m literally about to kick-start a guest series on my blog called ‘my body is beautiful because…’ all about how we should celebrate our postpartum bodies rather than wallow in misery – and this sums up exactly why! At 5 weeks postpartum, I was desperate to return to my pre-baby state, but over the past 8 months have come to realise that it’s not about the weight, but what my body can and has done. And I’m happier than ever. I love this post and hope everyone struggling reads it… such an important message <3 #bigpinklink

  8. Life is too short sometimes to be worried about if you are beach body ready. The weight will come off and back on again if you attack the cookie jar like me !!
    Gentle exercise and lots of fresh air is the best advice for any mother #PostsFromTheHeart

  9. My body was almost craving exercise after I had my son. I would normally do at least one run a week so when I had to stop running I got a little depressed. I tried doing the elliptical but it wasn’t really the same. Exercising definitely makes me happier so when I’m feeling down I will try and go for a run but I find the hardest part is just getting out there! Thanks for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

  10. What a lovely post and you have been so honest about your journey. i accepted my body after my third too. to be honest i had learnt a lot that you only live once and need to see the positive. I eat well and run around after three boys and like a glass of wine and am happy. Great to share thanks #bloggerclubuk

  11. I’ve had three children and it’s only on this last pregnancy I’ve realised I won’t be the same again. See in my head what I think I look like and what I actually look like are two completely different things lol. So I’m sticking with what I think I look like 🙂
    I’m a great believer in exercise because it helps you mentally as well as physically.
    Rhi recently posted…Insect Hotel in the Garden: Who Comes to Stay?My Profile

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