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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managing my pregnancy weight gain with slimmingworld

 

Balance is key to a healthy lifestyle…and so I feel I want to add some balance after my rant about SlimmingWorld the other week.  Because you may be forgiven for thinking I hate every last thing about SW, and that isn’t true.  After all, it has helped me have my healthiest pregnancy ever, and that is not something to be shrugged off.

I went into my first pregnancy blind.  It was unplanned, unprepared for and I didn’t have the first clue about health.  I was an overweight teenager who drank heavily, lived on junk food and the extent of my cooking skills was to fire up the deep fat fryer in my grotty little council-flat kitchen.  I have no idea what my weight gain was, as I didn’t own scales, but I went from a size 16 to a 22 so it’s safe to say it was probably near or even more than 4 stone.

My second pregnancy came ten years later, and I was a much different person as I’d been through my 6.5 stone weight loss journey.  But although I’d achieved that loss and made big changes to the way I ate and lived, that pregnancy came at a time where things were sliding.  I’d made the shift from an active job with time for fitness to a desk job which left me with little (perceived) time for exercise.  The job also made me miserable and I had turned to food, so I ate my way through my pregnancy and put on nearly 3 stone.

This time around, I’m different again.  My knowledge of health and nutrition has grown beyond diet/light/low-fat and I’ve made big advances in my fitness levels too.  That saw me get down to a size 12 less than a year after our four year old was born, and down to a size 10 for my wedding two years ago.  Unfortunately though, some things have not changed – I still struggle with using food as a coping mechanism, and my control around food is tied to my mood and emotions.  So I came into this pregnancy overweight again after a stressful year at work, culminating with both losing my job and having the stress of starting a new one after dropping the pregnancy bomb.  Oh…and then Christmas.  I put on nearly a stone in the first 18 weeks, and it looked as if I was on track to pile on the pounds yet again.

But something clicked in my head.  I’ve never enjoyed my changing body in pregnancy, and always felt self conscious about my weight gains, but as this is my last pregnancy I didn’t want to spend it hating how I looked.    And then there are the health consequences of a bad diet and big weight gain, both for myself and my baby.  I didn’t have the excuse of ignorance this time – if I wasn’t going to be healthy for me I should at least be healthy for my baby.

So that’s where SlimmingWorld came in, and where it has helped me.  I’ve been critical about some of their “free” foods and approaches, and I stand by that.  But following a plan and going to weekly weigh-ins has been key, and that is what SlimmingWorld has given me.  I’ve written before about how I’m more of a Weight Watchers girl and that too gives a plan and weekly weigh-ins, but SlimmingWorld have gone a bit further and had themselves accredited to accept pregnant members.  Having to be mindful about my food and being held accountable at the scales each week have helped me to make good choices whilst also ensuring I don’t overeat – two things I struggle with when left to my own devices.  Two things that are pretty much all you need to nail to maintain a healthy weight.

If I hadn’t been allowed to join a group, I fully believe I’d have carried on putting on weight the way I had when I started.  But thanks to SlimmingWorld (and my own efforts!), at 32 weeks I’ve only put on 3.5lbs since January.  I know I’ll probably gain weight each week from now on, and that will be something to get my head around, but most of that weight will be my little man filling out and getting ready for his arrival.

I’m hoping that after the birth, my overall weight gain will have been less than a stone.  That just blows my mind, how different this pregnancy has been to my others.  And the impact has reached further than the number on the scales.  I feel happier, I have more energy and I’ve been able to keep active.  I’m sleeping almost as well as I did before pregnancy, I’ve had minimal heartburn and no back issues.  And more importantly, I’m enjoying the pregnancy and don’t feel self conscious or bad about my changing body.  I’m hoping this is all gearing me up to the birth I want, and of course a healthy baby!

Life According to MrsShilts
My Petit Canard
Twin Mummy and Daddy
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can we just stop commenting on pregnant women’s bodies?

 

As someone who battles with my weight and self image, I’ve spent my life trying to hide my body.  It dictates what I wear, what I do and even how I sit – these are all done in a way which minimises the amount of flaws on display.  So the visibility of my body during pregnancy is something I struggle with.

Suddenly it’s ok for people to comment and discuss my shape, often without invitation.  Don’t get me wrong, most comments are well meaning and complimentary…but even they couldn’t take the sting out of being told I was basically a fat freak by someone I’d barely even met before.  On more than one occasion this charmer has reacted with shock when overhearing how far along I was, gasping that I was huge.  In one instance she even combined the classic I thought you were nearly due with the equally tactful is it twins?!  I was 24 weeks at the time.

The rational side of me knows not to take to heart the words of an airhead (common office perception, not just me being a bitch) who thinks it’s ok to dress head-to-toe in gradients of Barbie-pink in her late 40’s (ok, that was me just being a bitch).  But when has body hatred ever been rational?  Instead of writing those comments off as just moronic standard phrases tossed out by conversationally challenged people to anyone expecting, I have internalised them.

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