A big thanks to Emily for this wonderful post on getting to a place of accepting your post-baby body. You can see me over at FaithfullyInfertile talking about ages for dropping naps.
by Emily Parker
I recently wrote a post about my personal journey to getting back my body after having my third baby (you can read it here). It was a difficult post for me to write but since writing it I have felt a lot better about myself. So many other moms contacted me saying how they felt less alone in their post-baby bodies after seeing my photos and reading about my experience which helped me feel less alone too!
So often we read these articles about loving our bodies. How they are beautiful because they have given birth. How we should appreciate each curve as a reminder that our body once carried a baby (or several). That all sounds so nice, but in reality? When you look in the mirror you don't say "oh I'm so thankful for that stretch mark, that cellulite, and that flabby belly!"
It's really, really hard to find a place of peace with a post-baby body. Yes, there are those women who wear their pre-pregnancy jeans home from the hospital. Or the ones who eat whatever they want and drop weight from nursing. Or the ones that barely even looked pregnant to begin with! But me? I am not one of them. And I've come to realize that most of us mamas...we aren't those women.
Here are some of my lessons learned and advice that I hope helps others to learn to accept, and maybe even love, their post-baby bodies:
Buy Comfy Clothes: Yes, I mentioned some women come home from the hospital in their pre-pregnancy jeans. But let's just go ahead and assume that you won't be one of them. The best purchase you can make for yourself is some clothes for the postpartum time period. Yoga pants are your friend here. Baggy shirts? Tunics? Yup. They are great. Get some cuter tops in a larger size than you normally wear (for me, I went one size up from my pre-pregnancy size). Pair them with some comfy new sweatpants or yoga pants (if the tops are long enough, of course!) and you are good to go. Toss on some cute jewelry and you instantly feel better and look presentable for all the visitors who want to see the baby. Plus you can just take off that jewelry and hop into bed and be comfortable enough for a nap when the baby naps!
Be Your Best Self: You know how I mentioned getting some cute clothes that fit your current size? Also maybe pick up some new makeup! Take the time (when you can get it!) to get ready for the day. I started getting up 20 minutes earlier in the morning to give myself time to fix my hair or apply some makeup or even, sometimes, both! It helped my confidence level in a BIG way. I felt clean, I felt put together, and I felt better about the way I looked. It wasn't about looking good for others. It was about taking time for ME and feeling good about myself.
DO NOT try on your "regular" clothes: I thought it'd be "fun" to see if any of my old clothes fit me after having my baby. Um. Horrible idea. Trying on your old clothes will only make you feel down about yourself. You don't need that. I'm guilty of not wanting to spend money on larger sized clothes so I try to make my old clothes work. It's a terrible decision. It only results in me trying on a thousand shirts in my closet and wanting to bawl my eyes out because none of it looks the way it used to. I know you've missed your normal clothes. It's been 9 long months since you've been able to wear them! Well, keep waiting. It's worth the wait!
Be Patient: For some crazy reason I expected to look like myself within days of having my new baby. I was frustrated right from the start and it was my own fault. The saying is true "it took 9 months to gain the weight, it takes 9 months to lose it." I'm not saying it'll take the full 9 months...but patience is key. I don't care how healthy you eat or how little you gained during pregnancy. Your body is different after having a baby. And it takes time to get back to normal. You can FOR SURE help it along by eating right, exercising, drinking lots of water, getting rest, etc but it'll still take time even while doing those things. Recognizing this time period as a period of healing makes it easier to accept. Your body just went through SO MUCH trauma and it needs recovery time!
Wait to Diet: Again, this goes along with being patient. But don't rush yourself into a diet plan. I thought I could do some dieting at 7 weeks postpartum and that it would magically put me into my goal jeans. I regret trying to diet so early. I really think you should give yourself a solid 3-6 months before being "hardcore" about weight loss. It takes that long to adjust to having the baby as part of your life anyway so why add to that stress by trying to lose weight too? Consider the first 3 months like the 4th trimester of pregnancy :) Eat right and such but don't do anything diet-wise until things are more settled. Your body will naturally shape up during this time period anyway! When I tried dieting at 7 weeks postpartum I did lose a good bit of weight (especially inches) but I was still disappointed in the results because I had too high of expectations. Waiting longer to diet allows the body to be more ready for it and to have better results!
Do Not Compare: Seriously, don't. It will suck you into a vicious cycle and make you feel so down about yourself! Don't compare your body to celebrities. Don't compare it to your best friend's. Don't compare it to people on social media. Don't even compare your body to yourself. Don't look at old pictures of yourself and get discouraged. It's hard to resist but try really, really hard just to focus on pictures of your sweet new baby! Yes, the post-baby body isn't fun, but that beautiful little baby was totally worth it! It's also so important to BE in the pictures with your baby too. While you may not feel like your most confident self right now, when you look back you will be thankful to have photos of you with your new baby. And your child will cherish those photos too...and they won't care that your body wasn't "perfect."
Don't Get TOO Comfortable: With the clothes that fit, a routine to get ready, and avoiding comparing to others...it's easy to get pretty comfortable with your new look. There is such a balance with everything and that includes the post-baby body. Yes, we want to love it and accept it...but we don't want to become it either. While I may not be one of "those women" who drop the baby weight without even trying...I also don't want to be one of "those women" who are still "losing the baby weight" when their child is 27 years old. While the postpartum days should be about the baby, about adjusting to your new role, and about allowing your body to heal...you don't want to completely lose sight of your goals for yourself either. I LIKE my pre-baby body and I want to make sure I see that person again! I think having a supportive spouse is really helpful in this area. My husband compliments me and makes me feel beautiful and special in all the stages my body faces, but he also is great at supporting me when it is the proper time to lose the weight. Usually men have a few pounds to lose too (although don't you hate them for how easily they lose it?!?) and getting your spouse on board with meeting your weight loss goals as a team can be so much more motivating and rewarding! You both have pre-baby bodies you can get back to!
More than anything I believe the key to accepting and loving your post-baby body is to see it for what it is. It is a natural result in giving birth. Carrying and delivering and feeding a baby from your body is an amazing gift and it changes you. It doesn't only change your appearance, but it changes your whole life. Your body is shaped differently. Your eyes see the world differently. Your heart feels a love that it has never felt before. You are changed. Your body will not always stay this way. You will go back to your pre-baby body self. But your heart will never go back, and that love makes every sacrifice we give of ourselves totally worth it.
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