I first noticed this paradox in our society as I journeyed from pregnancy to postpartum – on the one side we’re accepting of our bodies, but on the other, we’re hiding our real selves more and more. Because of this paradox, we’re not truly prepared for how to handle our postpartum bodies. Here are three tips on how you can work through the postpartum body blues.
I remember the nights clearly where pregnancy aches kept me up, and so I’d pass the time scrolling through social media, looking for anything pregnancy-related. I’d look up unmedicated birthing pages on Instagram, new mommy hashtags, postpartum inspiration – anything you could think of to get me ready for what was to come. But what I saw on a large scale kind of terrified me and made me feel isolated.
I noticed women posting about giving birth in full-blown makeup. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that (I really truly admire some of these women’s makeup application skills), but I somehow felt cheated of the “rawness” that I was hoping to discover with childbirth. I was hoping for some kind of truth about how powerful, painful, messy, and vulnerable we are when we give birth. Instead, I found highlighting and contours (neither of which I know how to do….still). I found pictures of postpartum women standing in unnatural positions, clearly sucking in their stomachs with all their might, posing with baby so as not to expose the new “pouch” that they carried. Honestly, all I could imagine was them sighing the deepest sigh of relief once the picture was taken so they could breathe again and let their bellies just go.
And then I saw women who were raw and messy (and makeup-less), roaring, crying, and sometimes even pooping – on social media nonetheless! They bravely let it allllllll hang out. And when I saw these images or videos, I definitely felt petrified yet brave, and scared yet eager. I was inspired to get this whole birthing thing going!
So here I was, wanting to be brave and fierce, but also secretly really wanting to hold on to my idea of what I thought was beautiful. I even got my nails done just so I could hold on to some semblance of femininity while I journeyed through labor and delivery.
But in all of my emotions about childbirth, images of my potential postpartum body played through my mind. This was brand new territory for me and I had no idea what to expect. Would I even be attractive anymore?
As soon as I gave birth, I felt powerful, feminine and completely in love. I wasn’t at all concerned about my body (or nails) because of what had recently happened to it! I gave birth to a human being! I had immediately lost 15 pounds and thought the other 35 would come off as quickly! I just focused on my padsicles, keeping my feet up, learning how to breastfeed and taking in every detail with my baby as I possibly could. I couldn’t focus on anything else.
Then after about a week, when the scale didn’t change, I got slightly concerned, but not too bad. Then 2 weeks go by and I’m still not losing any weight. Then 4 weeks. I couldn’t believe it…my body wasn’t responding to just a good diet anymore. It’s looking like I’m going to have to incorporate exercise into my regimen once I’m given the “OK” by the midwife.
By the end of week 4, I had to make a decision. The way I saw it, I had one of two choices:
- Decide to love myself through this, even if my pride was hurt, even if I found myself not being able to walk by my full-length mirror without lifting up my shirt and jiggling my loose skin (just to make sure it was still there), even if I can’t eat chocolate creme pies and apples with peanut butter and ice cream because I’m not “eating for two” anymore – so that I could clear my mind and my heart to take in every aspect of my new life and new role as a mommy
- Or…I could obsess over my weight and let these thoughts of slow self-disrespect begin to flood my being so that resentment begins to build up while I scroll endlessly through social media, focusing only on the pictures of girls whose bodies supposedly went right back down to pre-pregnancy weight right after birth.
I think I chose wisely when I purposefully chose the first and sprinkled a bit of grace on top. Do I walk around strutting my fabulouslessness now that I’ve made a good choice to accept my new jiggly self? Hell no. But, with my highs, I accept my lows and self-consciousness, tip my hat to them to acknowledge they’re there, and move forward. I don’t linger, I don’t harp, I don’t react. I am what I am, and I am a mother.
That being said, here are three ways I found it easy to beat postpartum body blues:
Understand that your feelings about your body are likely always changing. So this, too, shall pass.
Looking back at old pictures of me, I cannnnnnnot believe how fat I thought I was. I knew I was out of shape, sure, but I also was alright with it. It took me no time to shape up when I worked out, and when I didn’t work out, it was OK because literally nobody cared – not even me.
I may not appreciate it for its full potential right now, but one day it won’t matter, and maybe I’ll flip through pictures and think, “Whoah, bitch, you were one hot mama!”
I bought a 3-piece belly wrap/support belt, which has really helped me during times I was lacking core strength and needed the extra support.
Of course, I got the OK from my midwife and I absolutely encourage you to do the same! There are some instances belly wrapping is counter-productive, and when done incorrectly can cause harm like prolapse. (Read more about that here).
And for the love of your pelvic floor and your sanity, please seek advice from your midwife or doctor over the reviews! Belly wraps get great reviews, but there are undoubtedly some women who wear these a bit obsessively. I wouldn’t recommend that.
And lastly, the dreaded “eat well” statement (unless you already do). Eating well can be such a pleasurable experience, especially postpartum! Thank the Lord I stopped craving sweets once my baby was born! But that doesn’t mean I’m not left with the “damage.”
I’ve somehow found a way to streamline mealtime in a way that is consistently healthy. My fiance and I are busy now, we’re both back to work, we have a one-month-old, a dog, a house, we’re beginning to be social again and the holidays are here. But with all that being said, we still have to find the time to not slack on our diet and nutrition. So I’ve figured out a way to eat (almost) the same thing every single day for the first 2 meals, and then eat a fudged-version of paleo at night. Normally I eat eggs and bacon or cottage cheese and fruit for breakfast and a spinach salad with boiled eggs and different veggies and oil and vinegar on top for lunch. I’m definitely not for want for good food, and I’m OK with eating the same things nearly every day!
I’ll tell you one thing for sure, the pounds sure do stick. But, for the first time since giving birth, I’ve officially begun losing weight again. I feel better, the scale is slowly creeping lower and lower in pounds, I’m regularly still taking my vitamins, I’ve increased my water (and La Croix) intake, I started walking again (only once but it’s a start), I’m doing my kegels and I’m choosing happiness while I’m in my body. I’m even rocking the peeled-polish look on my nails because I paid for gel nails and I’m going to wear the shit out of them merely to get my money’s worth.
And you know what? I think I’m rocking pretty damn hard at this momming thing.