Every new mom is sick of celebrity “body after baby” stories. Women who gave birth yesterday and today lay next to the pool in a two-piece swimsuit promote unrealistic goals.
Each one of us has seen hashtags on Instagram like #bounceback, #beatthemombod, and we wonder why does everyone want to get rid of their postpartum body so quickly? Celebrities who have a perfect body one month after giving birth put enormous pressure on new moms because they tell women they need to work hard and choose dangerous diets to erase their post-pregnancy body and bounce back to their pre-baby body.
But instead moms should celebrate where they are at because your body experienced huge stress when it carried and nurtured the baby for nine months and literally just did something miraculous. While we’ve seen so much media attention on celebrities who “snap back” to a size zero after having a baby, there are more and more celebs utilizing their social media platforms to show the realistic side of postpartum life, including Amy Schumer and supermodel Ashley Graham. And let’s not forget Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle – a woman who isn’t afraid to choose her own terms on when to step out of the house after having a baby, when to show her baby to other people, and how slowly she wants to regain her pre-pregnancy shape. Thankfully there is more awareness about the importance of mental health and support that moms need to feel their best while looking after a newborn. There are lessons we can learn from the wave of women choosing to be open and honest about this experience. So how can you embrace and honor your postpartum body?
Accept and appreciate yourself
Of course, pregnancy changes your body, but you shouldn’t consider it as something that lessens your beauty. Every time that inner critic tries to rear its ugly head, try to reframe your thoughts toward acceptance and appreciation of how you just gave birth to your baby. The first three months postpartum are often referred to as the “fourth trimester” for a reason – you are still adjusting to the transition of motherhood and childbirth, so be gentle on yourself. You need to release the judgement of good and bad, and focus on taking it day by day.
Accept that you need time to get used to your new schedule and baby, and at present you are the best version of yourself. It’s more important to make changes to your diet, include pelvic floor exercisers in your routine and methods you use to cope with stress.
Don’t compare your body to anyone else
Resist the urge to compare your body with a celebrity or an Instagram influencer. Humans tend to compare as a way to assess how much they worth. Staying away from social media can sometimes be a great idea when it comes to dealing with a monumental life change, including childbirth.
Treat your body as you treat your kids, give it a hug every time you despair because it didn’t bounce back in its pre-pregnancy shape. You should care about your body and mental health first and foremost. Try to think of your body as your best friend, and if you wouldn’t talk to your best friend the way you talk to yourself, that could be a good place to start in terms of dealing with criticism.
Ensure that you stay in a healthy mindset and adopt self-care practices. Every time you compare yourself with someone else, and you tend to despair, take a deep breath, focus on the present, and say a positive affirmation out loud. It will change your mindset and help you be compassionate about yourself.
Your body is continually changing
Your body will change and this means that you won’t have a pregnant body forever. Extra weight, large breasts from breastfeeding, painful legs, and sleeplessness will all pass. Even if you feel like you are stuck in the motherhood abyss, it will all change the moment your baby will grow up. It can feel like a never-ending cycle in the moment, but as you grow with your baby day by day, you will start to notice changes, and sometimes for the better.
When you are stuck in the awkward in-between phase where maternity clothes are too big but your regular clothes are too small, it can be a difficult adjustment in terms of body image. Be patient because your body will adjust and you’ll soon regain the shape that makes you feel healthiest and happy.
Celebrate your body for its strength
Our global culture still doesn’t celebrate the strength of women in the way it should, as seen by ingrained sexism and policies that view women as less-than. But thanks to a large and growing online community of moms who are sharing their stories and empowering each other to recognize the strength it takes to carry a baby and give birth, mothers’ voices are starting to be heard more.
Enough of the idea that “women are the weaker sex”. What is most important is to recognize the incredible feat of strength your body allowed you to endure during pregnancy and childbirth.
Help your partner understand what you’re going through
Your partner may not understand what you’re going through because they didn’t experience pregnancy and delivery. You need to tell them how overwhelmed you are with your new role. Postpartum anxiety and depression are very real after giving birth and speaking up about this is important. Low self-esteem and negative feelings about your postpartum body can make you want to avoid intimacy with your partner, and that is OK. Don’t be ashamed to tell your partner you need more time to feel confident again. Some couples have even spoken about using a sex toy as a fleshlight to compensate for the lack of intimacy so as to take pressure off mom while going through the postpartum transition.
Many new parents deal with a loss of sexual intimacy that often begins during pregnancy and lasts months after the baby is born. It’s understandable that you didn’t feel comfortable having sex when pregnant and your body isn’t yet ready for sex again just yet, so you don’t enjoy intercourse. It’s important to tell your partner how you feel. You can be intimate even if you don’t have sex. But most importantly, having that communication is key in order to feel supported in the best way you need right now.
The postpartum can be difficult for most moms, so be gentle and kind to yourself. Don’t pay attention to the unrealistic pressures to look a certain way. Your body is your own and it should be celebrated.