I got my first postpartum “when is your baby due?” a couple weeks ago. My first knee jerk reaction was embarrassment, then the thoughts of “I’m so fat, she thinks I’m still pregnant”, then the indignant “Doesn’t she know you NEVER ask that?”. After a few seconds I just smiled and said, “She was born in December.” In her defense, I was sitting with my hand resting on my belly, which is the universal sign of “there’s a baby in here.” Apparently, this happens to Jennifer Garner a lot because she said this on the Ellen DeGeneres Show: “I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump … I get congratulated all the time by people I know … From now on, ladies, I will have a bump, and it will be my baby bump. It’s not going anywhere. Its name is Violet, Sam, and Sera.” I love that. My response wasn’t nearly as clever, but the experience got me thinking.
I’m going to get real here. One of these photos was taken when I was 3 months pregnant. The other was taken at 3 months postpartum. Can you tell which is which?
It’s ok, my husband couldn’t tell either. I can literally say, “I still look 3 months pregnant”, and it’s not an exaggeration. The reason I’m sharing this is to help normalize the postpartum experience and to say IT’S OK. It’s ok if you look 3 months pregnant. It’s ok if you look 6 months pregnant. It’s ok if you are bigger or smaller or a different shape than you used to be. It’s ok if you don’t look like you did before you were pregnant. And it’s ok that sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s ok. I’ve heard people say, “It took your body almost a whole year to get where it is. You can’t expect it to bounce back right away.” I think there is some truth to this, but I also want to say that maybe our bodies aren’t meant to be the same.
This post isn’t about 3 steps to banish belly fat or how to fit into your pre-pregnancy jeans. This post is about the fact that when your body creates, grows, births and sustains a tiny human being, it’s a miracle. Natural, medicated, vaginal, cesarean, home, hospital….however you did it, when you bring a new life into this world, it’s a miracle. Your body will never be the same, and that isn’t a bad thing. We have this notion that we are supposed to go “back,” but maybe the truth is that when we become mothers, we go through a transformation. Every part of us is different, including our bodies, and that is something to be celebrated. On my best day, I’m totally on board with this statement. On my worst, I secretly want to look like my pre-pregnant self….or maybe even the super fit 20-year-old version of myself.
I’m about to do something you will never see me do again: reference celebrity advice in Cosmo Magazine. I can’t believe it, but this little gem is really worth reading. Read what these women have to say about the notion of getting your pre-baby body back. I couldn’t say it any better. As women, I think most of us struggle with body image to some extent. There have always been parts of my body that I didn’t like, but now that I’ve had my daughter, I have a whole new appreciation for my body. It’s incredible that you go from having an enormous belly one day to a tiny baby the next.
We are inundated with pictures of airbrushed models and the message that we should look like them. I encourage you to ignore those messages and replace it with this: Your body is amazing. Let’s focus on feeling good and being strong and healthy. Let’s value being able to run and jump and laugh without peeing our pants. Let’s aim to be strong enough to carry our babies without pain. Let’s be mobile enough to sit on the floor and play with our kids. Here are a few ways to get started:
- Take a daily walk. If you push your baby in a stroller, start carrying or wearing him/her for part of the way. Slowly increase the out of stroller time as you get stronger.
- Watch this video on alignment tips for pain free baby holding.
- Try sitting on the floor in different positions at least once a day.
- If you are experiencing incontinence, back/hip/pelvic pain, or pelvic organ prolapse, come to a pelvic floor workshop. Register here.
- Come to my series on Restorative Exercise for Diastasis Recti in May. Register here.
- Schedule a private session to set goals and work on your individual alignment needs.
My super fit 20-year-old self looked good, but she was also in chronic pain and not all that healthy. She wouldn’t have felt good carrying a baby for 41.5 weeks and certainly wasn’t mentally or physically prepared to birth that baby naturally. When I think about what my body has done, I don’t really want to go back.