Learning To Love Your New Postpartum BodyJul 17, 2020
As a new mama you probably did a fair bit of preparation for your new arrival – buying car seats and cots and cute onesies. You might have read books on pregnancy or sat a hospital course on birth or breastfeeding.
But one thing that we don’t tend to prepare for is having a new postpartum body. The changes to our bodies in pregnancy can be exciting and transitory, but the postpartum body can be a bit more permanent.
Arriving at new motherhood is massive! It is the ultimate challenge in itself, let alone having to deal with a new body. Despite training and becoming fitter and stronger again, there will be some battle-scars that are there for the long-haul. The whole experience can leave new mamas with insecurities about the way they look.
This can be particularly challenging area for the athletic mama.
Firstly, pre-pregnancy you were used to being in relative control of your body and its outcomes. By training or eating in a certain way, you could manipulate the end result. But now you’re a mama it’s not quite that simple.
Secondly, have you found that being a fit or athletic person often gives society a license to assume you’re going to be invincible? There’s sometimes an expectation that you’ll be unaffected, or less affected by the physical and mental challenges, or that you’ll perhaps be more capable at coping better.
But the fact of the matter is, despite your status of fit superhero (which you absolutely are) you are not immune to the postpartum package. In fact you’re just as likely to identify with a few, if not more, from this gorgeous list of beauties:
- Breast changes: swollen, saggy, changed shape, blocked ducts
- Lumps, bumps or marks: scars, stretch marks, saggy skin
- Changes in body composition: different or more fatty areas, new cellulite
- Transitory pain: tearing/stitches, haemorrhoids, constipation
- Hair loss (who ever warned us about that one?!)
- Altered feeling of attractiveness: Loss of sexual function after giving birth, loss of sex drive or both (which is very normal and can go on for months)
- Signs of accelerated ageing: New lines, eye bags, dark circles, grey hair
- Lots of other crackers I haven’t listed I’m sure
What a lovely array of treats for a woman to deal with.
I absolutely love this video shared by Today.com on Modern Motherhood – Everything That No One Tells You. You must give it a watch.
How many of you when you were training through your pregnancy heard someone say, “you’re so fit you’ll have your pre-baby body back in no time!” I think there’s still a bit of pressure out there, especially if you were very fit, lean or muscular before you had your bub. It’s such a damned shame that in a lot of society it’s still assumed you’re not going want or be proud of these changes. Some scars – like sporting injuries or heroic accidents gain so much respect – and others – like childbearing – which in my opinion is way more heroic, don’t seem to be regarded as such.
There’s only one way to change the way society thinks, and that’s to change the way we think.
1. Look Forwards, Not Backwards
I’ve come to understand that your body never goes back to how it was. Reclaiming your pre-baby body is a myth so wishing it away or training to insanity on a mission to get your body to “bounce back” is only going to hurt your wellbeing more. This is a forward journey. It’s a journey of learning and discovery, celebration and self-development and it should be embraced, not buried.
2. Ignore What Other People Think
It’s time to shift focus to place less emphasis on what other people think and more about what your body has done to get here. In this crucial and relatively vulnerable time for your wellbeing and healing, you need your reserves of energy to be saved for self-love and compassion, not self-loathing. These battle-scars are not a sign of physical or mental weakness.
3. Resist Comparison
The green-eyed monster will get you into all sorts of trouble so it’s best avoided. Every body is different. Just like every pregnancy and birth story is different, how you carry your body after your pregnancy will be different too. This was something I slipped into in the early days, looking at other mums’ post-baby bumps, or lack thereof, and comparing the size of my tummy to theirs. It wasn’t kind to myself and did me absolutely no favours at all.
Write down - in an ideal world - how you would like to view your new postpartum body, not how you wish it would be, but the things you’d like to be able say to yourself now, currently, as you are. Even if you don’t feel it quite yet. Put it somewhere you can see it: perhaps on the mirror.
- I am strong, and beautiful and I deserve to feel happy in my skin;
- My imperfections do not define me;
- My battle-scars are not a sign of physical or mental weakness.
- My body is incredible – it made my baby and for that I’m eternally grateful.
Acceptance means there’s actually no emphasis on either good or bad. It just is. Can you look at your body objectively without having an opinion about it? Look at your body for what it is – the excess skin is there because it stretched to make room for your baby, the new softness is there because your hormonal balance changed. Your body is the way it is because of doing the most incredible thing. It wouldn’t be how it is – exactly how it looks – if it weren’t for what it created.
You are still strong and you are still capable. Your battle-scars do not define you and are not an indication of your future athletic ability. Is a mama tiger any less of a hunter because she’s had a baby? It is absolutely, completely and utterly possible to return to a level of athleticism you can be proud of. For most of you it will be perfectly possible to run, jump, lift and workout at a very high intensity postpartum with the correct rehab. When you think about what your body has been through you must celebrate how incredible that is.
What They Said
These beautiful Hatch mamas tell us what they think about their new postpartum bodies.
“My body now represents my strength in a different way and it holds a heart that loves more than I knew possible.” – Anon
“I was so scared to have a c-section worrying about my recovery and the scar it would leave me. Now I still don't think or worry about it, it's just a reminder of my son and I'm just glad that we are together and healthy. - Dee
“When I look at my daughter l’m amazed at my body’s ability to adapt. I still can’t really believe it grew, birthed and fed her but I am so thankful it did! - Liv
“It's the first time in my life i have softness around my abdomen & i'm proud, not ashamed of what it represents. I feel sad for the girl who wasted time worrying about this in the past!” – Corinna
“At first I hated my C-section scar. Now I am proud of it. It reminds me of the journey I had carrying my beautiful little girl and then bringing her into the world.” – Henriette
Next Up: Things I Ate and Craved When I Was Pregnant!
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