Who else has some postpartum body struggles?
I know that I’m not alone in this one. There is so much pressure that is put on moms to “bounce back” to their pre-baby body. I mean, how can we not feel this pressure when we see celebrities lose the baby weight in record time, or see posts on social media about fitting into pre-baby jeans or a mama reaching her pre-baby number on the scale. With all of these messages, it’s easy to feel that as soon as your OB-GYN or midwife clear you at that 6-week check, that you should be diving in head first.
Today, I want to share my journey with exercise and body image postpartum.
My Pregnancy Journey
Before we get into the postpartum piece, I think it’s relevant to briefly share a bit about my pregnancy journey as it relates to this topic.
I was an “early gainer” in my pregnancy. You know how they say you really shouldn’t gain any weight in your first trimester? Well, I gained about 10 lbs. I was gaining quickly enough that at about the 16-week mark I got a bit of a talking to from my midwife.
I remember I was so consumed and worried by this. I had been eating well, but I was always hungry! I had been staying active at the gym several days per week. I wrestled with this a lot. Worried about what I “should be gaining”, and feeling frustrated with myself.
It made me feel like I was failing or doing something wrong.
But all along, in the back of my mind, I truly believed that my body was doing what it needed to do. I felt deep in my heart that it was okay. Sure enough, my weight gain slowed down a bit and I ended up gaining about 40 pounds. Only slightly more than the recommended 25-35 lbs. But also my son was just shy of 10 lbs, so I think that counts for something. 😛
During my pregnancy, I loved having a big ol’ belly and knowing that my body was nourishing our son.
The Fourth Trimester
Throughout my pregnancy, I did A LOT of work around birth prep. As a part of this, I spent a lot of time thinking about the strength of my body (and a woman’s body in general). I came to trust that through the birthing process my body, with the help of my baby, would know what to do.
This same mindset carried over into the postpartum period for me. I had a strong sense that my body was wise and that it would do what it needed, and tell me what I needed to give it. I just needed to stay in tune.
So, entering postpartum I knew that I would want to take it slow. I knew that I did not want to do a lot of physical activity right away. (The book “The First Forty Days” really drove this home for me, I highly recommend it!). I also was very determined to be successful with breastfeeding, so I took much of those first days and weeks just cuddling and working on feeding my baby.
Honestly, outside of new sensations felt with breastfeeding and in my pelvic region directly following birth, I really didn’t think much of how I looked or felt.
I was on a high. In love with my baby. In awe of what my body had just done.
It was the most empowered I’ve felt in my life to date.
Intuitively, I felt that my body would guide me and show me when it was ready for more activity.
Six Months Postpartum and Beyond
This is when things start to get interesting. Up until about six months postpartum, I had very little drive to workout. I was buried in this world of being with my baby. I still felt like my body was so vulnerable and very much in recovery mode.
It wasn’t until about 6 months postpartum that I noticed a shift.
I started getting some negative feelings about my body. I started to feel “icky” in my skin. It was like a switch.
Immediately I felt terrible about my body. I was seeing extra fat, cellulite, stretch marks, and saggy skin in so many places that I did NOT want to see these things.
I also noticed that I was starting to crave more movement. I could imagine myself going for a run or doing some more intense activity.
However, as a stay-at-home mom adding more intense movement has not been easy for me.
Because of the demands of having a baby with me all the time, and mom guilt of asking for help (I know, I know- I’m working on this). This has been a huge struggle for me.
But as I go through this struggle, I’ve realized that it continues to be about choices and priorities. This will look different for each of us. But for me, it has been a compromise. Instead of trying to get to a workout class or go for a run, I have chosen to continue to go for long walks with my baby in the carrier and add some light resistance training to my world. I’ve chosen to make the most of my son keeping me busy. I’ve chosen to opt for dance parties with the baby vs. a dance class. I’ve chosen to focus more on the food that I’m eating.
Once I began to realize these are choices that I’m making and that I’m deciding where my priorities lie, it has shifted how I see myself and my body. I am beginning to have fewer days of disliking what I see in the mirror. I am beginning to feel strong in my body again. I know that my body is still healing from an amazing, crazy, wonderful thing that it did last year.
As time moves on, I will eventually get to the hot yoga classes that I miss so dearly, and I will get out for a run along the river. But for now, I’m okay putting that off and simply working on loving my body as it is. I am choosing to see the stretch marks and saggy skin as badges of honor. Even if I don’t always love that they are there. They mean that I’m a mom.
Do you struggle with body image postpartum? Has your relationship to movement/activity changed? Let me know in the comments below!
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