Body After Baby
Body After Baby
"Get your body back after baby!"
I loathe this marketing slogan for exercise programs and diet products. It implies that you lost something which you did not- you gained. Your life was added to and your body reflects that. Your body will never be exactly the same way it was before baby just like you will never be the same.
After the birth of my first baby I was horrified with my body. I don't know what I expected and I suppose that was part of the problem. Like most women, what I knew of the post baby body was what I saw in the media and what I saw in the mirror was nothing like the celebrities on television. After a year of making no effort to lose weight, my body returned to a new normal- only 2 pounds heavier than before baby but different. It took this whole year and a lot of unnecessary emotional stress to come to terms with who I was now physically. I felt like a stranger in my own skin and to a certain extent, there is a period of getting to know your new self after a baby. But shock and disgust should not be a part of that process. It should be a process of acceptance and love... and new clothes.
I learned a lot from this experience. It gave me the opportunity to look at why we have this goal and ideal of "getting your body back after baby." It is absurd. Not even so much because it is unattainable but because you shouldn't want to. I am no longer a teenager and I have no desire to look like one. My body created and nurtured life. I am so proud of that. I am different on the inside, different emotionally, and I want that reflected outside for the world to see.
More importantly, what can we do to have a different experience, a better experience? We need to lift the veil of shame that results in so much secrecy around the post baby body. We need to shift our perspective, adjust our relationships with our bodies to one based on respect, admiration and gratitude. Be in harmony with your body instead of fighting against it. That can include eating healthily and exercising to honor and strengthen your body. But should mostly include appreciating your body, the life it just created and birthed, and focus on nurturing your baby. That post birth experience should be focused on loving your baby and getting to know yourself as a mother and that includes your new body.
With the birth of my second baby, I decided it would be completely different and it was. I knew what to expect this time and that was a huge advantage. I vowed not to look at the scale for 1 year. It took 9 months to grow to the size and weight of hosting a healthy baby. I would give myself the respect and courtesy of at least that much time to settle into a new equilibrium. Besides, what difference does a number on a scale make? All that matters in terms of my body is my health and how I feel about myself. And after the birth of my second child my body was strong, healthy, and beautiful. I released myself from the emotional attachment to pre-baby clothes, released myself completely from the pressure to fit into the clothes I had before I created a second person. If a shirt didn't look good, it was the shirt- not me. Dress who you are- your body today, not who you used to be.
Another huge factor for me is that I want to be a role model to my children. What do I want them to say about themselves when they look in the mirror? What do I want them to see? My children will never see me pick apart my body. They will never hear me degrade myself. I am not prideful or conceited but I am happy with who I am while positively motivated to improve myself in the ways that are important to me. I am a student of Krav Maga. When my children ask me why I do Krav Maga I say because I want to be strong and tough and able to defend myself and protect them. If I am unhappy with a pair of pants I may say these pants are too small but I would never say I am too fat. What do you want your children to believe about themselves? There are plenty of people in the world who will try to break them down. Don't model how to do it to themselves.
It is also worth noting that I do not underestimate the role of having an empowered birth experience in your postpartum state of mind in terms of how you see yourself and your body. Walking away from my natural birth with a mind-blowing sense of accomplishment, strength and faith in my body to be everything and exactly what I and my babies need lays the groundwork for a respectful and positive relationship with my body. If you are coming away from a less than empowering birth experience, actively taking charge of writing the script for how you see and relate to your body is the perfect place to reclaim your power and positive self image.
I love my body. 1 week after giving birth to my third baby, I think it looks perfect. Yes, I have a belly. Yes, I have stretch marks. But I am happy to be marked by the creation of 3 human beings. I am a mom. I am a woman. And I love the way I am. I wish more women had the sense of peace with their bodies that I have and I hope it's contagious. I don't look like a model and I wouldn't want to. I can nurture my babies and kick ass. What more could I want? When I look in the mirror today I think, "Damn, you are amazing." Don't get me wrong, I know I am not "pretty." But I revere my body for creating, growing, birthing, breastfeeding and carrying 3 babies. Honor your baby by honoring yourself.
Rachel Rainbolt, M.A., CEIM
Rachel Rainbolt, a mother of three with over a decade of experience working with young children and parents, has a Master's Degree in Family Therapy, is featured as a Parenting Expert in television news, is a Freelance Published Author and Certified Educator of Infant Massage. She works passionately to nurture the loving bond between parent and baby to foster happy, healthy families.
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