The Myth of Getting Your Body Back After Baby

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There is a well known pressure in our society for new mothers to “bounce back” as quickly as possible after giving birth. I am part of a dozen online communities dedicated to mothering in some form or fashion, and the question, “When/how can I get my body back?” floats around my feed multiple times a day. Breastfeeding mamas want to know how they can diet and exercise for quickest results without compromising their milk supplies. Moms feel pressure from their partners to look and feel the way they did before they ever carried a child. Fitting into pre-pregnancy jeans (with no muffin top) seems to be one of the ultimate goals.

Mamas, I think we need bigger goals. Better ones. I am not in any sort of position of authority here, but I would like to say something…

You don’t need to get your body back. Your body never went anywhere. I would even argue that she has shown up in a more magical way than ever by growing and birthing a whole human. I think we should be asking a different question here, like maybe, “How can I celebrate and nurture my body after baby?” and “Who can I ask for support in this mission?”

If we sought out what the media tells us we should look like less and focused more on what feels good for ourselves and our babies, I think we’d have a much better chance at achieving overall balance and health much quicker. And that may very well mean fitting into old jeans because we eat when we are hungry and don’t when we are full, and move when we feel ready and rest when we feel tired. Or it may look like seeing our forever-wider hips covered in stretch marks in the mirror and thinking, “DANG, I am a freaking warrior,” and then lying down to take a nap with a baby, who is full and fully relaxed at our breast.

Sure, it is good to have goals for yourself. But what about the goal of carrying baby and bringing her into the world? Not that long ago, that was what you wanted more than anything in the universe. Did you ever thank your body and allow her to sit in that victory? Or are you rushing her along? There is a moment to be had here, and if you miss it, it’s gone.

You might be thinking something like, “That is easy for her to say—she’s thinner than she was before she had kids.” But that didn’t come from obsessing over getting my body to a certain ideal place. It came from learning to let go and listen to her needs. And, surprise—the grass is not really any greener over here when I’m walking through it in my smaller jeans. Life is still hard and some days just plain suck—I haven’t met a unicorn or had a rainbow show up over my head now that I’m at a physical ideal I once thought would make me happier. Also, there is a certain amount of fat storage needed to produce a healthy milk supply, and in the midst of my trauma after my first was born I lost too much weight and I believe my nursing relationship struggled even more because of it.

Go easy on yourself, mama. Listen to your body, and thank her for what she has done and continues to do in nourishing and nurturing your baby.


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