Loving your postpartum body
It was 2011 and I was pregnant with my first child. Every week was exciting as I watched my body go through this incredible transformation. It was so crazy to physically see my body grow week by week knowing that that growth was my baby girl inside. I was one of the lucky ones and had a really easy first trimester. I didn’t get sick like I had heard so many talk about and I had lots of energy, which I was not expecting. I was happy and excited and couldn’t wait to be holding my sweet baby girl. I had always been very active leading up to my pregnancy, so going into it all I felt great about my body.
As month nine rolled around I had gained 42 lbs! My doctor didn’t seem to be super concerned but I was most definitely feeling it and really starting to see my body struggle with the extra weight. I started getting stretch marks at 38 weeks and they were BAD. I started feeling sad about my body and was really hopeful that I would deliver soon so I could avoid gaining more weight and getting more stretch marks. I also was looking forward to nursing because I would lose all the weight nursing (just like my friends did).
I delivered my baby 1 week and 5 days later and it ended in a C-section. I had a lot of water weight in addition to the baby weight I had gained. Standing in the hospital bathroom looking in the mirror I remember feeling disgusted with what I saw. “It would all be okay”, I quickly reminded myself. I was going to nurse now and all the weight would just simply “fall” off. Or so I thought.
I got home from the hospital and my milk quickly came in. I started nursing and the weight didn’t come off. “Okay fine I just had a baby. I guess I will give it some time.” But month after month of nursing I still hadn’t lost the weight. WHY wasn’t I one of those lucky moms? I’ve always heard about nursing moms who just lose the weight so easy. It just “falls” off they would say.
Well apparently that was not me. I started to struggle emotionally. I was not comfortable in my own skin. Not only did I have stretch marks and a c-section scar, I still had all of this weight that just wasn’t coming off. I found myself really starting to struggle with my physical appearance.
My motivation and will to change just stopped. I decided to purchase some new clothes because clearly I wasn’t going to be in my normal jeans like “most moms” anytime soon. It wasn’t until my baby was 9 months old when I realized, WOW I have been way to hard on myself!!!
It is natural in life to compare ourselves with others, which is exactly what I was doing. I was so used to my “dancer body” that was so tight and perfect but the second it changed I didn’t feel pretty or attractive anymore. I would get really sad and almost depressed.
I truly had to learn how to love my postpartum body. But I didn’t know how.
I was talking with a dear friend one day about how I had been feeling and how I really just wish I could get a new body. She asked me one question that changed everything.
How did you get those stretch marks and the scar on your belly?
Simple answer…I had a baby. “YES! Yes you just had a BABY. You grew a sweet baby girl for 9 months inside of you. You took care of yourself and grew a perfectly healthy baby girl.” She told me to be proud of my body and myself. Be proud of those stretch marks on my body, they tell the story of how strong I am and how my baby girl got here.
Simple enough right! I touched by belly and a light went on. She was right. My body and its new imperfections were beautiful just like my baby girl. My friend told me that my daughter and my body were a team and you worked together to create life. Yes, maybe some other moms won’t get one stretch mark or have a scar from birth, or they will walk out in their normal jeans and that’s okay. She said YOU NEED TO LOVE YOURSELF. It was that day that I stopped rolling my eyes at myself in the mirror when I would get out of the shower. I also realized there was a lot I could do right then to lose weight and love myself again. I started going to a fitness class and eating healthier and it was amazing what that alone did. As I worked to get back to my postpartum weight I cheered myself on. I kept reminding myself I was strong, I delivered a baby girl who is beautiful and healthy and I was proud of that and all that my body did for me to get her here. I wish so badly that I realized this sooner but am glad I had my friend remind me.
I have had two other babies since and it has truly made a difference for me to cherish and LOVE my postpartum body and thank it for my beautiful babes.
I am writing this today to remind you all to LOVE your postpartum body. Remember how incredible your body is and all that it has done and gone through to get these tiny blessings here. Thank your body by giving back to it. Love all the imperfections because each one of them tells a beautiful story. These days there is a lot of pressure on us women to look a certain way. Remember not to compare ourselves to others because you are not them and they are not you. LOVE that body. Give back to it and tell it thank you for all its done!
Birth Doula, DONA