Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” His quote is at the core of the messages I have been receiving in my DM’s after posting a vulnerable reality of my body 8 weeks postpartum. I’ve had messages from first time moms wondering what realistic expectations they should have for their own journey after childbirth. People are thanking me, but I’m doing this whole being vulnerable thing because I know how it felt as a first time mom scrolling through Instagram wondering when I would get my body back based off #postpartumbody.
I gained 50 pounds with my first and I was nowhere near my pre-pregnancy body at 6 weeks, 12 weeks, or 20+ weeks postpartum and seeing those other moms with their abs and arm definition was killing me. I constantly felt like I wasn’t doing enough to get back to or close to where I wanted to be, where society said I should be.
The rule of thumb in the birth world is this: it took your body almost a year to grow a human, so it will take at least that long for your body to be close to where it was before you started this new journey. I knew that tidbit of information when I had my son, and my work in the birth world has solidified my knowledge now. The unfortunate reality is that I also know that the little voice of negativity still creeps in. You know the voice. It’s the voice that says things like:
- “don’t you think you should workout more…”
- “maybe we should start counting calories now…”
- “that other mom on IG is also 6 weeks postpartum and already has her six pack and yoga arms back…”
We all carry body image baggage. I grew up with a mom obsessed with calories, and that is some sort of weird superpower I took on. I could approximate the caloric value of a meal based off how long I had been entering my food into an app on my phone (the app has been deleted for quite some time now). The act of counting calories was obsessive, and on a day where I wouldn’t meet my “goal” I would feel a little bit of a pit inside my stomach, I would often throw in the towel and just eat whatever for the rest of the day. It was clearly an unhealthy relationship with food. On the other hand, there are the things other people have to say about our bodies: moms, friends, boyfriends, the internet, the media and the list goes on.
What are we to do when we are in one of our most vulnerable states feeling attacked by society and likely the little voice in our heads?
Unfollow those accounts that are making you feel bad!
I think Rachel Hollis is the first one I heard say to unfollow those people who are making you feel bad about where you are at in your journey no matter what journey it is: business, physical, education etc. I started unfollowing those people that had me running back to bad habits, and wow did I start to feel better. I don’t care if it’s your best friend from high school… unfollow them until you are in a better space to cheer them on from the sidelines!
Learn to embrace your new body, because it’s yours!
I embrace my stretch marks, but I am currently learning to embrace my mommy pooch. Can I start that hashtag, #embracethepooch. Postpartum is hard on all of us, we prepare so much for our births only to fail ourselves in our postpartum period. We research all of the interventions, we take the childbirth education classes, but we fail to make sure we have a freezer full of meals to fuel us while we recover, and our pantries are full of snacks like goldfish and fruit snacks rather than Aussie bites, oatmeal, chia pouches, nuts, dried fruit… things that really contribute to our health and energy.
Buy a new wardrobe!
What is sitting in your closet right now? Do any of those clothes fit? Are your pre-pregnancy clothes daring you to try them on only to fill you with disappointment and leading you to doubt your journey? BUY. THE. CLOTHES. Buy new clothes that fit your new body. You may not wear your new clothes for a long period of time, but how much better do you feel when your jeans fit your new curves. I mean, the mom jean is in right now so go ahead and rock it! Ignore the sizes on labels because we all know how that industry works, and just feel good in your clothes again.
Start slow on your workout journey.
I know you are waiting for that 6 week visit to get the okay to get back into physical activity, but take it slow! Try checking out a postpartum workout plan like the this one from Glow Body PT. It’s also a good idea to checkout postnatal yoga classes and to set up a consult with a pelvic floor physical therapist. What’s with the pelvic floor? Well, you just grew a baby, gave birth and now if you are peeing a little during regular physical activity or sneezing that’s a no-no. I know everyone seems to be peeing their pants a little but just because it’s common among birthing people doesn’t mean it’s normal. Book the consult. Finally, set small goals for yourself like working out 3 times a week, taking your baby for a walk can be a double threat: you get some exercise in and your baby will likely take a nice little snooze in the fresh air.
This is about moving past the weight loss and moving towards accepting the bodies that grew, and are likely fueling a human life, other than our own. This is about changing society and being open and honest with our friends about postpartum recovery. This is about moving out of the highlight reel and into real life. I leave you with these last words, my friend Amy said it beautifully, “There is no body to get back! It’s always been yours. Love it at every stage of the journey.”