I recently thought about the fact that I have been pregnant every year since 2016 in the process of having three kids. This has not been easy on my body. Pregnancy has its beautiful, magical moments, but my body has also cycled through hormonal changes, weight gain and loss, and breastfeeding for the past four years. That much constant change can take a mental toll, and I do have some days when I’m not feeling my most confident, days when I look back at pre-pregnancy pictures a bit wistfully despite the fact that I have always had a short, curvy figure. But for the most part I have always been ok with giving myself time and have never felt the pressure to “bounce back” right away.
This hasn’t been an easy attitude to maintain, because we live in a society that is image obsessed, and for many people being thin is the most important marker of good physical and mental health. There have been countless times that well-meaning friends or family have casually referenced me “getting my body back” after the babies in conversation, and I know other women who have recently had children who feel pretty down about their bodies. I really believe this is an attitude we need to challenge.
People are starting to talk more openly about the immense mental and emotional challenges motherhood can bring, and the isolation many women feel, thanks in part to social media and a recent push for better maternal health care. I believe we’ve only scratched the surface of this subject. My own experience was that the transition to motherhood for the first time was tough. Hormones, surviving on very little sleep, and learning to cope with being responsible for another human’s well-being 24/7 really put me through the ringer. Thankfully I had an easier time when I transitioned to being a mom of two, but every pregnancy and every baby is different. For me, focusing on being in a good place mentally has always been vastly more important than bouncing back physically. I know that I can’t be the kind of mother I’d like to be if I’m not in a great mental or emotional state, and there’s time for everything else to happen later.
But I also know that prioritizing your mental health looks different for everyone. And for some people their mental and physical progress are linked. I would challenge women to think about what they really need postpartum, not what they feel pressured to want. If being in a certain clothing size will really make you feel happier and more confident, then by all means prioritize it (safely) postpartum. If being physically fit gives you the endorphins that make it easier to thrive in this experience, then work out as much as you can! But if trying to fit others’ expectations of what your body should look like, or trying to adhere to someone else’s timeline for when a woman should “bounce back” only adds to your stress, then let go of that and focus on what you really need. Don’t let anyone define your postpartum experience for you.
The time it takes to lose weight can also vary from person to person, and there are many factors that go into it. Some women shed weight naturally while breastfeeding. I am not one of those lucky women, I actually think its a bit harder for me to lose weight while breastfeeding. My personal goals after having my baby include prioritizing healthy eating, drinking lots of water, and working out when I can until I gradually increase my workouts over time. My goals don’t include focusing on any specific numbers, whether they’re on a scale or a clothes tag. That’s what I need to support myself in the best way possible. After having a baby you should be focused on the amazing things that your body accomplished and continues to accomplish. Women are really incredibly powerful.
What are your tips for dealing with body image issues? And if you’re a Mom, how did you feel about your body during or after pregnancy? Are you pro dieting postpartum? Let me know in the comments.