This Mental Technique Will Help You Embrace Your Postnatal Body
Along with all the joy of discovering you will become a mother comes an inordinate amount of worry and anxiety. I’ve discovered from many conversations with new moms that a great deal of worry starts with the state of their bodies! Women worry about their strength, their weight, how their body will look and feel, and their sexuality. It seems so obvious to say that our bodies go through a metamorphosis, but rarely do we discuss how worrisome that can be to a woman and why.
Feeling this worry isn't shallow but is, in fact, a major factor in the process of becoming the new woman who is born when her baby is. Regardless of our past relationship with our physical bodies, watching them go through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period is a lot to process emotionally. Using two critical tools for any new mom, you can navigate this time of body uncertainty, changes, and even, discomfort.
It starts with mindfulness—bringing your attention to the moment, to your thoughts, and seeing them for what they are. In other words, you don’t have to "lose yourself" in emotions, but instead, observe what’s come up for you and simply be with it. When you’re more grounded using mindfulness, you are able to be resourceful and make the most of the tools you have.
Here are a few tips that harness mindfulness to help befriend your postnatal body:
1. Your body's always changing. This, too, shall pass.
No matter what stage it’s in, your body’s current state is not forever. Pain, extra weight, large breasts, inability to nurse, and, of course, sleeplessness, are all moments in time that will pass. In motherhood moments, it can feel like we are stuck in an abyss, a moment that will never change. Exhaustion and surging hormones will do that. Trust me, as a mother of two and a friend to many moms, every moment passes. Your body is part of that. The awkward postpartum period when you don’t fit into maternity clothes or your pre-pregnancy clothes is confusing and draining. It’s when you want to move your body, but you haven’t been cleared by your doctor, and your boobs feel so heavy that bouncing seems like a risk! Trust me, these moments will pass! Your body will adjust, and you will move again with ease. Trust in this truth, and take deep, compassionate breaths.
2. Do slow, easy movements with a friend, loved one, or other moms.
When you are present, you see the resources you have around you. The early days postpartum, when you’re body doesn’t yet feel like yours, is the perfect time to find gentle, easy movement: long walks with baby in a stroller or carrier, walks with other moms at a nearby track or mall, or even a fitness or yoga class created for moms with a little one in tow! Movement, companionship, something to do with your baby are all excellent ways to befriend your body in the moment, often in the company of others going through a similar transition. It’s a very positive experience to do this time this way.
3. Celebrate the power of strength and softness in your female body.
Sadly, our culture doesn’t celebrate strength and softness in women at the same time. But there’s no reason we can’t do it for one another and ourselves. Celebrating our strength should be easy. Anyone who has been through it knows how epic it is to carry a pregnancy and give birth. We really and truly are superwomen to do it. Just meditate on how amazing you are as a life giver! Consider that as you get your body back to movement—finding your body’s strength again will allow you to be an active and productive mom. If it feels tough at first, encourage yourself and don’t berate yourself. You have done so much; you can do this, too! Let’s also celebrate our softness. Babies are soft, our bodies are soft after birth, we are sleepy and hungry, and we must do an exceptional amount of snuggling. Embrace this sweet softness, knowing that it is fleeting. Trust me, you'll be chasing this little person down the street in no time!
It’s so easy to get into a cycle of self-criticism or worse—wanting to be anywhere but where you are. Part of "going beyond Mom," something I write about in my book, is wanting to be in the moment, fully. The only way to do that is to accept your body with all of its imperfections and to recognize the beauty in them. This is a great lesson of motherhood, and it is one that begins with your body. Embrace it.