Why I'm Not Trying To 'Get My Body Back' After Giving Birth
Before I had a child, I'd see all types of posts on social media from moms talking about "getting their body back" after having a baby. And though I cheered these moms on, I didn't get it. I wondered why these moms were working themselves so hard (and posting it all over social media), when they had just accomplished something so incredible and life-changing. Wow, I was clueless!
I had no idea the pressure that all moms are under within weeks of having a baby to get a flat tummy, or get back to exercising regularly, and become a "fit mom." Plus, I didn't have a clue about all of the complicated emotions that occur when adjusting to an entirely new body after having a baby. Fast-forward to several months after I gave birth to my baby, and I too became overwhelmed with my body changes and very focused on how I could have a toned, lean tummy and lose some weight. Now, I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that—but at times I became so obsessed with "getting my body back" that I couldn't enjoy my life or my child.
I'll be straight with you—I had a really rough time postpartum between depression and my body healing. So I was almost eight months postpartum before I even had the mental or emotional energy to start thinking about exercising. Yet when I did, I wanted to immediately get right back into the advanced hot yoga classes I was taking before. However, each time I tried to push my body the way I used to, I'd end up with some type of pain or injury that required cranial sacral therapy or chiropractic. Something wasn't working, and I soon learned that I had to do things differently, as my body was different from how it used to be. Not worse—just different.
The frustrating thing is, in our culture, we're supposed to be thrilled to see our bellies swell and our bodies gain weight during pregnancy. Yet the moment the baby is out—wham!—you better get back to looking amazing right away. This idea—what I call "the mom comeback"—is so prevalent in our society, and it's shaming and putting way too much pressure on moms everywhere who are just trying to get through the day. The general message is you aren't good enough unless you are thin, toned, and fit within a few weeks after pregnancy. Because if you're not, you must not be trying hard enough.
At a time when we should be allowed to heal, rest, recover, and adjust to a new body and new life, we feel pressure to get back to where we were before we became mothers.
And we believe this message. Can you blame us? I see Instagram posts daily from moms who have six-pack abs within a month after giving birth (though there's nothing wrong with that either—good on ya', mama!). This "mom comeback" message is ridiculous and doesn't account for the major changes our body has to go through in order to create a human being. It literally doesn't make sense that our body wouldn't need at least as much time to heal and recover from pregnancy and birth as it took to create pregnancy and birth.
And let's be real—the first year postpartum (especially that fourth trimester) is arguably one of the hardest (emotionally and physically) times of our motherhood journey. Yet, the message in our culture says we are supposed to not only keep a human alive with food we make from our own body, all while not getting much sleep (and most of us going back to work), plus make sure we exercise and get fit?
This may work for some moms, but it wasn't happening for me, and I'd argue that this is unattainable for most mothers. If you're feeling overwhelmed and frustrated trying to be that "perfect, fit mom," you're not alone. Here's what I've been doing to change my mindset around the mom comeback:
Shift your approach to working out.
I've had to shift my approach to working out since having a child as my time, energy, and lifestyle is very different now. First, I no longer have the time to go to a yoga class for 60 to 90 minutes three to five times per week like I used to, so now I try to get to yoga once per week and then do daily, 15-minute workouts at home (many times with my baby crawling all over me).
The type of exercise my body can handle has also changed. Some days I can do the advanced high-impact workouts I used to be able to do, but many days I prefer to do low-impact workouts, and I've had to spend a lot of time doing pelvic floor physical therapy and stabilization exercises so that I don't feel pain after I work out.
Accept and appreciate that your body is different now (because you made a human!).
At a time when we should be allowed to heal, rest, recover, and adjust to a new body and new life, we feel pressure to get back to where we were before we became mothers. Though I understand this desire, it's OK for us to never "get our body back." Some things may never be the same, and that's OK. Change is often a good thing in life.
I've learned that it's best to give your body at least two years to feel normal again. I say this at 17 months postpartum, as I am still rehabilitating my pelvic floor and figuring out what movements and exercise work best for my body. In many ways I'm having to get to know my body all over again—and so much is different now.
Though I don't have stretch marks, and outwardly many people would say I look the same as I used to, what they don't know is that no matter what I do, I can't get that silly number on the scale to be what it used to be, I have aches and pains now that I never used to have (which affect how I am able to exercise), my tummy is a bit softer than it was before, and the skin around my breasts and tummy is different—still beautiful, but different. All these body changes are disorienting, yet I've learned to focus on what my body is capable of instead of what may be different from how it used to be.
Redefining the "fit mom."
All this being said, I still consider myself to be a "fit mom"; I've just shifted my perception. No longer is a "fit mom" only the mom on the cover of Parents magazine with the six-pack and toned body; it's also any mom who moves her body regularly and tries her very best to take care of her body and health. There are lots of ways to be healthy and fit, and I'm finding my way one day at a time.