7 Ways to Celebrate & Honor Your Postpartum Body
When Lucy was first placed on my chest, it was easily the best moment of my life. (You can read her birth story here.) There was so much love born in those few seconds and I will always cherish the memory. However, the weeks and months that followed were HARD. I was in no way prepared for the emotional rollercoaster that the “fourth trimester” brings.
I felt completely disconnected from my body. In one moment, I would feel so powerful and strong for having just given birth, but in the next I would feel inept, confused and lost. There were times I felt like my body was failing. Nursing around the clock, it seemed like my body no longer belonged to me and I resented feeling that way. Looking back, I wish someone had prepared me better. I wish I had known some concrete ways to help me through it and to honor and celebrate my postpartum body.
It’s Not Always Pretty, And That’s Ok!
I get that we don’t want to scare expecting moms with the “horror stories.” But here’s the thing that I want to shout from the rooftops. What you think is a story no one wants to hear because it’s not the “pretty stuff” is what everyone is DYING TO HEAR because they probably went through something similar. They’ve been suffering alone in the dark thinking something must be wrong with them. Because when we keep our stories locked in the dark, shame flourishes.
In preparing to write this blog, I had the honor of chatting with some amazing moms. (Because I know every postpartum experience is different, and I wanted some perspective.) Some are friends I grew up with, some are women I’ve met online. The connecting thread to ALL of their stories, was that no one had a picture perfect experience. That ideal that is painted in our society of “baby is born, mom falls madly in love, mom bounces back like a super hero and lives a balanced HAVE IT ALL life,” does not exist. Nope. Not even close.
Out of my conversations and my own experiences, I’ve put together some ways you can truly honor and celebrate your postpartum body and celebrate this new phase of your life.
1. Accept that you’re not going to just “bounce back”
- It implies that there is something wrong with they way your body is right now (THERE ISN’T) and that you have to get back to your “old body” (which is, ahem, impossible) right away. You don’t need to “get your body back.” It did not go anywhere. You grew a human. Is your body different now? Yes. Is it somehow worse than before? Absolutely not.
- You just spent almost 10 months growing a person inside of you. Maybe more than one!! That required to gain weight. Maybe even a significant amount. For my height and weight, my doctor said I should gain 25-35 pounds. I gained 60 pounds. During one appointment, my doctor actually made fun of me. “I can see someone has had a good appetite this month….” (Insert eye roll here.) I was freaking out about it. How would I lose that weight!?! What I realize now, almost 18 months later, and after to talking to many moms who have had anywhere from 30-90 pound weight gains, is that your body is going to do what it needs to do. After you have your baby, it is going to take time to lost weight. Maybe a lot of time, and that’s ok. You may never lose all the “baby weight,” and that’s ok, too. You created life. An actual miracle. Instead of freaking out about the number on the scale, stop getting on that thing and marvel at the wonder of your freaking amazing body.
2. Find a supportive community of moms
This was absolutely HUGE for me. I struggled so much with breastfeeding in the first few weeks and it gutted me. I hated that something that was supposed to be “so natural” was so difficult. Due to acid reflux, Lucy would only eat in small amounts VERY often. I felt like I was ALWAYS feeding her and it resulted in me feeling like my body just didn’t belong to me. I started to feel so resentful, and that made me feel incredibly guilty, which ultimately resulted in lots of crying and generally feeling awful.
About 6 weeks in, Eric suggested I go to the breastfeeding support group at the hospital where I delivered Lucy. Guys, it SAVED me. Not only did it save my breastfeeding journey, it saved ME.
It was so comforting to show up in my spit-up covered sweats and be surrounded by women who were going through something similar. At the first meeting I attended, I just wept because for the first time I knew in my heart that what I was going through was totally normal. Google had told me that it was probably normal, but there’s a difference between reading it online and being surrounded by people who are also IN IT.
It definitely doesn’t have to be a breastfeeding support group, or even a support group for that matter. It could be a baby and me music class, a fitness class, a coffee club, anything!!
3. Do something that makes you feel beautiful
Believe me, I know that find the time to do stuff like this is almost impossible. Lucy nursed every two hours and straight up refused a bottle for four months. I would leave immediately after nursing her and be back after about an hour. At first, it was so hard to be away from her. I was constantly worried that she would get hungry and upset while I was gone. But, of course, she was always fine. It made such a difference to have that time for myself, even if it was just to run to the store. Plus, it gave Eric a chance to bond with Lucy and to gain confidence being home alone with her! Here’s a tip – when you get to your appointment, tell them you have a new baby at home and that you’re running out in between feedings or during nap time. They will most likely be SUPER respectful of your time!
4. Move your body in a way that makes you feel great
When you feel ready and your doctor has given you the official go ahead, move your body, girl!! I loved working out before I got pregnant and was super active my whole pregnancy (which is why I came to my own uneducated, un-scientifically-proven conclusion that the whole weight gain guidelines thing is sort of stupid). For me, working out again made me feel super strong and proud of myself.
If you’re working out postpartum, give yourself alllllll the grace. Choose something that you love to do. Know that’s it’s probably not going to feel the same and that you’re not going to be able to do as much as you did before. That’s ok! Do what feels good and know that you’re doing something amazing for yourself, and, that by establishing a healthy routine, you’ll be teaching your little one something awesome, too!
5. Create a space in your house that supports you
An amazing mama friend of mine that I knew in high school sent me this tip! In preparation for her second baby, she created a cozy little corner of her house stocked with water, snacks, nursing pads and a book. It’s where she goes to nurse her little one and she feels comfortable and supported there! I did something similar in Lucy’s room when she was first born and I started to hit my stride with breastfeeding. On the table next to her rocking chair, I always had water, nipple cream, wipes and tissues, and my phone charger! I even had a piece of foam egg crate that I sat on so that it was extra comfy on my healing vaginal tear. (Too much? Sorry, not sorry.) It was something so small, but it made such a huge difference!
6. Wear clothing and underwear you’re actually comfortable in
7. Write yourself a body positive mantra
I am ALL about positive mantras and affirmations. (You may have read my post about affirmations for mamas!) I don’t think there is ever a better time for it than when you are newly postpartum! Here are a few ideas:
“I will have compassion for my amazing body.”
“I will be patient with myself and give myself grace.”
“I will nourish my body with great foods, and when I am able, I’ll move my body in ways that feel great!”
“I will listen to my body and try to give it as much rest as I can”
“I will NOT compare my postpartum bodies to other moms. This is my journey and it won’t look like anyone else’s.”