My son is 10 months old now, and I haven’t lost all my baby weight. My inner voice has had plenty to say about this. It’s told me I’ve gone too long, I don’t have any more excuses, it’s almost been a year, blah blah blah.
And do you know what? Whenever I hear that voice in my head, I politely tell it to shut up.
Many women have complicated relationships with their bodies, which is understandable. Our culture holds us to a homogenized and mostly unrealistic standard of beauty. Pregnancy and motherhood can complicate these feelings, especially when women feel pressure to drop baby weight in a few short weeks.
However, I have come to a point in my life where I have deeper love and appreciation for my body, not because of what it looks like but because I’m in awe of everything it has accomplished.
This time around, I’ve been much more compassionate with myself as I recover from pregnancy and childbirth.
I’ve always been an advocate for positive body image, but I experienced a radical shift after my son was born. Less than 24 hours after giving birth I stood in front of a mirror and was horrified by what my body looked like.
Wrecked. Ruined. Destroyed. Gross. Those were the words circulating in my head.
In that same instant, I snapped myself back into reality. I had just done something tremendously powerful. I pushed a 9 lb, 1 oz, 21-inch human being out of my body without the use of pain meds. I had a beautiful healthy boy. My body was beginning the process of manufacturing food for my child.
And I was worried about my appearance? How sad.
Let me be very clear about something: I totally understand wanting to set goals for better health and fitness. For some people, losing weight might be part of their plan. I’m also a yoga instructor, and I believe it’s crucial to eat healthy and to exercise, especially if you’re a mom. I maintain an active lifestyle myself: In addition to teaching, I practice yoga a minimum of 5 times a week.
What I am advocating is more self-kindness, especially if you’ve recently given birth. Let’s be kinder to ourselves when we talk about our bodies.
Our bodies are precious and personal and deserving of love, no matter what they look like. They are powerful, mysterious, and simply incredible.
After all, have you really thought about what your body does during pregnancy? It creates an entire human being. It maintains a specific environment for the baby to inhabit. It makes an entire new organ to support and nourish the baby. After delivery, your body starts manufacturing specific food for your child. It’s truly mind-blowing. It’s also a grueling process (both physically and emotionally) that can last a year or more if you’re breastfeeding.
Unfortunately, after all our bodies go through, women often face pressure to “bounce back.” We hear phrases like “9 months on, 9 months off” or “You don’t even look like you had a baby!”
When the inner (or outer) dialogue starts, try to reframe the conversation. Everyone’s recovery time is different and complex, and the timing can vary from person to person. If you’ve had more than one child/pregnancy, it can take even longer. I am still noticing differences and healing 10 months after the fact.
Be compassionate with yourself as your body heals, no matter how long it takes. If you do engage in a fitness or weight-loss routine, be gentle and patient, and of course proud of what you accomplish.
The Big Picture.
When I talk about loving and accepting my body, I don’t mean simply appreciating my curvy frame that is heavier than society’s thin ideal. Rather, I have a deep appreciation for what my body has accomplished. It’s carried me on an amazing journey. The road to motherhood has been rough for me. My body has been through a lot, both good and bad.
My body has held 6 pregnancies and brought 3 babies into the world.
My body has grieved in a deep and profound way. I’ve lost 3 pregnancies, at 18 weeks, 14 weeks, and 11 weeks. Each time I sobbed deep full sobs for hours that left me physically and emotionally spent. For a long time, I was furious with my body for what I perceived to be its ultimate betrayal. I felt broken and defective. My yoga practice brought me a sense of peace, allowing me to forgive my body and move forward.
My body has done the work of a mother, the challenging work that lasts years after your child is born.
My arms have carried and cradled my five little ones for hours on end. I’ve rocked them to sleep, hauled them in and out of their car seats, pushed them in strollers, lifted them in and out of their cribs. I’ve breastfed three of my babies and stumbled half asleep in the depths of the night to make formula for two. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in over 13 years, but somehow I muster enough energy to accomplish the above tasks.
More than anything, my body is the home of my spirit. It’s what carries me through life, and it tells the story of my life so far. Every stretch mark, every ache, every scar, and yes, even the extra pounds. It’s completely unique. It’s MINE.
And I wouldn’t have it any other way.