When I was pregnant, I read just about every website, watched all the latest vlogs, and kept up with my multiple baby tracker apps (you guessed it, I’m a first time mom).
Not one of those sources prepared me for my postpartum body.
As an adult, I never had any major body issues. I have always been fairly active and enjoyed exercising. My body felt strong and healthy. I was confident in my body. I didn’t realize how quickly that confidence could slip away, but I found out during my pregnancy.
I had complications during the third trimester of my pregnancy, which landed me in the hospital at 30 weeks, and even though I ended up making it full-term, I unexpectedly had a c-section to give birth to my beautiful baby girl. She was healthy and perfect.
The road to recovery was tough, but dealing with the aftermath of my body was tougher.
The belly that once held my beautiful baby was now empty inside and felt like mush, and was painful to touch or move. I remember coming home and finally showering in my tub. In my bathroom hangs a long mirror on the door; I could not look in that mirror. I felt disgusted and defeated. I did not recognize my body. It was weak and it was not beautiful.
Honestly, it took me a couple of weeks until I could look at my body in the mirror.
I still remember looking at myself and examining my body for the first time. My breasts were enormous with cracked nipples from adjusting to breastfeeding my baby, my legs contained cellulite and stretch marks showed on my inner thighs, and my belly was extremely flabby, large, and covered in supersized stretch marks. In order to see my c-section scar, I would have to lift up my lower belly flab. Side note: thankfully, I have an amazing husband, who was able to check my scar to make sure it was healing until I felt I was able to do so.
As I type this, I wonder if many people reading this think my mindset was silly because I felt disgusted at myself. Now that I look back on it, I was silly — I just given birth to a baby; of course I was going to look like that! But those emotions were real.
Because those emotions were real and I had no idea I was going to feel them, I was unable to prepare myself. Do you know what that does to a Type-A person?! I knew I had to figure out how to love my body again. Before I could do that though, I knew I needed to mourn my old body.
So that is what I did; I mourned my old body.
I cried and I cried some more. As I cried, I thought that I would never have a body without stretch marks, my stomach would never be perfectly flat again, and my breasts would always have a slight sag. I did not grow to love my body that night, that week, or even that month. However, I did grow to appreciate my body. Over time, I thought of all its strengths; from carrying and birthing my baby to providing nourishment for my baby. Slowly, I began noticing my body becoming stronger.
Around five months postpartum, I could feel my ab muscles again. Although they were under a deep layer of fat, I could feel them: victory!!!! At six months postpartum, I noticed a significant difference in my stomach. My stomach was still not perfect; I still had overhang and loose skin, especially when I sat down, but I loved how my body felt stronger. I am now over a year postpartum. While I have lost almost all my pregnancy weight, I still have flab on my stomach, but my body is stronger than ever (thanks to picking up my one year old constantly) and my stretch marks have slowly started to fade away.
I am still working on loving my body, and although I love my body more each day, some days I still think negative thoughts about myself.
I have learned that in order to feel my best, I have to treat myself the best nutritionally, physically, and emotionally. Because when you love someone, you care for them, right?!
Here are the ways I show myself love:
Some days, this is a shower. Other days, I am able to squeeze in things like a walk, painting, reading, or painting my nails. Try to take 15 minutes to yourself to do something you enjoy.
I try to workout at least five days a week once my baby goes to bed. Try going to the gym (most have daycares onsite), going on a walk with your kids, or find a workout on YouTube.
I try to have a balanced diet that focuses on clean eating. Unfortunately, I’m slightly obsessed with sugar.
Did you know that you’re supposed to drink half your body weight (converted into ounces) in water? Plus, 8 oz. more if you work out.
If I think something negative, then I replace it with a positive thought or two.
Talk It Out
It helps to just talk it out, whether with a friend or my husband. I also try praying or writing things down to sort out my own thoughts. Thank goodness for mom groups and online message boards too!
I know that it doesn’t truly matter if I never fit into that dress I wore in college. What truly matters is that I can be an example to my daughter. I want to teach and inspire her to love her body by being healthy and mindful, and by appreciating the growth of change.