You’ve made it through all the discomfort of pregnancy. You’ve coped with watching your body stretch and change. You’re muddling through the sleepless nights and working out how to care for a new baby on the fly, and now this?
But don’t give yourself up to negative body image and depression, because it’s not the end of the story. You can accept your new, post-baby body, and you can even embrace it and celebrate it.
It’s Not About Your Body
Sometimes, when we beat ourselves up about our post-birth body, it’s not really about our softer tummy and stretch marks. It’s really about our feelings of inadequacy and feeling overwhelmed. The first step to accepting our new body shape is to acknowledge that it’s not just about the body.
All of a sudden, we’re in this totally new situation where we have no experience, no training, and no clue what we are doing. A new baby doesn’t give much feedback about whether you’re getting things right. It’s easy to feel out of control and flooded with doubts, especially since you’re swamped with hormones that make it almost impossible to keep your emotions on an even keel. In fact, scientists have found that it takes an average mom 3 years to regain her self-esteem after having a baby.
You’re so used to having control over your body that it can be traumatic to discover that right now, you don’t even have control over your own body.
Once you realize this, you can take small steps to regain a sense of control over your life. This doesn’t have to be anything related to your body shape. It could mean reorganizing the clothes in your closet, or cooking dinner once a week instead of eating microwave meals. Anything that you can do to reduce your feelings of overwhelm can be significant in helping you accept your new post-baby body.
Change The Narrative
Another important element in learning to accept and embrace your changed body is to change the narrative that’s going on inside your head. It’s terrible that so many of us abuse and bully ourselves in a way that we’d never inflict on anybody else.
If you’re like most of us, you’ve been telling yourself that the reason why your body is so soft, fat, etc. is because you don’t have enough willpower, or you’re just not as good as those celebrity moms who show off flat tummies by the time they’re six weeks postpartum.
None of that is true. Your body is fabulous, and you need to keep telling yourself this. Remind yourself that you just grew an entire human being inside your body, and that is awesome.
If you used to admire bodies that were slim, delicate, or petite, work hard to reframe your definition of a “good body.” Realize that your body is strong enough to carry this tiny human, give birth to it, and to keep on nurturing it and caring for it.
Admire your body — and those of other women too — for being strong and capable, not for being tiny or slim. Once you can admire the strength and power of the human body, not how tight someone’s thighs are or how flawless their skin is, you can start to see the positives in your own body as well. Psychologists have found that women who focus on what their body can do feel more accepting about their bodies after giving birth than those who think more about how their body looks.
It’s time to stop comparing your body to those of celebrity mothers, who have personal trainers around the clock and spend millions of dollars on beauty treatments.
Years ago, Hollywood star Kate Winslet called out a magazine for retouching her photos in a way that made her look “about a third of the size I really am.” Bear this in mind before you compare yourself to any Hollywood mom.
Social media bombards you with images of influencers flaunting their pre and post-baby bods, so you need to remember that Instagram has built-in filters. What you’re seeing usually isn’t real. If you need some help celebrating a postpartum body, check out these real, brutally honest photos curated by boredpanda.
Kate also said “My body will never go back to what it was, and I wouldn’t expect it to after three babies. To my mind, life is just too short to be spending time focusing on things like that. I want to keep my health and my sanity and be well and feel happy.” Do you know what? She’s totally right.
You’re not the same person you were before you became a mother, either. You are stronger, you have more to give, you have discovered capabilities within yourself that you never knew existed.
You have a gorgeous baby, toddler, and child who’s bringing more fun, more laughter, and more love into your life. Would you trade those in to be a size 0? Hopefully your answer was a big, loud NO!