Recently, I've seen a lot a lot of beautiful pictures posted by mothers showing their physical aftermath of nine months of creation. It is easy to stomach (pun intended), the extra 20, 30 or in my case 40 pounds of weight when there is still a baby kicking around in there. But it becomes a little depressing and even discouraging when it doesn't all just melt off in the first few weeks like we hope it will.
From the time I was a little girl, I was acutely aware of the havoc pregnancy and childbirth can wreak on a body. Not only was I a nearly ten pound baby at birth delivered naturally by my mother, my birth was documented on video for all to see. That's right- all up close and personal. My mom also never missed an opportunity to razz me about how much I messed up her body being the fourth and largest watermelon to come out of her.
I never really stressed about the postpartum body while I was pregnant too much. There was one time a family friend told me, "As husbands, we are so terrified our wives will never look the same." Really? Probably not the best thing to tell a first time mom in her third trimester. That nonsense aside, I did ask for a lot of tips from friends on how to get back in shape postpartum. Invariably, I was told staying fit during the pregnancy was the key. I couldn't agree with this more. Before 32 weeks (when I had my little preterm labor stint in the hospital), I continued to exercise regularly with weights and cardio. I would walk everyday and do lots of squats and lunges, which is also good prep for childbirth. After 32 weeks, I couldn't walk or do weights anymore without bringing on crazy contractions so I did lots of prenatal yoga which also helped me mentally prepare and connect with the baby on a deeper level. Staying fit in the pregnancy also aids in an easier labor and better pushing. I can attest to that as I only pushed twice.
The immediate postpartum period is quite difficult physically as the body recovers (obviously, I know). But for me the hardest part came in the weeks that followed. Once the acute pain was gone and I was getting in the groove of motherhood, there was nothing about me that felt attractive. I couldn't imagine feeling sexy again. Of course, at the time that wasn't even a priority. All I wanted to do was snuggle with my precious baby. But to feel some ounce of normalcy, I knew I wanted my body back so that I could feel good about myself and in turn allow me to be a better mother and wife. The first step was realizing that it would never be quite the same as it was before. Things are just... different. Skin has been loosened, ligaments have been stretched, even the freaking bones have relaxed and adjusted (thank you relaxin hormone). I also realized after about the four month mark that breastfeeding was Gods greatest gift both to moms and babies: I could eat whatever I wanted and the pounds really started to fall off. At one point, I was down to about five pounds below my high school weight, unintentionally. Not going for the emaciated look, I worked hard to strength train to achieve muscle tone. Motivation came from seeing actual results and having better energy levels.
I am now at one year postpartum and I have found a good balance of body acceptance and motivation to be fit. I am pretty close to being in the best shape of my life and I feel great that I have not fallen into the "mommy rut" that many do. Time is not my friend and I never seem to have enough of it (I still work as a nurse, run a business, and chase a toddler), but even a 20 minute workout creates results. I realize every situation is very different. For example, I didn't have to recover from a C-Section. Nevertheless, I am proud of my body for creating my incredible little person and being able to provide her nourishment for an entire year. I want to be happy and healthy for her. I also want to be attractive to my husband. I have come to accept that these things start with me being confident in my own body. Yes, the very body that has been stretched and loosened, that bears a deep stretch mark right above my belly button, but also allows me to squat 145 pounds and clean and jerk like a badass.
Disclaimer: I never thought I would share these pictures with ANYONE. I documented this for my own personal motivation. However, I have been inspired by the other mothers out there who have posted their beautiful postpartum body pictures and feel empowered to do so myself.