Kathleen Murphy from MamaCare Health tells us why thigh gaps and flat stomaches are NOT where it's at!
Having a baby changes your body. Fact.
You fall pregnant. Your belly swells, your boobs swell, sometimes your feet, hands and other body parts too… but still it’s glorious, because you’re full of BABY.
Then you give birth. You hold this magical child in your arms. This human you grew using nothing but your body. Incredible!
Time to celebrate the amazing job you’ve done growing, birthing and nurturing a tiny person.
*high fives all round*
What gets me is how all of this is forgotten – really quickly in some cases – and the pressure to ‘get your body back’ takes over. Flat stomachs and thigh gaps all round!
Gimme a break.
Listen up, new Mum.
Yes my lady friend, I’m talking to you.
Your body hasn’t *gone* anywhere. You’ve still got it! Ok, yes, it looks and feels waaaay different to before. But this will change (again and again over the course of your life, as a matter of fact).
I promise you.
It doesn’t mean you’ll always carry baby weight; although you might keep some curves. It doesn’t mean you’ll never wear skinny jeans again, unless you prefer a bootcut. And your days of bikinis on the beach are far from over, except if you don’t like beaches or bikinis.
I’ve reflected on this a lot in recent years. I think our collective perspective has been skewed by the avalanche of confusing and sometimes shaming post-pregnancy information coming at us from all directions. From online forums, to click-bait articles, to unsolicited advice from friends and family, to beautifully curated social media posts… these often end up playing on insecurities, instead of uplifting and supporting us during the incredible transition into motherhood.
**Glossy images of impossibly gorgeous celebrity mums with washboard abs. **Health and fitness ‘inspo’ that plays on guilt instead of being genuinely inspiring. **Overwhelming programs and restrictive diets promising swift results to help you ‘snap back’.
In isolation, the above examples aren’t problematic, because…
**You know, glamorous celeb mums are just being themselves, doing their job – for many, how they look IS their job; there’s no need to compare your experience with theirs. Many of these women have huge support (and pressure) to get them ‘back’ to where they were before baby. **Some people really love aggressive fitspo, it gives them the kick in the pants they want and motivates them to get moving. Not me (but that’s me!) I have a much more ‘softly softly’ approach, in my practice and life generally. **As for diet or health plans, these can be great for some folks who really thrive on the structure and support a program provides.
However. It’s the combination – the constant stream of information and imagery filtering through numerous channels – that doesn’t seem harmonious. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s clanging and jarring and stress-inducing. For anyone, I would argue, but particularly newly-minted mothers.
I get it though. The pressure to get your body ‘back’. I understand professionally, having had this discussion numerous times in clinic. And I understand personally, as I was enormous by the end of my pregnancy. After having Molly I wanted to feel like my body was my own again. But at the same time, I felt like my body was totally amazing after what it had done (and continued to do – feeding my baby, keeping me upright – physiology is a wonderful thing!)
So what is important? Once your baby’s on the outside? And you’re dealing with a sore undercarriage, jiggly belly, massive milky boobs, and all the emotions? Alongside the beautiful chaos of a newborn child?
Your health, physical and emotional. Your baby’s wellbeing. Establishing a strong bond between the two of you.
These are the things that really matter. This is what we need to focus on. This is what deserves our energy and attention.
Your body will catch up, trust me.
There are a stack of things that postpartum women can do during this time. Relatively easy things that will help you feel strong and healthy in both body and mind. These include healthy eating practices, exercise (incidental counts), drinking plenty of water, resting when you can, using your support network (it takes a village!), herbal and nutritional supplements.
None of these, however, are ‘must dos’ (though, sure, some I would recommend more strongly than others). None are intended to increase pressure or add to stress. Instead, recommendations such as these aim to nurture your health and wellbeing.
That, I’d argue, is where our focus is better placed. THAT is how to support a post baby body.
What’s your postpartum experience? How did or do you feel about your body after baby?