I’ll be honest.
It can be so easy to feel like your body is ruined after having a baby.
I remember looking in the mirror after Avery was born wondering if I’d look or feel like myself ever again.
And now more than ever there’s monstrous pressure on women to get their “pre-baby body back” (as if it’s left the building and we’re supposed to go out and find it 😉 ).
You see reminders everywhere about how we supposedly should look.
And when you’re scrolling through Instagram and you come across pics like this you can feel a combo platter of emotions like…
Envy (“I wish I looked like that.”)
Hope (“Maybe one day.”)
And full-on down and out worthlessness (“I’ll just skip my workout and eat Ben & Jerry’s in my yoga pants instead because what’s the point?! I look nothing like that and probably never will.”)
It’s a real crappy feeling and unfortunately with social media putting 96.25% (roughly) of the focus of getting your pre-baby body back on how you look, not how you function and feel, the social scene can do a lot of damage to our self-esteem.
(And physical well-being if we’re feeling pressure to jump back in the gym and start working out like crazy to get our bodies back before they’ve even had the chance to properly heal and recover).
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not interested in shaming the women in these posts.
They’re proud of their accomplishments – they want to show them off – and that’s awesome.
What I am interested in is helping you create healthy, realistic expectations around how you want to look and feel.
And grow into feeling happy with your body right now, instead of focusing on the struggle of feeling unattractive after having a baby.
Unfortunately this is not an easy task when you’re hit in the head with these kinds of images on the daily.
(But there is research-backed hope, so stick with me!)
The problem is, when you’re pregnant, or you’ve had a baby, and you scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed – #fitpregnancy #fitmom – and you see before and after pictures and captions and comments suggesting what a pregnant and postpartum woman should or shouldn’t look like, how she should be working out, or what she should be eating, it’s easy to start comparing her choices to yours. Her body to yours.
And if your choices and your body don’t match up with hers, you can feel ashamed, anxious, unsure and just plain bummed right out.
And it’s hard. Really. Really hard.
Because you’re trying to be #supermama – taking care of your kiddo, being a happy wife, rocking your 90 day business goals, drinking your green smoothies and getting your workout on.
Because when you’re told “If she can do it, so can you” (Thanks for that, Men’s Health) but you look nothing like that, at some point the pressure just consumes you into an emotionally exhausted heap.
And you start wondering what’s wrong with you. When every other mama on Instagram Stories seems to be able to do it, why can’t you?
This is the part where your next thought, your next action can either propel you into a state of emotionally damaging toxic sludge, or inspire you to feel joyfully abundant and carry on with your #awesomemama self.
So here’s what I want you to do…
Step 1. Stop.
Every time you see a photo, a caption, a comment that makes you upset, sad, question what’s wrong with you, while making you feel like you’re not even slightly attractive:
First protip: Unfollow that person.
Second protip: Stop what you’re thinking and turn it around.
This isn’t about being Positive Penelope, putting your blinders on, and faking you’re happy with the #bestlifeever.
This is about recognizing that you are awesome and you don’t have to stay stuck in comparison-itis mode.
Because constantly comparing your body and your experience to everyone around you is just going to set you up for a lifetime of disappointment in yourself.
And how your body responds to pregnancy and postpartum is affected by all sorts of things – including your genetics.
Which means that there are some things that are actually out of your control. Like stretch marks. Until they find the key to switching our genes on and off, stretch marks are just something that happens to a lot of women and there’s not a ton we can do to stop it.
Now I’m not going to tell you to love your stretch marks – “Embrace them as your entrance into motherhood! It’s a badge of honour!”
Because – even though it’s true that you got them during a time when your body was doing this amazing thing of growing a tiny human cell, by cell and that should absolutely be celebrated – I know that if you don’t honestly love your stretch marks, it’s not gonna do you much good.
It’s like telling you to love your pregnancy heartburn into submission.
It just ain’t gonna happen.
But what you can do is find something else – in your life, your body, your relationships, your health – that you do love. Something that you’re grateful for. Something that can remind you that you’re more awesome than you thought you were in that moment of Instagram scrolling when you’re feeling like you’ll never be enough.
And this is where the real turn around begins.
Step 2. Get Your Attitude of Gratitude On.
After stopping your “I’ll never look like that. Why bother” thoughts in their tracks like a deer in the headlights (and potentially unfollowing whoever gave you those nasty emotions), focus on the good stuff instead. The things that make you “good enough”. The parts of your body and life that make you want to squeal with glee.
What I’m really getting at here is that I want you to focus on things you’re grateful for.
I know that seems like such a simple (and maybe even ridiculous) concept – how is gratitude going to help me feel better about myself, you may be wondering?
But study after study is showing us that having an attitude of gratitude can do amazing things for our well-being. Like:
- Making us happier
- Boosting our self-esteem
- Helping us feel healthier
- Reducing icky emotions like envy, resentment, frustration and regret
- Upping our empathy towards others
- Decreasing feelings of stress
- Even ensuring we sleep better
In one study the researchers had one group record 5 things they were grateful for that had occurred that week. Another group was asked to record five hassles that they had to wrestle with that week.
After only 10 weeks, the gratitude group reported feeling better about their lives as a whole, were 25% happier, and even worked out 1 1/2 hours more than the other group.
That’s pretty powerful for taking just 5 minutes a week to reflect.
The bottom line is that when you’re grateful for what you already have and how amazing your body already is, you’re not so consumed with what you don’t have, or what you don’t look like.
So if you find yourself stuck in comparing your choices and your body to someone else’s on social media (or real life) do yourself a favour and just start making a mental checklist of things you’re grateful for.
You can even start keeping a gratitude journal to write in once a day, or once a week to help give you a boost.
I just picked up a 5 Minute Journal myself and am excited to start feeling the positive benefits again.
I used to keep a gratitude journal before Avery was born and loved it but you know – newborn life, it’s crazy and so many habits get lost between feeds and poopy diapers. Doing the research for this post though has inspired me to take up my gratitude practice again.
And the important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be complicated, or all about over the top things that you’re grateful for either. Two minutes of jotting is plenty of time and sometimes the simplest things are the easiest to appreciate.
It also doesn’t have to be related to your body either. Any kind of gratitude can have a positive impact on your life and how you feel about yourself.
Looking for some inspiration? Here are some things I’m grateful for:
I’m grateful I live in a country where I can be a working woman.
I’m grateful I have access to as much clean water as I want to drink every single day.
I’m grateful I was able to get pregnant and have a healthy little girl.
I’m grateful I feel super strong again after having Avery (especially when I questioned if I’d ever feel like myself again).
I’m grateful for my handsome hubby who has become this amazing dad who makes me popcorn and passes me a glass of good wine when it’s been one of those days.
I’m grateful I have amazing friends who get #momlife and don’t judge me for not showering for 2 days and letting my kid eat blueberries from yesterday’s breakfast off the floor.
What are you grateful for?
How can you be grateful for the life and body you have right now?
How can you stop putting so much pressure on yourself to bounce back and look a certain way?
Because the truth is that every body is different. Every woman’s pregnancy and postpartum experience is different.
This is what a postpartum body can look like…
The bottom line is that whatever your body looks like, it doesn’t define you as a woman.
There is so much more to you and what you offer the world than the state of your thigh gap (or lack thereof).
Challenge yourself to stop focusing on what you don’t have, or what you don’t look like, and start putting more energy into appreciating all the amazing things that you already have – including a rockstar body that grew a tiny human from scratch.
And the best part is that appreciating where you’re at right now doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to want to change some (or all) of the things later.
As Molly Galbraith from Girls Gone Strong said, “You can still love your body while wanting it to look or perform differently than it does right now. There’s no hypocrisy there.”
And chances are you’re going to be able to see a lot more positive change in your life and body if you start from a place of gratitude than if you come from a pit of deficiency.
P.S. Know someone who could use this positivity in their life? Send it along using the social sharing buttons below or copy the link and send it in your mom text group!
Thank you so much for reading, sharing and contributing to the conversation. This is such an important topic and I’d love to read your thoughts in the comments below.
I’m sorry but this IS pollyanna bs. My prepregnancy body was amazing. It could pick up heavy things and run when needed and reach up for items on tall shelves. It could do any new exercise I asked it to as long as I broke it down into steps and gave it time. It wasn’t afraid. Even my pregnancy bdy was amazing. It could still do most of those things, although I only let it lift moderately heavy things and I made it avoid some exercises. It got through 52 hours of labor and pushed for 8 on absolutely no fuel because of the epidural.
My postpartum body is a shell. It can’t sit up out of bed. It can’t pick up even my baby anymore without compromising some sort of form. It hurts any time it’s not motionless in bed. Its bones are hollow thanks to breastfeeding, its stomach has become a black hole, its muscles have totally atrophied after 8.5 months of disuse. Exactly what am I suposed to be grateful for — that I survived giving birth at the beginning of a pandemic? Let’s be clear: I wish it had killed me. I am so sick of the GGS fitness community being like “let’s celebrate our awesome bodies!” There is NOTHING to celebrate postpartum. The bible is totally right about childbirth being women’s punishment.
Isabel Rauch says
Oh Nancy, I felt so bad reading this. I really hope you will find a way to love your post partum body.
I also gave birth in the middle of the pandemic in May 2020. We live in a different country than my family and I wasn’t able to see any of them during my pregnancy and no one has been able to meet my daughter because of travel restrictions and it’s already been 9 months.
I was 38 hours in labour and giving birth felt like I was going to die. My vaginal cut took so long to heal and I have pelvic issues now which causes me pain even from just walking. I cannot pick up heavy things (I used to train with 12kg’s up to 32 weeks pregnant) or do jumping exercises at all. Our baby basically cried and sucked on me 24/7 for 5 months and we had no help. Anyways…I just wanted to let you know you are not alone and I also feel frustrated sometimes.
But I have to disagree that there is nothing to be thankful for. Your pre-pregnancy body didn’t have a baby did it? That’s at least 1 (very huge) thing. You can still walk, talk, hear, speak, see….? You have the physical capacity to live a normal life. Ypu have a brand new person who thinks you are the shit on a different level. I hope you find a way to love yourself again, even though it’s different and in certaint ways worse, it’s also better in other ways.
I enjoyed the post. Thank you
Jenna Dalton says
Thank you for such a kind, supportive response, Isabel. I’m sure your words mean a lot to other moms who are struggling – especially right now.
I really hope your family is able to meet your baby soon! This pandemic has been so hard, on so many people, for so many different reasons.
Thank you for being hopeful and supportive!
Jenna Dalton says
I really hope that you are able to find the support you clearly need. There are so many women who are able to get back into all the fitness and such that they want postpartum. It can feel frustrating and stressful and disheartening at times, but it is possible.
Are you able to see a counsellor or therapist? It seems as though you could use some mental health support navigating your postpartum life. Becoming a mom can feel so hard and challenging and you don’t have to suffer through it alone ❤️
Thanks Nancy for your honest comment! I feel you 100%! I am also soooo sick of this positive/gratitude mantra bs. I guess it is easier to accept your devastated pp body is your prepregnancy body was far from ideal. Mine, as your, was absolutely amazing, and I will never accept the hideous changes that it has been through. (I do not even understand the idea of “loving” your pp body, lol)