If there’s one phrase in the postpartum world that I wish would just take a hike it’s…
“You don’t even look like you had a baby!”
I get that people typically mean it as a compliment. They’re trying to make the new mom feel good about herself. It’s coming from a good place with good intentions.
But comments like this can do more harm than good.
Especially since most women are already hyper-aware of how they look. At all times.
And saying “You don’t even look like you had a baby” can be so destructive simply because it suggests that you can do one of the most amazing things ever – grow a human being – but you certainly shouldn’t look like you just did that amazing thing.
Baby should come on out and everything should go back to “normal” ASAP.
You shouldn’t look any different. You shouldn’t look like a “mom”. You shouldn’t have any signs that a miracle just changed your life.
And the truth is that this simple statement pops up in all kinds of sneaky ways.
In magazines: “Celebrity Mom back to pre-baby size 3 weeks after giving birth!”
On TV: “Makeover show transforms drabby, flabby mom into a beauty queen!”
In real life: “Did you hear? Jill just had her baby 7 weeks ago and she’s already wearing her pre-baby jeans! I mean, how?!”
The pressure comes at you from all kinds of angles and it can end up making you feel incredibly insecure and awkward – whether the comment is directed at you or someone else.
It can create a downward spiral of comparison, self-questioning and anxious wonderings of, “If they think that about her, what do they think of me?”
And if we’re wanting to compliment new moms, aren’t there so many other fantastic options beyond focusing on how she looks?
Like maybe simply saying “You’re amazing! You just grew a baby! How incredible is that?!”
Or, “I so respect your ability to keep cool back there when your toddler was throwing a tantrum and your baby was screaming. I know that’s not easy. You’re doing an amazing job as a mom.”
Or, “I heard you hired a cleaner to come to your house for those first few postpartum months. I think that’s so smart! I’m so glad you did that so you could focus on you and the baby.”
And the truth is, the more we focus on how postpartum bodies look, the more women will believe that this should be the goal to have postpartum.
That the only way you know you’re doing this whole postpartum fitness and health thing right is if you have a body that looks like it wasn’t ever pregnant in the first place.
But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Now I’m not saying you can’t have this as your goal.
You can focus on looking however you want to look.
It’s your body, your choice.
I get it. I love my strong arms and perky booty.
It’s okay to want to look a certain way if you’re in a healthy headspace.
I’m simply suggesting that if this is coming from a place of pressure – you feel like you should look a certain way because someone (like society) told you that’s the way you should look – I would love for you to drop that idea and pick up a more empowering one instead.
One that will make you actually excited to exercise (or at least dreading the whole situation less) because it can give you such a stronger sense of why you’re doing it in the first place.
Because there are a whole lotta reasons to exercise beyond “Looking like you never had a baby”.
So, why do you exercise? What do you hope to get out of it? What goal would make you want to do a happy dance you feel so freakin’ strong and full of bliss?
Care for some suggestions? Here ya go…
- Jump on a trampoline with your daughter without worrying about leaking.
- Do a pull-up without any assistance.
- Focus on flexibility and mobility regularly enough so that you can touch your toes.
- Get a stronger core so you have zero back pain.
- Sign up for a dance competition – and win it.
- Indulge in so much more pleasure with a better sex life. Seriously.
- Do a full plank with no coning, doming or signs that your diastasis is acting up.
- Book a vacation and make plans to walk everywhere and see all the things without having to stop to catch your breathe.
- Sign up for – and conquer – your first 5K.
- Go back to CrossFit (when your body is ready) and reach a new PR with no symptoms or issues.
- Be able to hike up a mountain with your kiddo on your back.
- Nail that headstand in yoga.
- Be able to bike a 20K like you were born for it.
- Tackle an obstacle course race (bonus points if your older kiddo signs up to do it with you!)
- Be able to do an entire length of the monkey bars at the playground without dropping down.
- Get strong enough to deadlift half your bodyweight (or your entire bodyweight if you’re feeling frisky!)
- Be able to put on your toddler’s favourite song and dance all out with her to the entire thing without having to take a break.
- Go for a loooong walk one night a week. Alone. To enjoy getting to know yourself again.
- Get to a point where you don’t have to modify anything in your fave group fitness class.
- Become strong enough to pull your two kids in the Thule behind your bike.
- Be able to chase after your kiddo without worrying about your pelvic floor telling you to stop.
Looking like you never had a baby won’t be the most amazing thing you can do with your life.
Not even close.
You deserve more than the idea that looking a certain way is your only option to be seen as “worthy”.
So stop putting pressure on yourself to make any signs of motherhood disappear from your tummy and thighs.
And do your confidence and self-worth the favor of picking up a more empowering goal instead.
To confidence-boosting (not bombing) goals! 🤸♀️ 🤸🏻♀️ 🤸🏼♀️ 🤸🏽♀️ 🤸🏾♀️ 🤸🏿♀️
P.S. Have a friend who’s hyper-focused on fitting into her pre-baby jeans? Send her this post. She needs it.
First, thank you for this blog post. It was exactly what I didn’t know I needed. I am a first time mom, 7.5 weeks postpartum and loving my baby boy like I never knew I could love. But, I’m also a first time mom struggling with my new “mom bod” and mommy lifestyle. I feel like my day revolves around 2-3 hour cycles of nursing, changing diapers (and clothing), and trying to get my little guy to nap, all while being exhausted, covered in spit up and probably having not showered. The fact that I hardly get anything done except maybe a load of constantly accumulating laundry and maybe I get a bite to eat if I let my little guy cry for a few minutes makes me feel less than accomplished! I feel a little less than human most days and looking at my massive, sagging boobs, flabby tummy covered in red stretch marks, and my newly flattened butt (this one really took me by surprise), does a number on my confidence and self esteem. Am I hard on myself? Absolutely. So yea I want my body back. I want to feel like myself again, only better because now I’m a mom! But, this post made me realize that it’s not about wanting my body back to look a certain way, at least not completely. It’s about so much more- it’s about my body being able to do amazing things and setting goals with those other things in mind, not just how my butt looks in my jeans (though meeting these other goals will likely come along with those benefits)! So, thank you for helping me put my goals into perspective and helping me to focus on what my body can do when it’s strong and healthy and not so much on how it looks.
Jenna Dalton says
There is so much goodness in this comment I don’t even know where to start! First, thank you for sharing so openly. More moms need to see posts like these because the truth is that it IS a struggle to see your body and life change so drastically and it’s okay to admit that you’re not in love with every aspect of it. Coming to terms with a whole new body is not easy. At all! So thank you for sharing ❤️
And please know that most new moms have a very similar experience. It’s crazy and chaotic and no one actually has all the answers, we’re all just doing the best we can as moms. And that’s okay. Your baby is well loved and you’re doing a great job!
I’m so glad that this post helped give you some perspective. As I often say – it’s absolutely okay to want to look a certain way, just not at the expense of your emotional or physical health.
Oh, and MomButt actually is a real thing. Have you seen this post? https://jennadalton.com/mombutt/ It will help explain why it happens 😊
Thank you again for your honesty. I love getting notes like these!