I wish I could go back in time about 7 months and tell myself to get a grip.
“No one will ever see what you see when you look at yourself because you are enduring two sensory things at once.
No one can ever feel the way you feel when they are looking at you. You, however, see what you feel.”
~Jennifer left this in a comment while I was at the very end of my pregnancy. I wrote it down and just found it recently! It’s so true.
In part 1 I opened up about the struggles I went through while dealing with the changes my body went through. From guilt, to feeling ridiculous and even feeling justified. I never, ever expected the amazing responses from all of you. So I will start out this post by saying thank you.
After Ella was born there were so many things that were new to me. It was most definitely the toughest time in my life all around. On the other hand, it was easily the most wonderful.
I remember looking down at my body in the hospital and it being unrecognizable to me. Not just in a vanity sense. I am talking all parts of myself. It was scary when I looked down and said to a nurse: “what in the eff is that!???” “Is it normal!?” Without going into too much detail about what I’m referring to, you can all just use your imagination. Or not. It was not very pretty.
I wasn’t focusing on the changes too much those first few weeks. Honestly I had such a rough recovery that I couldn’t walk from my couch to my bathroom without crying in pain, let alone even think about exercising.
It wasn’t until I was finally ready to get back into the gym that it hit me. My body had really changed. I mean, yes, I had 10 months to deal with it but I was pretty distracted from the belly that I hadn’t noticed everything else. All the negative thoughts that went on in my head…were they my past illness coming back to haunt me? Or was it just human nature?
I worked out until the very end of my pregnancy. However, the whole trauma of giving birth, my rough recovery, and not being able to workout for 5 1/2 weeks postpartum really took it’s toll on my body. It was very humbling. Trying to kill yourself in the gym right away doesn’t make it any better. Starting slow and easing back into it was key.Your doctor says 6 weeks for a reason!!!
Now I feel stronger than ever. The fact that I gave birth gives me a whole new perspective mentally, in a good way! I say to myself “If I can give birth, I sure as hell can do ______.”
Here are some of the things, looking back, I wish I knew:
Buy the right clothing
I became blessed with a 34D bra size after being a 32A for many many years. Honestly, I had no idea how to dress my new womanly figure. I finally had this bombastic rack and Jessica Rabbit hips, and had no idea how to flatter that. I couldn’t wear the form fitting stuff I wore throughout my pregnancy, and I wasn’t even about to try and wear something from before becoming pregnant. I think had I found the right clothes, it would have helped how I felt.
Exercise tops were the worst. I went the completely wrong route too. I bought babydoll tops that were probably the most unflattering for my upper body. I had to go with something 4 times bigger than I was used to and it was STILL tight. I have lost about 20 pounds since buying them originally, and guess what, they still don’t look right on me. It’s all finding what’s right for your body type and feeling comfortable in what you buy.
STOP NEGATIVE TALK
When your husband/boyfriend/significant other tells you how beautiful you are, the last thing they want to hear is how much you disagree.
We can’t control out feelings, our thoughts, but we can control what comes out of our mouths. Even though Ella does not understand these types of things right now, I knew that I had to practice being kind to myself at a time I felt my worst.
Right before I got pregnant I was pretty good about not putting myself down, my body image was in a good place after many years of it not. I practiced self-love and tried to make a point of doing so when I was around friends that didn’t. So when I would get compliments post-partum, it took every ounce of my being to not lash back with “ugh, I feel so gross.” Or “[insert irritating self-pity statement here].” For me, I believe it was the first step to accepting myself.
Stop making un-constructive comments about yourself to others. Accept compliments, as hard as it may be at times. If someone takes a moment to say something nice to you, do you think they want to hear you put yourself down? As a person who has been on both ends of that equation, I can confidently say no. In fact, I can only imagine how irritating it would have been to others had I constantly criticized myself.
At the same time, we are all entitled to speak about our feelings, no matter what they are. So, instead of passive aggressively taking jabs at yourself to friends, colleagues or your spouse—confide in someone you know will not pass judgment. Write a journal. Do whatever it takes to work through those feelings and hopefully it helps you to move forward. In my experience, taking stabs at my appearance as I get ready in the mirror all while Michael was trying to give me a compliment didn’t get me anywhere.
Writing down my feelings, or emailing a friend, sitting down with someone who understands…those are the things that helped me work through those feelings and see what he was seeing.
Nursing and Weight Loss
Your body is still doing incredible work. Despite what we hear about losing “so much” weight from breastfeeding; you need to take into account that your body needs fat to produce enough food for your baby. A guy at my gym actually said to me how he thought that was the most beautiful incredible thing. That a mother who’s body holds onto weight to feed her baby is more beautiful than society’s ideal. Everyone is different, but I found that many women had a problem with losing weight quickly while breastfeeding. In the long run your metabolism is higher and you will be better off. You just need to be patient. And you need to really make sure you eat enough, because if not, your body will hold onto it even more– and lowering calories can lower milk supply which is BAD!
Stop putting pressure on yourself
I know what I was thinking the first few months. I thought people had high expectations of me “bouncing back” so I put unnecessary pressure on myself. In reality, no one cares number one. Number two, I JUST had a baby. When I hear friends now who had a baby like 3 or 4 weeks ago, or even a few months ago, talking about being discouraged or how they “need to get serious about their diet and workouts to get the figure back,” it makes me sad because I had been there and wish I had just stopped to smell the new baby. Easier said than done though.
It takes time! Just RELAX!
If I could go back in time about 7 months I would grab myself on each shoulder and say “RELAX, Laur!” It get’s better. Just embrace these changes and things will fall into place. One of my readers said it best…”I don’t want my pre-baby body back. I don’t want to go back, I want to move forward.”
Your body is smart. I knew I wasn’t eating unhealthy, massive amounts of food or binging on sweets every night. Overall I eat a balanced nutrient-rich diet, and I workout. Not every day, not hours on end, but I work hard. If I am not fitting into a mold that someone would think a “trainer” would look like after having a baby then that’s their problem. My body is going to look the best it’s going to look for me. And I can’t feel bad about that knowing I am doing my best. Being healthy mentally and physically. I have taken the steps towards truly accepting that and it’s a wonderful place to be.
IT GETS BETTER!
Everyone’s different. For me it took a while to feel “myself” again, and I’d be lying if I said I felt 100%. On the other hand, I would never, ever, ever in a million years take anything back. I count my blessings every single day. Nothing makes me feel better, or matters more in this entire world as when this little girl smiles at me:
There are much bigger, more important things in this world than fitting into some ideal. I will continue to work hard, but not obsess. Eat a nutrient-rich diet, but not skip out on dessert. I am sure I will continue to have my moments…but I know what I need to do. I know what’s best for that baby and I want her to grow up feeling confident and beautiful inside and out.
I want to be a positive role model for her in every way. So thank you for taking the time to listen to me, you have no idea how much simply having a space to put out my thoughts and feelings, share them, and hearing yours helps me continue to push forward <3
In case you missed it: Body Image After Baby Part 1