You see it on covers of magazines, read about work outs for it on Facebook, Instagram, and every Pinterest board under the sun.
The Postpartum “Bounce Back.”
Pretend you just had a baby. You worked so hard for 9 months to grow that baby from scratch. Maybe you had a smooth pregnancy and felt awesome. Maybe you had horrific swelling and felt like an electric shock was running down your leg with every movement (hello, sciatica, I’m talking to you). Maybe you puked constantly or maybe your allergies required you to take 1, 2, or even 3 benedryl a day just to function. Now it’s time to have that baby. You labor for hours and either literally shove a human out of an 10 centimeter opening or are practically cut in half and that baby is physically removed from you.
Either way, chances are you don’t feel like going for a jog or doing 3 sets of planks daily.
But people have this crazy idea of how fast a mom should get back to her old self, body included….called “bouncing back.”
I personally call it a load of crap.
It took 9 months for those changes to be made to your body. That’s 75% of a YEAR. What on EARTH makes people think it will all magically go away as soon as the baby is out? The baby is like…5-10ish pounds. Weight gain in pregnancy is a range of are 20-30 pounds give or take lower or higher. This is such an unrealistic expectation to think all this weight will be gone as soon as you are going home or even in the first weeks or months!
Some women’s bodies easily shift back into not-pregnant mode, and that is totally ok! It’s all variations of normal. But for most, I don’t think this is the case.
Your body changes so much during pregnancy. Your hips get wider. Your boobs get bigger. Your hair is awesome and your nails grow crazy fast. You may get a ton of acne or your skin may clear up entirely. Your feet get wider and your stomach stretches more than you even think it can. Your body is also freaking awesome. It grows an entire organ AND an entire human. It may also be suppling that tiny human with food! Incredible! Now why are we so quick to forget how incredible that body is and want to remove any trace of your journey into motherhood?
I remember vividly…
My first shower after Owen was born. I had a hard time moving around but was so thankful to be in the shower. I remember the exact sentence I said to Andrew when he stepped in to check on me…
“This is not my body.”
Well, of course I was not in peak condition less than 24 hours after having a baby. I was baffled by what had happened to the body I knew just hours before, that grew with me for nine months. But now? My stomach was becoming a deflated balloon. My legs and feet were crazy swollen. I had a giant incision that I was fairly certain my organs were going to fall out of with any sudden movement. I did not know this body and I was not a fan of it.
Slowly but surely, I began to recognize parts of my body again. The thing that took the longest and surprises me the most? My feet! Gosh, I couldn’t believe how swollen they had been once they went back to normal size. Even 8 weeks later, I look at them and laugh about how swollen they were at the end of pregnancy. My body became “mine” again, but with some changes.
I have a “mom pooch.” I do. I have stretch marks. My feet are wider than I thought possible. But I also grew, carried, and birthed this beautiful baby boy that is laying snuggled in my arms. My body will never be the same and I won’t participate in the “bounce back” craze, to go back to a body that hadn’t done these incredible things.
Am I super excited about my mom pooch, stretch marks, and giant flipper-sized feet? Well, no.
But for right now, I am embracing having them as best I can because I wouldn’t be a mama without them.
Instead, I choose to focus on this sweet little boy who has captured my entire heart and being gentle with myself because, hey, I just had a baby. And my first baby at that. My body doesn’t know what the heck is going on most of the time because it’s drastically changing, trying to go “back” to not-pregnant mode.
Postpartum is about soaking in your little one and figuring out how to be a parent (or how to parent multiple children if this is not your first). It shouldn’t be about worrying you won’t fit into your pre-baby jeans for your 1st outing or your 5th or even your 30th. You are recovery from a major event, physically AND mentally. Don’t rob yourself of the joys of this small human you made by focusing on how much you dislike your body right now.
Of course it is wonderful to be mindful of healthy eating habits and to take care of yourself. Have healthy snacks easily available and fill yourself with nutritious foods (but it’s also ok to have a cookie if it makes you feel better or you just need something sweet to get you through that 3 am feeding).
If you spend your entire maternity leave (or life, for that matter) focused on “bouncing back,” chances are you are going to miss some incredible moments because you will be so worried about getting back to your old “normal” body, when it doesn’t exist anymore. This new body is incredible and you can love it just as much as your pre-baby body. It may be different, but that doesn’t make it bad.
The “mom pooch” will get smaller. The stretch marks will fade. Your swelling will go down. Your feet probably won’t be any less wide, though.
In my opinion, that different is beautiful.
Be kind to yourself and your body, mama. You deserve it.