Currently, in my backyard, there are water bottles strewn everywhere. Earlier I had to clean up the mess that my dog made of himself because of playing with said water bottles that were innocently sitting outside to stay cool while my baby screamed her head off because she wanted my attention. Of course, as with any time I have to let my baby cry longer than a minute or two, I felt guilty the whole time I cleaned up a muddy dog, but there was nothing I could do about it.
I’m learning that being a mom means dealing with a lot more guilt every day than I could have ever imagined. I feel guilt about using my phone while I’m holding or nursing my baby. Guilt about where I put her down for naps or to sleep at night. Guilt about letting her sleep in my arms, and guilt about putting her down for a nap. Guilt about the fact that I am home all day but can’t get the house clean or cook dinner (just now realizing I’ve meant to put dinner in the crock pot, but didn’t). Guilt about having her out of the house too long…and the list goes on.
The last thing I need is to feel guilt about the way I look on top of all of the guilt that I fight every day.
I see it on my newsfeed from fitness-coach friends, on articles that pop up as ads on Facebook, in magazines that I get in the mail: there are just a thousand ways and products to spend money on to help moms “bounce back” after pregnancy. Tone up your “mom bod.” Be sure not to “let yourself go.”
I am reminded each day when I try to find clothes that fit that less than three months ago, my beautiful baby girl was being held and nourished inside of my body. While this should be a miraculous and beautiful realization, our culture that is obsessed with appearances causes me to often look at this body with fear- will it ever go back? And guilt- am I doing enough to “bounce back?”
I’m fighting this hard, though, because I think these are the last thoughts I need filling my mind. Insecurity isn’t new to me when it comes to my body, and more than ever, with a daughter I want to build an example for, I need to fight it. Here’s what I’m realizing new moms (and all moms, because let’s be real, not all of us ever fully “bounce back”) really need to worry about instead of bouncing back when it comes to our postpartum bodies:
- Nourishing- I’m breastfeeding, so I need to eat well over 2,000 calories a day to keep milk production up. It’s important to me that I try to eat as healthy as possible to pass the nutrients on to my baby. However, I know that some days require me to just eat whatever I can to keep calories up (grab and go takes on a whole new meaning when there isn’t time to sit down for a meal even when you are home all day). So nourishing my body feels a lot more important than dropping pounds or toning up. Surprisingly, my body has shed weight on it’s own when I treat it well by nourishing it and not worrying so much about it. At the same time, I know my body will probably keep on a certain amount of weight as I keep my calories up to nourish my baby.Instead of feeling guilt about what I eat and the fact that I can’t really diet right now, I want to appreciate the miracle my body is doing each day as it provides the perfect nutrition for my daughter.If you aren’t breastfeeding, or you’re past that stage in your baby’s life, a healing (and busy) body needs nourished no matter what. If you treat your body right in this way, it will probably do what it needs to do. That doesn’t mean you’ll be skinny or lose a ton of weight, but you’ll be healthy, which is so much more important.
- Strengthening it- I believe exercise is important, especially for health reasons. Moving my body in gentle ways that strengthen my muscles that I need to hold and support my baby makes me feel better about myself. Things I’ve done in the past like more intense cardio workouts and heavier lifting really aren’t working for me right now. Most new moms are probably a little too tired for all of that, not to mention the fact that we are still healing from the greatest workout of our lifetime; giving birth. Gentle movements like pilates or yoga and walking with my baby have been a way to strengthen my body and help it heal.At the same time, I have to fight forcing myself into it when I’m feeling too tired. I also have to fight the guilt I feel about not doing enough to “get my body back.” As new moms, we have to remember our purpose in working out really should be to strengthen and heal.
- Accepting it- This is so important, and something I may never fully accomplish. Accepting my postpartum body as my “new normal” has been hard, but certain things have helped. First, and most important, closet cleanouts and getting new clothes that fit. I will probably never be my old size, or at least my old shape, and I’m learning to be okay with that, but I need clothes that I feel good in. This is not about shopping and spending money just to do it, but instead buying things within my budget to help me feel good in my own skin. Hair cuts, pedicures, eyebrows, putting on a little makeup if I’m going out of the house- these things aren’t needed, but they help me accept and love my new normal.Do whatever it is that you need to help you get to the point of acceptance versus insecurity. If that involves a little bit of treating yourself, I think new moms (and all moms) deserve that once in awhile.
When I approach my postpartum body, I want to approach it from a place of love and acceptance instead of shame and guilt. As moms, our bodies have literally spent months making and nourishing the little babes we love and care for so much. The stretch marks and extra weight that we may now sport shouldn’t be looked at like flaws, though our culture might want us to believe differently. Rather than seeing flaws and feeling guilt when I look in the mirror, I want to remember the miracle my body has done and be grateful.