While you are reading this post, I am most likely baking a birthday cake for my sweet Baby T, who will forever be a baby even though he’s turning one tomorrow. ONE. This is just crazy for me to write, it seems like yesterday I was pregnant with him. I figured the eve of his first birthday would be good timing for me to share with you some truths about body image after baby.
Mamas, your body will NEVER be the same. And that’s not just about body image. I remember a friend of mine saying to me after her first baby, “Sometimes I look in the mirror and think, ‘Who is that? Because I don’t recognize that body.'” Thinking she was being hard on herself, I told her, “You look amazing! And you’re so fit and strong!” But then she said to me, “Oh, I don’t mean it in a bad way. I truly just mean I do not recognize my body. I look in the mirror and it’s just…not the body I have known for more than 30 years.” And I got it. I knew what she was talking about.
There are things you’re going to suddenly notice that you don’t like. Weird veins. Wider hips. Cellulite. There are things you’ll notice that you do appreciate. Defined shoulders. Thinner face. Biceps you can see. It’s all just…different.
This was my first postpartum run. Everything felt uncomfortable, especially me in my own skin.
I plan a lot of my blog posts and topics in advance. And this topic – ‘body image after baby’ – was one that’s been shuffled around my editorial calendar like the proverbial hot potato. First it was in there for 3 months after Tanner was born. Then it got shifted to 6 months. Then 9. Then every couple of weeks I’d see it in the schedule, and bump it down the track a little. I knew what my friend was saying back when she told me she didn’t recognize herself in the mirror. And now I am living that myself.
I run a long run of 16 miles, but then I see a photo of myself, and the two realities don’t add up.
You may remember I nearly didn’t publish this post on stretching because I didn’t like the way I looked.
After I first had Roman and I started running again, I almost wished I could carry a sign saying, ‘I just had a baby!’ because I knew how much slower I was compared to my pre-pregnancy times and how much extra weight I was carrying being newly postpartum. I wanted to explain it away to make myself feel less awkward in this new, transitional skin. And now I find myself wishing I could do the same thing since Tanner was born, but just fudge his age a little because I’ve had a year, people! A year. Surely I should be in pre pregnancy shape by now. Yet I’m still not in all of my regular clothes. I’m sure as hell not running my regular times.
I had a postpartum client a while back who said something along the lines of, ‘I’m past 9 months postpartum and you always hear it’s 9 months to put the weight on and 9 months to take it off. So now I feel like I’ve failed because 9 months came and went and I haven’t taken it off.’ And I told her, ‘That’s ridiculous, that’s a nonsense saying based on an arbitrary number, every body, pregnancy, person and circumstance is different and you are fabulous and amazing no matter what. Let’s focus on strong and fit and watch your figure follow.” I meant every word. Just another case of not being able to take my own advice.
Baby carriers are handy for carrying babies and for de-emphasizing areas you may feel uncomfortable about. Or is that just me?
This week, I read two amazing articles from two amazing mamas, all about body image. Read them. Sarah looks at her race photos and writes about how she feels disappointed when she sees someone who doesn’t correlate to what she’s experiencing and feeling. And Christine runs on a treadmill in front of a mirror (and I’m sorry, but are treadmill mirrors necessary? No. No, they are not.) and gets hung up on what she sees.
We all do it. We’ve all been there.
So I’m going to tell you, there’s a lot I feel uncomfortable about with this new, totally different body of mine. A lot. There are a couple of things that I’m pleasantly surprised by. But what I’m trying to do and what I hope you will try to do as well, if you’re a mama whose body just isn’t reflecting how you feel, is to just focus on the strength. The doing. The action. I can run long distances. I can lift heavy things. (Like Baby T, for example.) I can birth tiny humans and keep them alive with my body. I can hike, climb, jump, dance, nurture and protect with this body.
I still don’t see me, but at least I see what I can do.
Back when I was doing prenatal yoga, we used to open our practice with one hand on our heart and one hand on our belly as we chanted. One day, our teacher talked about how when we rubbed our bellies we felt joy and love and kindness and excitement as we connected with baby in our pregnant bodies. She asked us to remember that feeling, the joy and awe at what this part of our body was growing and doing and creating and to be able to call upon that emotion after we gave birth – to place a hand on our postpartum belly and feel that same love and gratitude that our body was so amazing. I think of that often.
So today, tomorrow and from now on, I’m focusing on what I’m capable of doing. Let the aesthetics follow along…or not…and just be at peace about it.
If you’ve had kids, I’d love if you shared your postpartum thoughts about your body. Was there that same sense of disconnect, of not recognizing the woman’s body in the mirror? How are you feeling now?
P.S. I can’t wait to eat the birthday cake. 😉