We live in a society that is obsessed with body image. From an early age, women are judged based on how curvy they are and how physically fit they are (or aren’t). After having a baby, one of the first things that women worry about is getting back to their pre-pregnancy bodies. While I do believe that it's important to be healthy (even wrote a blog on how to get your body back after having a baby!), it shouldn’t be the most important thing that a mother has to think about. We already have so much on our plates and whether or not we look good in a bikini is usually the last thing we’re concerned about.
For me, this issue is an especially sensitive one because I used to be overweight. I grew up in a house where we didn’t have the best eating practices, my mother was overweight and by the time I hit puberty, it was evident that I too was overweight and that it wasn’t just “baby fat”! By the time I finished my sophomore year in college, I was 35 pounds heavier than I am right now and about 40 pounds heavier than I was before I got pregnant with my daughter. I started running and exercising regularly and really started to watch what I ate. I weighed myself regularly and staying “slim” for me was a lifestyle change. It started when I was 20 years old but has been a daily effort ever since.
Maintaining my weight became so ingrained in my head and became such a big part of my life that the weight gain associated with pregnancy was very psychological for me. It represented me going back to my heavier days and in fact, I gained 40ish pounds and was one or two pounds heavier at the end of my pregnancy than I was at my heaviest weight when I was 20 years old. It was mentally hard to step on the scale at each doctors appointment because I was used to seeing either the same number every time I stepped on the scale or a lower one. I knew that it was a part of the pregnancy so I did my best to make sure that it was a healthy weight gain by trying to eat as healthy as possible and maintaining my exercise throughout the pregnancy. I ended up gaining more weight than I’d wanted to but I wasn’t too upset because I’d lost weight before so I was confident in my ability to lose it after the baby came.
After Sydney arrived, I dropped the first 30lbs easily! It just melted off. Sydney was born in December but thankfully, it was a pretty mild winter and we got to take a lot of walks outside. I splurged and hired a personal trainer once a week to keep me accountable to my weight loss goals and while I couldn’t restrict calories because I was breastfeeding, I continued my efforts to eat as healthy as possible. Within 8 months, I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight…but now everything looked a little different than it did before! Everything just seemed more jiggly and not as tight as it used to be. Additionally, adding this one teeny human into my life changed the balance of everything completely and I found it harder than before to get into a good groove. There would be days where I rocked it by exercising and eating right, but other days where I was running on fumes, carbs and baby smiles. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t seem to get back to my former glory. While I’d lost all of the weight pretty quickly I wasn’t as consistent as I once was. All it took was one bout of sleepless nights or a week where Sydney was home more than normal to throw me off track and out of my new routine that I’d been so proud of myself for establishing.
Which made me think…my life is completely different now in every single aspect and its irrational of me to try and hold myself to the same standards that I did before. I know there are some women who have babies and look just like they did before they had babies but for most of us (including me), we can expect some sort of change in the way our bodies look. We carried human beings inside of our bodies for 9 months and common sense just tells me that things are going to shift and change. It might be stretch marks, an extra 5 pounds, bigger hips or the teeniest of pooches that just won’t go away no matter what you do. Additionally, our lifestyles are changed. We now have an extra person to care for, more responsibilities and less free time than we ever did before. We’re juggling a lot more and exercise and diet doesn’t always fall high on the priority list like it did before kids.
I still make an effort to live a healthy life but I’m also learning to accept my new body and my new curves more. I’m appreciating the miraculous feat that my body accomplished more and more and each day and giving myself a break for not being perfect. I’m learning to find what works best for me now and trying not to compare my current success (or lack thereof) with the successes I had before having a kid or any other woman's success. The only person that I try to be better than is the me from the day before. I’m also learning to go at my own pace and to strive for the look I want because its what I want and not because it’s what society dictates is beautiful.