Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Opening Up: Post-Partum Body Image

(photo credit: Landon)

Am I really going here? I have never once posted anything about my body, let alone post-partum body, but let's be real, a woman's body image, and specifically post-partum body image, is something she probably thinks about, if not obsesses over, every single day.

I am going to be completely honest and say that I definitely struggled with my post-partum body image after Blair. Although I gained 20+ more lbs throughout my first pregnancy with Landon, I was also 26 years old. After his birth, the weight just seemed to naturally fall off without much thought or effort on my part and after about 3 months I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight. And that's also how I measured everything back then, by the numbers on the scale. Now, exactly one year post-partum from Blair's birth, and I am still physically feeling the aftermath of her pregnancy and birth. I still have serious lower back pain every day. I still have the dark line that runs down from my belly button. Even my belly button has not completely turned back 'innie' yet. My breasts feel and look saggier, due to her (still) constant nursing and grabbing and suckling. With breastfeeding, (due to many allergies and acid reflux when we attempted to start solids -- an entire 9 months of exclusively breastfeeding), my appetite was, and still is, absolutely ravenous. They say you burn 500 calories a day nursing, so I thought the baby weight would fall off even faster and more naturally than when it did with Landon. Boy I could not have been any more Wrong! For every calorie burned I think I would stuff my face with about 100 more. In an extreme sleep-deprived, starving Ethiopian, zombie-like manner. I'm sure my husband thought it was super sexy.
During these many, many accumulated dark quiet hours nursing through the day and night, I needed an outlet. As any mama knows how much more difficult it becomes to go out with friends, let alone talk to friends or family on the phone post-pregnancy - especially with an exclusively nursing baby who wakes at the drop of a dime. So - bored, and longing to stay connected with the outside world, I would, and still do, scroll through my phone during these long nursing sessions. I'd say 99% of my blog posts the past year have been drafted during these quiet times on my phone nursing. I'd blog, go through my photos, answer text messages from earlier, and I'd scroll through Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. I had been following some "fitness"and "women's health" Instagram accounts, in an effort to stay inspired and curb some of my post-partum breastfeeding binge eating. (I put "fitness" and "women's health" in quotations, as most of their borderline pornographic images are really not honest representations of a female or post-partum body). I'd see these women's accounts post a side by side photo of a very pregnant body with one a couple weeks later holding their newborn with a flat tummy and toned everything. I'd see these self-proclaimed "fit moms" showing off their abs 2 weeks post-partum and their visible ab progression throughout their post-partum weeks and months. Pictures they also made sure to capture their baby in, captioning, "no excuses!" I'd watch videos of these women doing crunches, holding their little baby up in the air with each crunch ....planking and push ups with their toddler on their back. Captioning things like, "What's your excuse?" It just made me want to throw up all over their picture-perfect square post. But I'd also see subtle posts, of new moms in a very flattering angle, in a bikini or short shorts or back in their skinny jeans just a couple weeks after having their baby, probably after editing and cropping and finding the perfect filter and light contrast to make their muscles pop and look more defined. Maybe you have not seen these particular type posts on your feed, but you have surely seen the same on magazine covers of celebrities "getting their bodies back" immediately after having a baby.
Why do we live in a society that idolizes - and obsesses over -- a fit post-baby body??
I admittedly and frustratingly tried too hard to get my pre-baby body back. After getting the 8-week "okay" from my OB, you better believe I hit the gym. And you better believe I cried when they wouldn't let me back in because my baby was too young for the child center. Still determined to "get my body back," I ordered a high-impact/high-intensity home workout program I could do from home. I went from Cardio Queen / Yogi to jumping up and down with weights in my hands. And I didn't do the recommended one a day, I would sometimes do multiple videos a day. And I badly injured myself not once but twice, setting myself back even more weeks back from my goal on my race to Operation Pre-Baby Body.
So what is the point of this post? It's to take an honest look at a new mother's post-partum body and to take a minute to actually just glorify that. It's to stop idolizing the women on the fast track to 'losing the baby weight'. It's to shed light on some of these "fit mom" posts and quite honestly very sad, 'pre-baby body' obsession. It's to really just encourage and preach a more gentle, kinder and accepting approach to new moms out there. One year after my baby's birth and I can't preach about my abs being back. I can't even tell you that my belly button is back. But I can tell you I am happy with, actually amazed, by my body.
A body that grew two babies. That formed within it, their beating hearts, their little organs and little limbs and soft wispy little baby hairs and tiny little fingernails. A body that has the strength to pick up and hold my baby when the only thing that can comfort her is being held close to my body. A body that has the strength to carry my child for hours on end while unloading the groceries, cooking, vacuuming, and carrying a heavy basket of laundry in the other arm.
A body that completely, by the nature of itself, has sustained and nourished the life of my child for the entire past year. A body that has donated over 200 ounces of breastmilk to critically ill, premature infants in the NICU.
All of these things are so much more beautiful than my pre-baby abs. That is what we, especially as fellow mothers, should be focused on and praising ourselves and others for. Whether our abs are back and whether we can fit back in our skinny jeans (nevermind whether celebrities or other women are) should be the last thing on our mind during the entire first year - if not longer -- let alone those precious first few weeks home from the hospital.
At the beginning of this month, I rejoined my gym and started going back to my yoga classes. I've nixed the crazy home videos and the eliptical and I picked up my yoga practice right where I left off, and feel like a new life has been breathed into me. I haven't owned a scale for the past 6 months, and I let the way I feel judge how I'm doing. I listen to my body! When I don't feel like working out because other life demands get in the way, I don't let it bother me. I don't feel guilt for actually having an "excuse", and I am totally okay with the fact that I would rather fill my time with my children, my friends, my husband, and taking care of my home and other hobbies that actually make me happy.
To be clear, I am really all for the 'clean eating' and healthy lifestyle, and if you've spent any time here on my blog or with me in person, you've aways known that about me. It just took me the better part of the past year to understand that a healthy lifestyle means something different for everyone! That we all have different bodies, different genetic make-up, we've all had different birth stories and we all need different, longer, or shorter recovery times. We all have very different lives -- we have different amounts of help, different numbers and ages of children, and different amounts of free time in our days. To me, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not working out aggressively every day to be able to show off visable post-partum abs. It is allowing myself time for rest, doing the things that actually make me feel good, and taking care of myself mentally just as much as physically.

And thought it would be fun to show my one year & second kid post-partum "transformation".....
.......a "transformation" within 5 minutes of each other this morning. To shed little light on some of the transformation pics or body pics you see appearing everywhere on your feeds. It's easy to suck it in, catch a better angle, pop a hip, flex your muscles, and bam. I could have even taken this a step further and applied a filter, adjusted the contrast, lighting, or sizing, (and what if I knew photoshop!) but you get the point. Anyone can very easily make themselves look better and make others feel worse about themselves.

If you guys are looking for some good women's health IG accounts to follow, check out where I got this "fake transformation" inspiration from - melvfitness and mamalionstrong and also check out YourGymGF, co-run by one of my best friends from college. They post real videos doing pull ups, push-ups, squats, healthy recipes, as well as post pictures eating ice cream, going out for a drink, funny gym bloopers, & they don't contort their bodies into weird shapes in their underwear so that mass amounts of people will like and follow and feed their ego.

& In case you were wondering where I got that cute yoga gear at the top of this post, it is from Boden's new yoga line, which is hands down the best, most comfortable and movable and flattering yoga wear I've ever put on my body. Anyone go to sleep in the clothes they want to wear the next day? Since we're being real. Well these are also perfect for that. (You guys can use promo code YOGA to receive 20% off your order plus free shipping now through Saturday).


2 comments:

  1. What a relatable and honest post. I had my daughter young and still I look like crap honestly, haha. I have the saggy stomach and boobs and I'm weigh so much more than ever. My feet grew bigger, I got even taller (which I didn't want) and my face is now permanently round. I honestly just hate the way I look. And that makes me hate society for putting that on me because, hello, I grew a person inside of me! Obviously I won't look young and tight anymore.. a person was inside of me and then I pushed it out, like whaaaat that is a damn miracle! But instead pregnant women and moms are made to feel embarrassed that they don't have their pre-baby bodies anymore and ashamed for gaining any weight. I love your fake transformation photos!

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  2. Oh I love that fake transformation photo - I always think about how unrealistic these are a lot of the time!! Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts here; your honesty is beautiful and refreshing. <3

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