For women there is a constant expectation and pressure to look a certain way. Whether it’s actresses in movies, the media picking apart celebrities, or airbrushing in your favourite magazines, we’re bombarded from every angle with how we “should” look.
Add to that the toxic, often repeated, phrase of “baby weight”, and the idea that new mothers have to “bounce back” or suffer comparisons to their “pre-baby body” and it’s no wonder a lot of women’s self esteem takes a hit once they’ve had a baby.
I fell into this trap freshly postpartum, and let’s be honest, these thoughts still linger. The intense physical changes your body goes through after pregnancy are difficult enough, never mind the overnight identify shift, and the sleep deprivation (oh, the sleep deprivation).
I kept saying “this isn’t my body” because it was so, SO, different from what I thought it would be after birth. As someone who has always preached self-love, regardless of the how your body looks, I was disappointed in myself to be struggling with my postpartum self esteem because I was heavier. Fitting into any clothes I owned was difficult, the sheer heaviness I felt in my body every time I moved was difficult. My body looked and felt completely alien to me.
But what had I really expected? There is a serious lack of representation for how postpartum bodies will look and feel. I really had no idea what to expect.
I had heard my whole pregnancy how “breastfeeding will make the weight fall off!” But it didn’t work that way for me. I gained around 50lbs during my pregnancy, and two years later I’m still carrying about 20lbs of that. It took me a long time to learn to love myself again. I spent so much time feeling like my body had let me down because it didn’t look how it used to. Fighting these thoughts is something I’m working on.
To think of my strong postpartum body in these narrow terms is so damaging. It can be difficult to come to terms with how much changes after pregnancy and birth, and our society’s attitude to postpartum bodies definitely doesn’t help.
The first few months (or, let’s be honest, the first year) after having your baby is a steep learning curve. It’s a scary, beautiful ride navigating this new phase of life. The last thing you need is to feel ashamed of how your body looks, or feel anxious about how you’ll “lose the baby weight”.
Whenever you find your thoughts drifting to your pre-pregnancy skinny jeans gathering dust in your wardrobe, or that new exercise regime you saw to get rid of “the mum pooch”, please remember how incredible your body is, and remind yourself of these facts first:
You literally grew a human being(s) inside of you.
Isn’t it mad when you think about it? You LITERALLY grew a human being, with no conscious effort; you created life while you slept. It’s a pretty awesome achievement, and definitely one to feel proud of. If you breastfed, you also produced breastmilk all while batting through the sleep deprivation and craziness of newborn life.
You gave birth.
It took sheer strength and determination for you to birth your child (not to mention surviving labour and contractions and all that crazy business). Whether you pushed with everything you have, or you underwent surgery to have your baby brought into this world, your body is insanely powerful.
Your body records your life.
Whether you’re left with stretch marks, loose skin, or any leftover signs of pregnancy, think of them as beautiful natural tattoos! They serve as a physical reminder of the strength you possess, and the beautiful experience of pregnancy you were so lucky to experience. And stretch marks are actually extremely beautiful and delicate, if you look at them without judgement and hate.
Your body is absolutely incredible, and deserves to be honoured, treated with kindness, and loved fiercely as you embark on this new phase of your life. Wanting to gain back your previous level of fitness and feeling strong is fantastic, but coming at it from a place of hate for your soft postpartum body will never make you feel good.
Your body is so much more than how it looks, please remember this, and treat yourself with love if you’re struggling with your postpartum self esteem today. You’re beautiful, and you got this mama.
Roseanne is the blogger behind the honest and inspirational personal blog Roseanne Writes. Native to Scotland and now calling Canada home, Rosanne helps mothers navigate motherhood while remaining true to themselves. You learn more about Roseanne and follow her personal blog here.