10 Things You Should Say To A New Mom Instead Of “You Look Amazing!”

10 Things You Should Say To A New Mom Instead Of You Look AmazingWe’ve all done it, and we all meant well when we said it. But is saying “you look amazing” to a mother with a baby really the best conversation starter?

After having my twins, (which are kids number three and four), I have found that one of the first things people say to me, either when I run into a friend, or tell someone I just met how many kids I have, is “you look amazing!” I am sure people mean well when they say it, but it suddenly sparks this awkward weight conversation. Either way it is kind of shocking, when you really think about it, that we jump right into the personal and sensitive “weight” topic while skipping the really important stuff about navigating motherhood.

Below are ten things you should say to, or ask a new mother INSTEAD of (or as well as) “you look amazing.”

1. Are you loving motherhood? Because It’s okay if you’re not. The first few weeks are especially the hardest. No, wait. They are about 80% crappy for a lot of us. Yes, you are in awe and falling in love. But let’s be honest, your world has just been turned upside down. Your nipples are probably cracked, bleeding and ready to fall off of your body and it’s starting to set in how needy a baby really is. It’s okay to not love all of it.

2. How is your recovery going? This one is a little tricky. I think it is important to remember the trauma our bodies have just gone through during delivery. But how do you actually ask a new mom how her vagina is feeling today? Maybe start by telling your own war stories to break the ice and offer up a tip or two to help the healing process. Like, “have you tried throwing your pads in the freezer before wearing them? Your lady parts will thank you!”

3. Here is a meal I prepared for you. I can’t recall who gave me what item of clothing for each of my babies, but I can tell you, in detail, every meal that was dropped off to us unannounced. Prepared meals are like currency for new parents. Can’t cook? Pop a gift certificate to a fast food restaurant or somewhere that delivers into your card for the newbies. Don’t pull the old, “here’s a GC to a fancy restaurant for you two to get out on a date.” That’s just cruel.

4. How are you handling the isolation/hormones? Translation: it’s normal to feel batshit crazy and sob randomly and uncontrollably for the first couple of weeks. It helps to talk about the crazy that comes with childbirth. For extra points, point out to the new dad that it is normal for mommy to be a hot mess for a while.

5. Can I accompany you to your next doctors appointment to help? The first doctors appointment my husband and I took our baby to was insanity. We had to wait 5,000 hours, my husband got puked on 4 times (no joke) and somehow in the variety of diaper bags, and baby items I packed, I somehow overlooked packing a second change of clothes for our new little vomit dragon. That was with help! Having a second set of hands at the doctors is invaluable.

6. I want to come over for a visit and help with what you might need done. The new mom might feel embarrassed about the state of her once pristine house. Try to force your way into that home and without being instructed, start washing dishes and folding laundry. Tip: be sensitive and listen if she asks you to skip folding her own laundry. I think we will all agree that we would prefer to fold our own postpartum XL granny panties.

7. I will come by to take your older kids to the park or walk your dog (kind of the same thing). Now that there is this new completely dependent little baby, it’s hard to find time to give the older “siblings” any attention for the first while. Someone else coming over to burn off that energy for you is priceless.

8. I will hold your baby while you take a shower. Nothing is worse than someone coming over to meet your baby and expecting to be treated like a visitor, being offered refreshments, while they cuddle your newborn. Don’t ask or worry about offending the new mom, just tell her that you are going to sit and cuddle the new baby while she takes time for herself. There’s no need for her to exhaust herself making small talk.

9. Do you want to get out for a quick dinner/coffee together one evening without kids? When you are a first time mom, it seems impossible and you feel almost guilty for leaving your little one with someone else while you get out kid free other than frantically running errands. Little does that new mom know that going out even for an hour, just for her, will feel like she has gone to the spa for a day. Nothing is better for baby than a happy mommy.

10. You are doing amazing! We all wrestle with the thoughts “am I even doing a good job? Maybe I should be singing more songs? Maybe I should be reading more books? Maybe I should be making all of baby’s food from scratch?” Trust me, you are doing amazing, and no, you don’t need to be doing more of those things. Instead of obsessing over how amazing the new mom looks, why don’t you let her know how amazing she is doing!?!

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Photo by Blue Bird Creative

What Having Four Kids Did To My Mother’s Body And Her Confidence

My Mother CollageMy mother had four kids and like me, her body went through a war.

I recently sat down with her and asked my mother how she felt when she was pregnant and how the changes in her body impacted her confidence. What she told me opened my eyes to how backwards society’s view on the postpartum body has become.

Before having kids and going through four pregnancies, my mother felt better than ever with her body and who she was. My Mother 2Soon after my mother and father were married, she became pregnant with my oldest brother. She felt her prettiest when pregnant. She was glowing, full of pride and it was the happiest time in her life.
My Mother's PregnanciesBack then, (between 1976 – 1984), women weren’t expected to “bounce back” like we are today. As a public health nurse, she knew it would take a good year to recover from having a baby. Women were taught how to properly care for themselves and their postpartum body. She was even given specific exercises by the nurses in the hospital, to help the healing process, without adding too much pressure.My Mother 6My mother holding me (pregnant with my younger sister)

Without the constant images that today’s society is constantly bombarded with on the internet, women didn’t obsess about their postpartum figure. My mother’s role models were smart, beautiful and strong women such as Jessica Lang and Meryl Streep.

Mothers didn’t judge each other. Yes, they were conscious about losing the baby weight at a healthy pace, but the focus was on caring for their babies. Which is such a simple, yet beautiful concept.

FamilyI remember my mother reading my sister and I books each evening. I loved to cuddle up to her soft body. When she would dress up to go out with my father, I always thought she was the most beautiful mommy.

As my mother’s body changed she never hid behind baggy clothes. Sure, she fell victim to some fashion trends. But she never started dressing to hide her shape.My Mother the 90s Fashion VictimMy mother made sure she never lost herself in the shuffle. After leaving nursing to be home with her children, she pursued her passion in opera singing. I remember her going out a few evenings a week to sing and perform on stage. She would get her moment to shine and then be ready to go back and give to her family again the next day. My Mother 12My mother rocking a bikini AFTER having four kids. 

This all makes me pause and wonder… if all of us mothers would just stop competing against each other in the great body after baby race and genuinely start caring about each other’s health, happiness and wellbeing, maybe reaching a personal goal would come much more naturally.

I can’t thank my mother enough for being such a positive role model for me, now that I have four children. My view of the postpartum body is that of awe and pride. I don’t feel ashamed of my curves and I make sure I am kind to my body.

Thank you mom!
My Mother 13Myself, my mother and sister today

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Postpartum = Ugly And Damaged? My Realization After Watching The Dove Choose Beautiful Campaign

collage ppMy husband, Mike recently showed me Dove’s latest beauty campaign; Choose Beautiful.  It is a three minute video showing side by side doors, each with labels: one says “beautiful” and the other says “average.”  There is then a montage of woman all over the world, confronted with this choice, most walking through the average door and rethinking and regretting their decision afterwards.

I immediately said to Mike, “is it bad that I would walk through the beautiful door without hesitation?”

I have come to love what my body has done for me through having four kids and my confidence is in a healthier place than ever. But when I look back through my thirty-two years of life, body changes and self confidence phases, there is something that stops me in my tracks.

I would have walked through the average door each time after having my babies.

For six weeks after having each of my babies, I felt very average. No, I felt ugly. I saw myself as tired, ugly and damaged. Looking back I think that seems crazy and very skewed, but it’s how I felt at the time.

I go back and look at those photos now and see beauty. Yes, maybe tired eyes, but I am glowing (and not from loads of makeup).collage 2Top row: days after having our first, child / Second row: days after having our second child / Third row: days after having our twins

I then started to think about why I felt so ugly and damaged after having each of my babies. I can think of a few reasons.

First, there’s the physical and mental impact that childbirth takes on a woman. You’re sleep deprived, which is a mental blow and would affect me each time after giving birth. You are healing and often swollen. It is hard to feel beautiful when you don’t feel good in your own skin. You want to hide behind baggy clothes and in the comfort of your home.

There is also the loss of the cute baby bump and the attention that it brings. Now people’s focus has shifted to your baby. You are left with the remains, not only healing from the war, but also having to take care of this completely dependent human. It is a shock to your ego and your system.

The third reason is the way society views postpartum women. There is this look of pity you can sometimes get after having a baby. You hear people telling you “you look tired” a lot. It is also like a clock has started, timing how long it will take you to get back to your pre-baby glory, because how you look and feel at the moment isn’t acceptable past those six precious weeks. Ridiculous, but many of us have felt it.

Looking back, there is something way more beautiful about those photos of me days after giving birth. I see love, honesty, commitment and triumph in my eyes and in my smile. To me, that is true beauty.

I just wish I had seen that in me in the moment.

To all those mamas out there, with so much love to give after giving birth… make sure you save some of that love for yourself!

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10 Acts Of Kindness You Should Do For Your Postpartum Body Before Starting A New Exercise Routine

collage bodyAfter having three pregnancies and four kids in the span of five years I have learned a thing or two about regaining your shape after having a baby.  Unfortunately it has taken me until now (and a twin pregnancy) to truly respect what my body has done for me and be okay with my curvier shape.  The good news is I can share some real life advice with you!

Often the only green light we wait for after having a baby is that six week postpartum doctor’s appointment, getting the go ahead to be able to exercise.  But there is so much more!  Here is a list of acts of kindness that I strongly urge you to do for yourself before starting up an exercise routine to set yourself up for success.

1. Start a journal.  Keep track of your emotional forecast.  Right now your hormone levels are still working themselves out.  Quickly jot down how you feel each day and what parts of the day you feel the most ambitious and energetic.  After doing this for a little while you will probably see a pattern.  Pick that part of your day that you are at your peak to squeeze in some exercise. For me it is early morning before everyone in our home is awake.  For you it might be your baby’s nap time or at the end of the day.  Also journal what you are eating each day and how much water you are drinking.  It may surprise you how many snacks you are sneaking when you are recording it.  Keep track of how you feel after each meal as well.  Did you feel sleepy and sluggish after that big plate of pasta?  Did you feel energized after that salad with grilled chicken breast?

2. Buy yourself a pretty and comfortable workout outfit that fits you now.  It took me a long time to learn this one.  I have some very stylish pre-twin-pregnancy workout clothes that are still a little snug on me.  I have made a point to get a comfy and flattering workout outfit that fits me now so I feel confident when I go for a jog around our neighbourhood or even just do some exercises in our home.  Are you really going to feel motivated going for a jog in your too tight yoga pants and your husband’s sloppy, oversized t-shirt?

3. Have your thyroid levels checked.  This is a biggie.  It is very common for pregnancy to throw off thyroid levels and that can wreak havoc on your energy levels, cause hair loss, slow weight loss and more.  For me, each of my pregnancies has thrown off my thyroid.  The biggest postpartum hyperthyroid symptom I have experienced is gastrointestinal pains.  Just ask your doctor to make sure your thyroid hasn’t been impacted by your pregnancy.

4. Put your scale in your basement.  Or somewhere in your home that isn’t too convenient.  It’s easy to say don’t weigh yourself, but come on, let’s be real.  We are all curious about that elusive number, especially after pregnancy.  Aim to weigh yourself every other week or so at the most.  Just go by how you feel and how clothes are fitting to asses your progress.

5. Don’t make a big announcement.  I have been guilty of this one on many occasions.  I’ll announce to my friends that I am not having that dessert that they have offered me because I am going to lose all my baby weight by yesterday.  Don’t do it.  It puts too much pressure on you.

6. Start a hobby that isn’t exercise and brings you joy.  Having a new baby involves giving an incredible amount of yourself each day.  It is so important that you don’t get lost in the process. Once the dust has settled a little, try to find time to do something for you, whether it’s reading a book, being creative or even getting out an evening here and there baby free with your friends.  If you are already feeling happy and balanced, then sticking with an exercise routine is much easier than waiting to hit that goal weight for happiness, only to be left feeling empty.

7. Have your iron levels checked.  Sorry, TMI, but this one has been life changing for me.  For most women, after having a baby your menstrual cycle is heavier.  Try having two and then twins.  I finally discovered that this horrible run down feeling I was having once a month was beyond the regular PMS symptoms I used to get.  I now take iron supplements around that time each month and skip the crash and burn.  This one is worth having a discussion with your doctor about.

8. Get your diet and portion control in check.  During each of my pregnancies I have relished in the freedom of eating large portions and basically whatever tickles my fancy.  But once I am on the other side of having a baby, it’s time to get those eating habits under control.  I have found doing a few months of Weight Watchers (not sponsored) after each pregnancy is a great way of yanking me out of my food hangover.  This is also a program that supports breastfeeding and will make sure you are getting enough calories so your supply doesn’t dwindle.  Regardless of which approach you take to help your eating habits, make sure you reassess and make sure you are not eating enough for two anymore.

9. Rethink your pre-pregnancy wardrobe.  We have all heard those urban legends about women who leave the hospital in her pre-pregnancy jeans, right?  I’m not her.  I recently went through my wardrobe and made the decision to get rid of those super low rise jeans I have been holding onto for six years without wearing.  Everything on my body has moved about four inches south.  I used to be apple shaped and now I am pear shaped.  Although my size may reflect my old self, my style and fit of jeans is more in the high rise arena… and that is okay with me.

10. Reflect on the pregnancy journey your body was on and respect it.  Don’t forget, your body just spent nine months with your resting heart working 40% harder, your blood volume almost doubled, the amount of air moving in and out of your lungs doubled, your skin has stretched a ton, oh, and you have created a tiny perfect human.  Reflect on what your body just did and be PATIENT!

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I Didn’t Know I Was Supposed To Be Striving To Be Flawless

collage 1I have found myself really, really happy since this viral phenomenon has occurred.  I was happy before but I have felt this additional sense of purpose these past few weeks.  Don’t worry, ever since I blogged about my experience with handling negative comments, I was able to get it out of me and haven’t looked back.  I have also found I am devoting more of myself to my children.  Yes, I would enjoy them before but I am finding myself slowing down more and immersing myself in these very intense moments of connection.  I am not sure if it is because I am having more of a balance between career and motherhood that I know I need, or if it is their innocence and the fact that they have no idea what is going on out there.  But my heart is full.

collage 2

I have been enjoying reading every comment, email and message beyond words.  I have come across a couple comments that have been very kind and encouraging but ending with the implication that it is expected that I will have plastic surgery on my tummy once I have hit my weight goal.  Not to mention the similar comments I received from random strangers while pregnant with my twins.  Instead of feeling insulted, I have been left baffled, thinking “oh am I supposed to get a tummy tuck?  I don’t plan to.”  I am really happy with my fitness progress.  It is happening at a pace that suits me, makes me feel healthier and happier and I am not pushing myself too hard.  I am about 15lbs away from my initial weight goal and I am realizing that it may be too much if I lose another 15lbs.  I don’t want to lose all of my very womanly curves.  So I won’t be focusing on the scale, only on how I feel.body 1I still have a bit of that hanging tummy, and it may shrink more in time but for now all I see is my body healing from the war it went through during my twin pregnancy.  It is getting stronger and I am finding carrying my girls much easier!body 2Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti plastic surgery, I am just pro loving your body for what it has done and continues to do.  If having plastic surgery is what makes someone else love their body and feel better in their skin, then go for it.  Just make sure it is for you.  Not anyone else.  Besides, if I were ever to have plastic surgery, my tummy would be last on my list.

In 2001 I had to have a complete thyroidectomy which has left me with a very visible scar across my neck.  It wasn’t supposed to be as visible, but I had a terrible reaction to Codeine and swelled up like a tomato which disrupted my incision site.  body 3

I had been sick for a long time and finally having a diagnoses of hyperthyroidism and the subsequent removal of a hyper-plastic tumour and my thyroid was such a relief to my suffering. I have never rushed to have plastic surgery on my scar.  I partially see it as a positive symbol of being healthier.  I have been approached by a couple doctors about revising it, but I really couldn’t bother.  The surgery and all that comes with that seems like such a chore to me.  I almost always forget it is there, other than when someone points it out.

But the biggest reason I haven’t got rid of it, is I see my scar as a visible “line in the sand” in regards to how far I will go with my body trying to be flawless.  It’s a slippery slope and the line has to be drawn somewhere.  I am flawed.  My flaws tell my story.  Who I am.  Where I have been.  The hardships I have overcome.  The people I have given life to.

So, I will never say never, but right now I feel in awe at my body’s ability to be pushed to such painful limits and come back from the war with more fight in it than ever.IMG_4632