Did anyone else find that, as soon as you saw ‘that blue line’ staring back at you, something shifted in your mind and the reality of your pregnancy hit you like a brick wall? Even if you’d been preparing for that moment for months or even years. You might instinctively start to slip into mama-mode and begin to feel ever so protective of the tiny baby growing inside you. What might come as a surprise is the physical changes to your body. Sure, we expect to see a growing baby bump but the stretch marks, the popping belly button, the pelvic pain and swollen feet can often come as an unwelcome addition to your pregnancy.
As we continue through our pregnancy and give birth to our babies, we should remember that our bodies have gone through immense physical changes to enable us to do this. Changes that we should embrace. It’s no small feat, after all! But, all too often, it seems that, as soon as baby has arrived, the focus seamlessly shifts from caring for our growing body to cultivating those cultural ideals of a ‘Hollywood’ body: firm, slim and toned. Whether that was you pre-pregnancy (or not!), we often find ourselves piling on unnecessary pressure to get out of our maternity leggings and back into our beloved skinny jeans.
This could be because we are simply unprepared for the reality of a post-baby body: the new curves, the marks and lines on your breasts and belly, a new shape that doesn’t quite fit into the clothes hanging in the wardrobe: a stark reminder of your old body, your old size and your old shape.
But, what is it about our pre-pregnancy bodies that we are longing for? Is it some-how linked to our sense of self-worth? Do we want to prove to ourselves that we are more than the sum of our maternity wardrobe? Whatever it is, we are more - much more - than a size printed in a label.
With our hormones in overdrive, surviving on next to no sleep and still healing after giving birth, now is the time to accept the physical changes to our bodies and embrace our new shapes. The focus should be more about our mental and physical health and not just about how our body looks in the mirror. After all, we have made, carried and ultimately delivered our babies into the world. We should feel like we’ve conquered Everest, respect the strength and resilience of our body and feel empowered to love and accept our post-baby bodies.
Here are some ways in which we can do just that:
• Practice affirmations such as “My body may be softer but it is definitely stronger.”
• Notice your new strength as you get up and down off the floor to play with your baby, as you carry your baby in your arms, when you lift the car seat or when you push the buggy,
• Nourish your body with good food and lots of water, and;
• Practice self care and self compassion by:
- getting some sleep
- moving through a familiar and favourite post-natal yoga sequence;
- get outside in the fresh air;
- breathe; and
- ask for and accept all offers of help that benefit you and your baby.