Making Peace with Your Post-Baby Body
Looking in the mirror at the ramifications of growing a human being, I felt as though I was looking at a body that wasn’t my own. I no longer felt comfortable in the skin that was mine, although the reflection looking back at me was indeed myself. It's a strange thing women go through--giving our bodies to our babies for 9 months and then having them returned to us unrecognizable; being expected to move on without giving ourselves time to become acquainted with this new version of who we are.
The birth of my second son has single handedly been my biggest test for self-love. Before that, the message I always preached of learning to love your body hadn’t been challenged too much. My 5’9, 135 pound physique didn’t feel so bad; it was a body that wasn’t too hard to accept. But that body, the body that stood looking back at me after my second son was born... felt like a doozy to accept.
It looked a little bit like a train wreck... The stretch marked boobs (one far bigger then the other one), the 50 pounds that decided it wanted to stay a while, the acne covered skin from the crazy hormones, and the stomach and thighs that couldn’t possibly have grown so big in just 9 months.
Somehow I was just supposed to put on another milk stained T-shirt, and move on. But I'm proud to say I didn’t just move on; I didn’t just keep going and sweep these uncomfortable feelings under a rug to harbor resentment, or build a time bomb, or fill my mental space with negativity. I took a good look at that body (and still do every. single. day) and I allow it to be a positive part of who I am.
Here are 5 ways I believe I've been able to make peace with my post-baby body:
1. Mourn it: I truly believe we do ourselves a disservice when we don’t allow negative feelings. One of the biggest things I've learned about mastering emotions is allowing yourself to fully feel each emotion and learning how to cope with it. If you need to have a big ugly face cry, then do it. If you need to get angry, then get angry. Write it down and/or tell someone (a word to the wise: only tell someone who is really good with empathy, it is not helpful to tell someone who will say things like “Oh my gosh you look so good what are you talking about?” or “You just had a baby what did you think was going to happen." No, no, no, find someone who will listen, and when they do speak, only offer empathetic words.)
You are allowed to miss your old body. Heck, you're allowed to wish this body went in the garbage and never returned. It's ok to feel upset about this. What's not ok is harboring these emotions and allowing them to consume you and become unhealthy thought patterns. Mourn the loss of your old self, really process through it, and then say bye bye and walk through the door and close it.
2. Become intentional about accepting yourself: I was at a leadership conference years ago and the speaker said “You want to know the secret to changing your life?” and the crowd cheered and screamed YESSSS!! and he said “The secret to changing your life, is changing your life.” The same goes for accepting your body. If you want to love and accept your body, then love and accept your body. Is this going to be easy? No, just liking changing your life isn’t easy. It requires daily commitment and intentionality to the goal. You don’t have to like everything you see in the mirror to accept everything you see the mirror. I don’t always like the way I look, but I do accept the way I look and no longer have any mental space being taken up by self hate.
3. Give yourself a break: For centuries before us, the “tribe” took care of the “tribe.” We do so much today, put so much pressure on ourselves and it just needs to give. Give yourself a break, ask for help, put self-care at the top of your list. It doesn’t have to be fancy. For me, my whole day is transformed if I diligently read for 15 minutes. Take little steps to respect and honor yourself and take a time out if you need one.
4. Understand we are all different and that's awesome: I think one of the greatest gifts we can give society is to become women who can celebrate each other. I spent most of my life wishing, fantasizing, and dreaming that I was short. I'd feel envious of girls who were short and would actually bend down to be in pictures with them. I'll never forget I was at a conference going to take a picture with someone I admired greatly and I crouched down to match his size. He looked at me and said: “What are you doing? Stand up tall, live in your body.” I can guarantee you that if I was short I'd wish I was tall. So I’m going to just be happy with what my momma gave me and live in my body.
When we can fully accept who we are, we can admire the human beauty that is all around us. This doesn’t just go for looks it also goes for strengths, talents, and overall life. We all are fighting our own battles; life isn’t greener on the other side, it's just different. Celebrate women in their strengths and develop your strengths. Your gift to the world is never going to be something that someone else is good at. So focus on what God gave you and enjoy what God gave everyone else. You are so used to your features you have no idea how beautiful you look to a stranger
5. Develop the inside: When we change who we are on the inside, who we are on the outside changes. Maybe that doesn’t mean we fit into a size 5 or look fab in a two piece, but it does mean we exude beauty. When we find inner peace, we are no longer at war with ourselves and we can accept this flawed exterior and learn to marvel at it. You will give not only yourself a very special gift but will change the way our children grow up and see themselves and change how our culture views women. God does amazing things, but it would be very unwise of us to believe that we didn’t need to intentionally meet him and do the work. He is working through our free will. I believe that it is God's call on all of our lives to find self-love and acceptance. Not only today but in every phase of this journey called life.
In order to embrace this new chapter in our lives we intentionally need to say goodbye to the old one.
When I was big and pregnant, I was at my brother-in-law's wedding. Standing in the bathroom with all the bridesmaids, I was all of a sudden flooded with emotion. I was a mom and I looked like a mom and I was never going to be those girls again. As much as I would never trade that for anything, it showed me that time was indeed passing and that part of my life had moved on. I'm sure I'll have this same shake in my soul when I am wrinkled and grey and find myself in the bathroom with some young moms.
Motherhood is tough stuff; it changes everything about us, it makes us see the world different. It's the biggest blessing in my life... it has allowed for so much healing and for me to find true purpose. I always say nothing great in life is free and transformation usually hurts, but just like the caterpillar, I believe with some hard work and patience we can all become the butterflies we are destined to be.