How can I get my body back after having a baby?
Is this a question that you are asking yourself? Or that you think you should be asking yourself?
I had my youngest child in July 2015 so at the time of writing I consider myself a relatively new mother. The pregnancy and birth are fresh in my mind, I'm still breastfeeding and we wake up with two children's feet in our faces some mornings.
Ok, most mornings.
Recently, I lost around a dress size and starting wearing clothes I had put away when I was about 4 months' pregnant. This felt quite liberating. I felt as if I was edging back to a place where my 'mummy' identity wasn't something I wore 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
But I am still a mother 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, whether engaged in looking after my children or working on something else. My body has still carried two children and is still providing nutritious and comforting milk for one. My body might have just started fitting into clothes that I wore before having children but it will always look and feel different after the amazing journey that it has been on - and I wouldn't want to change that.
When we become pregnant and get a visible bump it can seem as if our body starts to inhabit a public space and that feels uncomfortable. People ask you how 'far along' you are, make predictions as to whether you are having a boy or a girl and sometimes touch your bump without asking. Or after asking. But they probably wouldn't have rubbed your tummy before that bump made an appearance.
People not living inside your skin will have opinions about what you can or cannot safely eat, drink and do. I craved shellfish during my first pregnancy and remember hiding to eat an oyster at a wedding reception. You may get comments about how 'neat' or 'huge' your bump is. In fact, get ready for a whole load of personal remarks. Because after the baby comes they doesn't stop!
Over the past few years I have really noticed the language with which our bodies are described once we have birthed our babies. Women become elastic bands that 'ping' or 'snap' back into 'shape'. Which shape? A human shape or some kind of stencil?
Your own abdomen becomes a 'baby belly' or a 'mum tum', that needs to be 'banished' or 'lost' or 'targeted' as if you are waging a military operation against part of your own torso. Which is a useful body part that houses many vital organs and has just generously accommodated a growing human. The heavierness or largerness or softerness of your own body gets called 'baby weight'.
Your body may be in the process of doing some shape-shifting or changing - so is your life. They both still belong to you. Your body is your body, every part of it. It doesn't need to be blitzed, blasted, subtracted or mislaid.
But it may need permission to receive a little bit of the TLC you probably lavish on the person it got busy making.
In my case, the care that my body needed was to get some good nourishment and not be flogged through exhaustion by eating copious amounts of refined sugar. That five-hours-of-sleep-and-five-pieces-of-cake trap. Whilst I thought about my body critically, the sugar kept going in. So I wondered how I would want other women to talk to themselves after having gone through the immense journey of having a baby. And thought I would try using the same words on myself.
I stood in front of the mirror when I passed it and smiled at myself and said "Thank you, beautiful body, for everything that you have done. You are amazing for growing a baby. Now it is your time, now it is your turn to be cared for."
I also went to a homeopath that I love (if you are in London and looking for a homeopath, try Tracy Karkut-Law) and the mixture of kind thoughts from myself and care from someone else enabled me to break up with my saccharine frenemy and enjoy all the other wonderful food on offer instead.
Walking into my local coffee shop the other day the barista said "It is amazing how much you have shrunk, it is as if it never happened". To which I thought ...that is just like that person that rubbed my tummy without asking in a hospital lift that time... And ever since I have been wondering for the however-many-it-is time why is it that people make personal remarks about our bodies as we go through our motherhood journey?
I also thought...I am so glad that the whopping great big tumbling toddler in the buggy next to me happened, I would never want that story to be shrunk... And I felt very self conscious and just wanted to get my flat white and run. Cross to be made to feel self-conscious as I bumbled through one of my precious mornings with my son, too.
I didn't want to 'shrink', I wanted to bounce up out of bed in the morning, get excited about what was in season and eat scrumptious nourishing food with my children.
Try noticing the language that people are using towards you and your beautiful body - journalists or health professionals or your friends and family or strangers or your own inner monologue. Switch on your analytical ears. Is it appreciative, admiring, grateful, encouraging? Is it affirming that your body is yours and deserves love and care or that it needs to be retrieved, 'got back' from an unspecified location and shrunk, blitzed, banished and bootcamped?
If you found this post because you are googling how to get your body back (did it get lost in a search engine?) then I owe you an apology for the misleading title - but I wanted to tell you this: your body is amazing, it is beautiful and it's waiting to hear it from you.
All together now: "Thank you beautiful body, you have done the most incredible job. Now it is your time, now it is your turn for some tender loving care".
If you were speaking to your body the way you'd speak to your best friend, what would you say? Let me know in the comments.
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