Making a human from scratch is hard work. It’s one of the most physically demanding things people do as humans. It requires your literal blood, sweat, and tears. Pregnancy and birth transforms you from the inside out. With it comes many unexpected changes. This is a time for tenderness, compassion, and patience for your growing and changing body.
Pregnancy, while incredibly rewarding, is also self-sacrificial. Women give their bodies over as a home to create a new life. They are stretched to their limits, emotionally, physically, and energetically. This beautiful act of love means that after the birth of your new addition, you will be forever changed.
Change tends to make us weary. So the idea of having a not only a new baby and family dynamics, but a new body- can be incredibly nerve-wracking. Pregnancy changes you, there’s no way around that.
Pregnant people’s bellies expand with the growth of their babies. A beautiful dance of development. Women bring new life into the world, but then face the shame of needing to shrink down. They are led to believe that growth is only acceptable during pregnancy, and even then there is often an unhealthy emphasis on weight.
They are bombarded by magazine headlines and blog posts about “Getting Your Body Back”. They feel insane amounts of pressure from society, and themselves, to have a flat stomach- before the uterus even has a chance to return to its normal size. They’re told to “get back in shape” and “get your pre-baby body”.
This message is not only unrealistic but harmful.
This shaming of pregnant and postpartum bodies can trigger harmful eating patterns, especially if someone has a history of eating disorders or yo-yo dieting. The postpartum body is in a state of healing, and needs proper nutrition to come back to a state of harmony. If a new mother is nursing, it’s that much more critical that they are getting lots of healthy food and are staying properly hydrated.
Concerns about dieting can hinder someones’ ability to heal and keep a healthy milk supply.
It’s ok to be self conscious. It’s ok to want your old body. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable in your own skin. It can be frustrating to not feel like your old self. These feelings are all totally normal.
You may not be able to change your body immediately, but you can change your mindset. Coming to a feeling of gratitude and pride for the process you just underwent can be enough to change your outlook on your physical appearance.
The standards of beauty carried in western cultures emphasize thin limbs, and smooth, photoshopped skin. That isn’t real life. Redefine your standards of beauty. Creating life is one of the most beautiful processes that people go through, and postpartum is just as much a part of that as pregnancy is.
Post baby body blues still got you down? Here are some helpful tips to switch your perspective:
- Focus on healing. Instead of getting wrapped up in all the things you shouldn’t be eating, emphasize what you should be eating. Foods that will nourish your healing body, support mental clarity, and give you the vital nutrients you need.
- Talk to your body. Go through each organ, limb, and vessel, and thank all the parts that carried and supported you and your baby. Your feet for moving you through the world. Your abdomen for making the space to hold your baby. Your uterus for being the nest for creating life. Gratitude is the attitude.
- Talk to other mothers. Chances are, if you’re having certain emotions come up, there are other new parents around you who are feeling very similarly. Try joining a new mom group, whether it be in person or online. Community is powerful, and keeps you from feeling isolated in your experience.
- Have grace with yourself. The process of motherhood takes time. Just like growing a baby, it may take time to “feel like yourself” again. You may never feel like the same person- because you aren’t. You have transformed into a parent.
No matter what your birth journey looked like, it was just that- a journey. Being a new mother can be messy, confusing, frustrating, but also full of magic. Reproduction is a natural part of being human. With time, bodies grow, shrink, sag, wrinkle, and change in so many ways. Your body may never be the same as it was before you had babies.
Inside your stretch marks lies strength. The skin folds on your stomach show how you expanded to create a home for your baby. Your feet may be a totally different size. Your skin and hair may be an unrecognizable texture.
Your hormones forever changed. Your sagging breasts nourished and fed your little one. Your body tells a story. It shows the devotion you put into your family. The sacrifices you made to create future generations.
To embrace the fluctuations and shifts of your body, means to embrace your humanity, and your incredible ability to create life.
Natasha’s passion for reproductive health began at age fourteen, when she was present for the birth of her youngest sister. Her incredible experiences as a birth doula, has given her hands on insight into the magical realm of birth, pregnancy, and all things in between. Her role as a birth worker, is her way of serving as an activist. She uses writing as a key educational tool for creating change in how we view reproductive health as a whole.