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Your body after baby

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Your body after baby

Body after baby


In this social media age, our physical appearance is highlighted, displayed, and judged regularly. This contributes to the common distress and anxiety following one of the most drastic and invasive physical changes possible: pregnancy. Creating life is a wonderful thing; however, the aftermath of a body postpartum is unmistakable and impactful. Throughout my work in the perinatal (pre/post pregnancy) world, I have observed several phases many people pass through in their relationship with their body after giving birth.

1) War-Torn

This is the first stage immediately following birth, vaginal or c-section. Looking in the hospital bathroom mirror, a woman may be dripping blood, gazing at new stitches, as she tries to process the physical ordeal she just survived. Even with our current medical knowledge and technology, there are those of us who do not get to survive to see the other side of delivery. We might take a moment of gratitude for physical safety, while also glimpsing at ourselves in the mirror asking, “What did I just go through?”. Swollen and cramping, we attempt to take our first pee or bowel movement while wincing in pain or fear, and then return back to our hospital room to learn how to care for a new little human. This experience can leave our body feeling shocked, shaky, and surreal. We are given little time to process, however, as we return home to our new life with a new little person.

2) Non-Existent

The days and nights become a blur. Basic physical needs are thrown out the window as we prioritize the new little human we feel so strongly and desperately tied to by love and a need to meet their needs. Showers, brushing hair, skin care, etc. become luxurious and seldom while they were once reflexes in our daily routine. We barely notice this, however, because our brain prioritizes our little ones’ needs over our own body’s. “Where are you?” our body calls to us as it falls lower and lower down the priority list.

3) Identity Crisis

When the dust finally settles, we begin to take a longer look in the mirror. In the light of day, we see the saggy skin, folds, rolls, new scar, completely different looking and feeling breasts, bigger shoe or ring size, fuller face, lack of muscle tone, and/or expanded skeletal structure translating to wider hips and rib cage, etc. We feel weaker, loss of core muscles, jiggling where things never used to jiggle, tighter pants, bras, and shirts, lower sex drive, a new fluctuation of hormones, guilty for “me time”, etc. This realization can strike once everyone is sleeping through the night or even a year later when you stop breastfeeding and realize your body is now “just your body” instead of a crucial source of nutrition for your baby. “Who is this person?”

4) Continued Distress, Dissociation, Discontentment or Self-Acceptance and Love

We eventually settled into a routine of how we look at and talk to our body. We either continue to live our lives in a strange body and attempt to distract or unknowingly dissociate from our body. Or we seek to learn more about our new body and its care and needs. This can be done in many different ways. Perhaps we have a new need for a certain nutrient or supplement that we were never aware of prior to pregnancy.

Perhaps exercise looks different, and strength, core, or low-impact training is what the body needs, especially in the years following delivery. Perhaps we need to prioritize our mental wellness through positive self-talk and mindfulness to promote physical wellness. Through learning and speaking our own body’s love language, we can develop a supportive and accepting relationship with our body once again. We can live in a body that we understand and appreciate. “Welcome new body! I may not know you completely, but you have already given me the greatest gift[s] possible, and I’m excited to learn how to care best for you”.

It’s never perfect. But it’s enough. You’re enough. Notice we barely mentioned the word “baby”. Because we can have a difficult and painful physical experience after delivery, and that experience can be separate from our little one and the love and joy we have for them. They are not one and the same. They can co-exist separately. So, give yourself some grace and start your journey to acceptance of and care for the body you have today.

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