Or culture expects so much of new moms. Not only are you supposed be a "perfect mother," but as soon as you deliver you're expected to lose the "baby weight" and "get your body back" instantly. Everywhere you turn, whether on social media or television, another product designed to help you lose weight or tighten your abs is promising you the "perfect body." Then, of course, there's the "motivational" posts and ads telling you that you have "no excuses" to not immediately "bounce back" after giving birth. I don't know about you, but I don't find those kinds of things very motivating. In fact, they make me feel like crap.
Honestly, I've had enough. The idea of "bouncing back" after childbirth is really unfair, often impossible, and has the potential to really be damaging and at a time when new moms are trying to, you know, be new moms. The messages peddled to new moms about their weight and size and postpartum bodies do more than just make women want to fit into their pre-pregnancy jeans. They make women hate themselves, and hate their bodies, directly after they've done arguably one of the most amazing things a human body can do. I know these postpartum weight loss messages were definitely damaging for me. When I got pregnant with my first child, I didn't have a healthy relationship with my body. I suffered from an eating disorder, and focused so much on the number on the scale and the size jeans I wore that it was impossible for me to really enjoy my pregnancy or accept that in order to grow a human my body had to change.
After having a baby, it was difficult for me to feel great about everything I had accomplished, because I didn't feel great about my postpartum body. It's taken me three pregnancies and ton of soul searching to realize that I needed to cut myself some serious slack, that my postpartum body was still my body, and that she needed some TLC after growing a human. This time I set myself some more reasonable goals and established some loving rules to follow to "bounce back," which really have nothing to do with losing baby weight and everything to do with showing myself some love.
Take It Easy
I learned this one the hard way. Just like when you are training for a race, lifting weights, or taking a yoga class, trying to do too much too soon will generally not help you achieve your goal any quicker. Instead, you'll probably get hurt or discouraged as a result of your need to rush. Trust me, it's better to take things slow, allow your body to heal, and try not to set unrealistic expectations (or let others set them for you).
Laughter is medicine, especially when you are sleep deprived, stressed out, and depressed or anxious. Find ways to laugh. It's how I started to feel like me again.
After my second child was born, I watched a persuasive documentary and stupidly decided that it was a good idea to go on a juice fast to lose the last 10 pounds of baby weight. It was a bad idea, you guys. By day two I started hallucinating, and was so hungry that I pretty much ate everything in my house.
It was also pretty hypocritical. I spend tons of time telling my daughter that food is energy and necessary for our bodies to be healthy and strong, so why can't I take my own damn advice? Restricting calories too much too soon after childbirth is not a great idea. Your body needs food to heal.
Drink Enough Water
I have to force myself to drink water on a good day, so on a bad day I generally don't drink enough. I have started to set alarms on my phone to remind me. It helps.
Have Some Sex
Personally, postpartum sex has been a mixed bag. With my ex-husband, I would have been more than happy to never have sex again after my babies were born. With my current husband, postpartum sex has been so important for me to learn to love myself and feel good in my body. It's also been pretty freaking fabulous.
Spend Time Snuggling
Baby snuggles are seriously the best thing ever. Don't worry about working out or even walking to the mailbox right now. Enjoy the power of baby snuggles and realize that loving your baby that you grew in your freaking body is step one closer to learning to recognize how amazingly badass you are.
Set Realistic Goals
Repeat after me: "Every body, every pregnancy, and every recovery is different. I will not compare myself to others, I will set reasonable goals and continually revise them based on what I can do versus what I think I should do."
Engage In Self Care
To be a good parent you have to take care of yourself first. Unless you put on your own oxygen mask first, how will you be able to take care of your baby? Find ways to take care of your body, mind, and spirit every day. Love yourself first and love yourself often.
Don't Fall For Fads
As soon as I gave birth, I was suddenly very popular with a ton of people I hadn't seen since high school who wanted to sell me shakes, wraps, supplements, and work out plans designed to help me "bounce back." WTF? They didn't even ask me how I was feeling or what my goals were before assuming I hated myself and wanted to lose weight. Not cool.
Remember, fads are not likely to work and it's really unethical for companies to prey on you when you are vulnerable. Just like your body new how to grow and expand in order to accommodate your baby, your body will know how to heal postpartum.
Practice Radical Self-Acceptance
I take a selfie every day. Yep, you read that right. I don't shy away from pictures like I used to. I also rock a bikini and have zero f*cks about whether or not anyone around me thinks it's "inappropriate." When I catch a glimpse of my naked body in a mirror, I repeat to myself how badass that body is instead of focusing on how many pounds I need to still lose.
Finally, I bought clothes that fit my current body. If I lose weight, I will reward myself with some new items, but it is important to me that I accept myself now and not focus on fitting into my pre-pregnancy jeans.
Buy A Trampoline
OK, I am totally joking. This really won't help at all.
My point is, you should be kind to yourself after giving birth. Let yourself heal, take things slow, accept the things you cannot change, and learn to love your badass, postpartum, baby-growing body. The only surefire way to "bounce back" after childbirth, is to jump on a trampoline. If you decide to give it a try, though, be sure to wear a pad. You're probably gonna pee your pants.