Like many women who've had a baby, I unnecessarily stressed over my postpartum body. I resented what pregnancy had put my body through, and I would unfairly pick apart every single change I noticed. It's been almost two years since I delivered my second (and last) child, and though I'm still not 100 percent confident in my body, I can confidently say that I've come a long way. I realized there are so many ways to fall in love with your postpartum body, even if it never looks exactly the way you want it to, or envisioned it would.
I get that my body did an amazing thing, twice, but that doesn't keep me from unfairly evaluating its added scars or pounds or curves. Although I consider myself a fairly body positive person, the many changes that created my postpartum body admittedly threw me for a loop (especially at first). When I looked at my stretch marks or the muffin top trying to squeeze into my old jeans or the slightly loose skin on my lower abdomen, all a result of carrying my two boys, all I saw was something imperfect; something flawed; something used.
My postpartum body felt foreign to me, and the inner angst that my outer shell was causing me was far from healthy or fair or justified. Eventually, I realized that I was spending way too much time critiquing my body, and not nearly enough time appreciating it or loving it or even using it to do the things that I love. It's taken some time, and I feel like it's still a process, but I've developed a mindset that has allowed me to embrace my postpartum body.
Recently, a friend of mine had a baby and was feeling some of the same resentful feelings towards her own body that I felt towards mine. Having been through the same emotions, I offered her my own perspective. "You need to write that down," she told me as I could already see the relief in her face. So, I did. The following nine things are a result of that advice, and have no doubt helped me fall in love with my postpartum body (despite thinking for a very long time that I would never again wear anything other than yoga pants). If you're struggling with your postpartum body image, my hope it that these things will help you, too.
Give It Time
Your body spent nine or more months changing to accommodate your growing child, so why would you think that it wouldn't take that long, or longer, to return to its previous state? Don't trick yourself into believing that you should look just like Jessica Alba immediately after giving birth. Part of a celebrity's job is to look the part, so if they look like a million bucks mere weeks after having a baby, it's because they probably spent a million bucks to do so.
They've got personal trainers and chefs and nannies all at their beckon call to help get their bodies camera ready. It's likely that you don't, so if you're feeling inadequate because you didn't immediately "bounce back" into your skinny jeans, don't.
Don't Worry About "Getting Your Body Back"
You walked away from giving birth with the same body you had before you were pregnant. Maybe you'll walk away from pregnancy looking exactly like you did before you gave birth. Then again, maybe you won't. I don't look the absolute same way I did before I gave birth, but I can assure you, I didn't lose my body somewhere along the way. It might look different, but it's still the same body, so please don't let anyone tell you to "get your body back."
Wear Things That Are Comfortable
Like I said, it can take some time for your body to return to a place where you're comfortable with it. In the meantime, don't try to squeeze into those skinny jeans just yet, especially if they aren't comfortable.
After I had my boys, I wore leggings and tunics a lot and until my other clothes felt comfortable again. Even though the number on the scale isn't all that different from when I was sporting tunics on a regular basis, my body looks different because it's had plenty of time to adjust. My skin has tightened and all of my organs are back in their respectful places, and yes, it has made a difference in how I look. I can wear my jeans comfortably now, even though I weigh the same as I did when all I wore was leggings.
Try Not To Stress Over Your Old Clothes
I used to look at my college jeans and cry after I had my first son. Yes, really. The thing is though, those jeans didn't really fit me before I got pregnant, at least not for a very, very long while. (Plus, things shrink over time and once they've been washed enough). Even if I hadn't gained a pound during my pregnancies, there's a good chance that those jeans wouldn't have fit me regardless.
Try not to stress too much over the old clothes in your closet, because it's likely that they aren't giving you a fair or accurate depiction of your postpartum body.
Buy Some Staple Pieces That Fit You
This is one of the best pieces of advice I have to offer in terms of feeling comfortable with your body right now. Instead of trying to squeeze into your old clothes, buy yourself a few staple pieces that fit you at the size you are now. That way, you won't dread getting dressed since you have some clothes that fit you properly.
It's amazing how different you look when you're actually wearing the right size. I didn't want to spend money on something that I assumed I would only be wearing for a few months, especially in a size that I didn't want to accept for myself, but it made a huge difference. Before I bought some pants that fit me properly, making a public appearance gave me major anxiety because I felt like all of my old clothes that I tried to wear were bursting at the seams. Afterward I bought clothes that actually fit (and when I didn't care about the size associated with them), I felt like a normal person who didn't want to jump out of her own skin. It makes a major difference. Trust me.
Remember That No One Is Perfect
Really no one. Even the celebrities you see on television and in magazines have been photo shopped or airbrushed. Chrissy Teigen famously pointed out her stretch marks in one of her Instagram pictures, and women everywhere thanked her for admitting that she had them. No one has a flawless body, not even the person whose body you think you'd pay big money for. Please, don't hate your postpartum body just because it doesn't look like some celebrity's.
After I had my first son, I was working in a medical clinic and I would frequently ask women lift their shirts off of their stomach for various reasons, and I can assure you that pretty much all of them told me to ignore their stretch marks. We're all a little self-conscious, not just you.
Try To Get Active
Putting your body in motion has so many benefits that have nothing to do with losing weight. I started going to the gym a few months after I delivered my second son and, almost immediately, I felt different. I didn't notice a huge different on the scale, but I did notice a change in how I felt.
Being somewhat active again made me feel so energized and able. It helped with my stress and anxiety and boosted my overall mood. After getting into an active routine, I noticed that amount of time I would spend critiquing my body had decreased drastically. I felt good, and that was way more important than looking good, though incorporating some cardio definitely didn't hurt the way my jeans fit me.
Setting physical goals for yourself is a great way to get and stay motivated. The goals you set don't necessarily have to be about weight, either. For me, I wanted to be able to run a mile without stopping. Then, once I reached that goal, I made it two, then three, and so on and so forth. Then, I wanted to run a 5k, and now I've started setting goals for strength training in the short term, and bigger things, like hiking certain trails, in the long run.
Whatever it is that you want to do (whether that's climbing a mountain or hiking a trail or running a triathlon) working towards those goals and actually meeting them will make you appreciate all that your body is capable of, rather resent it for not looking a certain way.
Treat Your Body Well
Your body is a temple, and it should be treated as such. Putting good food into it, and keeping it active, are both great ways to treat your body with the respect it deserves. I was self-conscious for years about my body and after my babies were born, but once I started to focus on all that my body was capable of, my mindset completely changed. Keeping active made me feel strong, and eating better made me feel nourished. Kayaking and hiking made me feel adventurous and free, and thinking about all that my body did to create my babies makes me feel incredible.
Just remember to take time for yourself and your body. That might mean going to the gym to work out, or going to a spa for a massage, or even just perusing the clearance racks of your favorite store. Either way, treat your body the way you want to be treated. Respect it; appreciate it; most of all, love it, because it gave you a truly beautiful gift, and it deserves your gratitude.