I think it’s safe to say that most of us understand that dwelling on past events, mistakes, relationships and failures is just not healthy. Research tells us that dwelling on the past can actually negatively affect your future if you give it too much focus.
So with this in mind – why is there so much focus on us mothers bouncing back and being told that we need to revert immediately back to our pre pregnancy state? Why is it ok to not dwell on the past for everything else in our life but when it comes to our bodies….. we should focus on entirely that?
Our bodies pre pregnancy defined who we were at that time – before we became mothers. We are no longer that person, we are the one living today – the mother. Surely we should be embracing this new chapter in our life and taking a step forward rather than being constantly told we need to “bounce back”?
It’s almost like there is a clock ticking for us to eradicate any evidence that we were ever even pregnant pretty much as soon as we give birth. We are conditioned to long for what we once were rather than celebrating the amazing person we have become. We grew an actual human being, why shouldn’t we celebrate that and embrace how utterly amazing the human body is, more precisely the female body?
We are all unique and we all heal and recover from pregnancy in different ways, over different timescales and with different results. There are so many factors in play here fromhormones, genetics, the type of labour we had, medical conditions…..exercise and diet are just one element affecting the speed of our recovery.
Of course, there will be some mothers who do appear to return to pre pregnancy state fairly quickly after birth and that is ok.There will also be some mothers who will struggle to even get out of the house with a new baby, let alone even think about working out – that is ok too! When and if women’s bodies change after pregnancy and whatever they choose to do (or not do) to assist this process – is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS! As women, we get enough guilt and shame passed on to us and we don’t need to extend that to new mothers. Why does society feel the need to pass out such harsh criticism on women who are just trying to do their best?
A “perfect” post natal body isn’t a certain size, shape, bmi, weight and more importantly it isn’t the body we had before pregnancy. We need to leave the past in the past and banish this notion of the “bounce back”. We need to start embracing the step forward into motherhood and how we navigate this journey in our new bodies – whatever our size.
So, where do we start? Firstly, we need to get realistic and remind ourselves that the pre-baby body we are longing for didn’t grow a baby (or multiple in some cases), those perky boobs we once had didn’t feed a baby through its first few months and that taut tummy we used to love hadn’t grown and nurtured the new love of our life. If you are one of the ‘lucky ones’ who does manage to regain a glimpse of their pre pregnancy body, then good for you. Yes, it’s the exception and not the rule, but we don’t need to shame them for it and make them feel bad.
We need to stop following celebs and influencers who promote this “bounce back” as if it is some easy task that we all can (and should) be trying to achieve. Let’s face it, they fail to mention the trainers, nutritionists, childminders and everything else that they accessed to aid their super speedy recovery. We just see the highlight reel on social media when they post their semi naked photos showing us how they “bounced back” in a few short weeks. They let us believe that it is totally achievable for us regular mums, usually swearing by some fad product they are being paid to promote (which they probably didn’t even use). Why do we want to follow someone who makes us feel this shit?
We also need to stop waiting until we’ve “bounced back” to treat ourselves to some new post pregnancy clothes. How many of us have said, “Ill wait until ive lost the weight before I buy any new clothes?”…..and then it never happens and 6 months later we are still rocking out maternity clothes feeling pretty crap about ourselves. When you don’t have clothes that fit you, or you are still wearing your maternity clothes, it keeps you feeling shit about yourself. It keeps you trapped in this mindset of thinking that being slimmer or “bouncing back” is going to be the key to your happiness. When actually, all you are doing is delaying what you deserve right now – feeling amazing in clothes that actually fit. Treat yourself to a few items of clothing that fit your current shape and size and make you feel great in them.
As a post natal specialist, I would still recommend exercise as part of every post natal recovery, however, would stress that your goal shouldn’t be focused solely on aesthetics and returning to a pre pregnancy state. Over the course of the nine months, pregnancy will have taken a toll on your body and probably affected your posture, your core muscles and pelvic floor to name a few. Exercise that is designed to strengthen and repair these muscles will not only help you move and function better but will also give you a massive boost of endorphins that will make you feel great.
The real key to stepping forward is embracing this new chapter in your life and accepting that you are no longer the same person you were before pregnancy. Unfollow the happiness thieves on social media and anyone else who promotes unrealistic images/messages about our bodies and our journey as new mothers.
We need to start a new movement of celebrating these amazing post partum bodies and banish those focusing on making them disappear.