My post today is about something that a lot of women deal with after birth. During pregnancy, you are expected to keep within a certain weight limit of what needs to be gained, and you need to look a certain way. After you deliver your sweet baby, you are hit with so many messages of how to lose the baby weight. There is all of this pressure to get your body back to the way it was before you got pregnant. It’s awful. The focus should be on you and the baby recovering from birth, and the fact that you grew a human inside of you. Your body is amazing. Yet, we are bombarded with messages that now that the baby is out, we need to look like it never happened. It is unrealistic and hurtful. These messages are so damaging.
I have personally struggled with my body image for most of my life. I have done a countless number of diets, I have exercised an excessive amount with the end goal of losing weight, and I have looked at myself in the mirror with disgust. It’s sad that so much of my time and energy has been wasted focusing on how much I weigh, and what size of pants I fit into. I used to look back at pictures of myself and think, wow, I should have dieted more. I wish I would have looked at those pictures and remembered the experiences that came with them rather than feeling shame for the way I looked. To be honest, I still catch myself thinking that when I look at pictures of myself, but I am trying hard to change my way of thinking. The reason I am writing this is because it can give you a little more understanding as to why I was absolutely crushed when my OBGYN told me that I was gaining too much weight during my first pregnancy. After that appointment, I started to focus on how to diet and lose weight during pregnancy without hurting the baby. I immediately realized how bad of an idea that was, but it was still in the back of my mind for the rest of the pregnancy.
After I had my baby, I was on cloud 9. I was so happy and excited to have him in my arms. While breastfeeding him, I would look at social media and it started upsetting me. I noticed an influx of people trying to follow my instagram account that were health and wellness coaches, or part of pyramid schemes focused on losing weight. Then, I started seeing more people post their postpartum bodies and how hard they worked to get back to where they were before pregnancy. The insecurities that I had felt before came back fullforce. I had been so focused on trying to get a hang of breastfeeding and getting my baby to sleep a little bit longer during the night that I hadn’t paid too much attention to my body. I remember looking in the mirror and seeing all of the stretch marks that I had acquired. It reminded me of cottage cheese with the way my belly shrunk back down. I was so embarrassed and sad that I had changed so much. I started to finally lose ‘the baby weight’ about 9 months postpartum, and it was like it melted off of me. I was skinnier than I was before I got pregnant, and I had so many people telling me how amazing I looked. I felt fantastic, and I got pregnant again. This time, I still gained the same amount of weight, but I was exercising and eating healthy every day of that pregnancy. It didn’t matter what I did differently, my body needed to gain that much weight for my babies. I felt like I lost weight with that pregnancy pretty quickly, but my third pregnancy was a completely different experience. I couldn’t stand too long in the first trimester, otherwise I would start to get very lightheaded and sick. When I passed that awful milestone, my body started reacting poorly. I had something called symphysis pubis dysfunction, and it was awful. I couldn’t sit, stand, walk, or do anything without feeling like my pelvic bone was going to break. I cried from the pain every day, and I quickly gained weight. The entire pregnancy, my body felt like a wreck. I expected it to go back to normal after I had the baby, but it didn’t. It wasn’t until 9 months postpartum, after months of physical therapy, that I finally started to feel better. It took so long for me to feel better physically. It was about a year and a half where I was in pain every single day, causing me to have no chance of losing weight. This caused me to feel even worse about myself.
My baby is now 1 years old, and I don’t have my body back to where it was pre-pregnancy. My body is different, and that is okay. I am currently on a journey of learning how to love my body in every season. Instead of exercising to lose weight, I now exercise to be strong and healthy. Instead of dieting, I try to eat food that makes me feel more energized and good after I eat it. I am trying to learn how to not care about the way my body has changed. Things that have helped me were unfollowing every social media account that made me feel bad about the way I looked, whether it was intended (so I would buy their products) or not. I also started following people who are on the same self love journey as I am, who want to embrace their body and thank it for how much it has done for them. Another thing I did was read books and listened to podcasts about how to change my mindset and be grateful for who I am, and what I can do. The last thing I did was buy clothes that fit me. I went through and got rid of all of the clothes I was hanging onto and hoped that I would fit into again, because they made me sad. I then went and bought clothes that I felt good in, and that actually fit me. It seems simple, but it helped so much. If you are struggling with your body image, please know that you are not alone. I hope that you can find yourself on your own journey of self love too.