Is there such thing as “getting your body back”?

“We literally have a new body after the baby is born! To realize and embrace this truth will not only free women from the oppressive notions that we have to ‘fix ourselves’ after having a baby, but also allow us to let our bodies heal properly (by being kind and gentle with ourselves in postpartum). I truly believe the more this is taught the more we will help moms enjoy being moms!”

“If you stay active during pregnancy,  your body will bounce right back after baby”, “After the baby is born you can work on getting your body back”, “How long did it take you to get your body back after having the baby?”

How many of us moms have heard phrases like these? Our culture and society tends to treat pregnancy and birth like a temporary disability where we are “not quite as attractive as we could be” and that we should get back to our “normal shape/size” as soon as we can after the baby is born. I am calling a big, fat FALSE on this untrue and HURTFUL suggestion!

A new baby means a new mom. After having my first son, while I was working on my prenatal/postpartum training education, I learned specifically what happens to a woman’s body biologically during pregnancy and childbirth. I was amazed at ALL that happens! We literally have a new body after the baby is born! To realize and embrace this truth will not only free women from the oppressive notions that we have to “fix ourselves” after having a baby, but also allow us to let our bodies heal properly (by being kind and gentle with ourselves in postpartum). I truly believe the more this is taught the more we will help moms enjoy being moms!

What are some of the specific cultural concepts I want to expel or push the boundaries on when it comes to the mom’s body during and after pregnancy?

  1. You are fat when you are pregnant and should remedy that as soon as possible when baby is born. Ok mama, first of all, being pregnant is NOT being fat. Completely different. And what is this phobia we have with body fat any how? I mean yes, of course a high percentage of body fat is correlated with certain serious diseases and can even shorten your lifespan. BUT carrying a little extra fat is NOT bad. In a world obsessed with image, there are some messed up ideas about what HEALTHY is. You can be skinny and be healthy. You can be big and be healthy. Heck, you can even be fit and/or skinny and be UNHEALTHY!! Also, after having a baby, you will carry a little extra fat. IT IS NORMAL. Your body is recovering from a traumatic process and you are (maybe) creating all the nutrition for another human being. You need a little extra reserve right now.
  2. At 6 weeks you can resume all the activities you did before being pregnant. Nope, nope, nope. Some women heal from childbirth very quickly. But most of us take time to heal. Do you know the healing period for the pelvic floor muscles after pregnancy? 4-6 MONTHS! Think about that! Do you think doing a bunch of squat jumps is the best idea at less than 2 months postpartum? For most of us, no! I think this guideline should be changed to: “you may start light exercises once your pelvic floor physio has checked you and cleared you. And you should progress from intentional core connection exercises where you make sure your body is activating its muscles correctly” (because all the stretching and overloading from the last 9 months can definitely mess up this sequencing that was once so automatic).
  3. If you exercise throughout pregnancy you will be able to “bounce back quicker”. I am a firm believer that exercising (specific to the individual) is beneficial for the mother and baby in pregnancy. I do also think it can have positive effects on the mother’s body after baby is born. BUT we need to examine specifically what this exercise is and what it is achieving. Doing back squats as 75% your max may feel like a modification good enough for your pregnancy, but what is it really doing to the body? Are you bearing down to perform this task? Then you may think your fine but that poor pelvic floor and ab muscles are probably being damaged in the process. I emphasize to all my mom clients that after having a baby, you are starting at 0. You need to FIRST HEAL. And when the healing is well underway you need to progress appropriately and carefully back from your 0. Some muscles may feel “unaffected” by the pregnancy process, but the supportive/integral muscles were affected and you need to let them be your deciding factor when you progress an exercise. What??? Confused? That’s why experts like myself do what we do. I am always taking courses that help me to be educated on how to help my clients do this. This nitty-gritty work isn’t as fun as going out for a 6 mile run at 3 months postpartum. But it is necessary for the proper rehabilitation time of postpartum. AND it will save you from having to be rehabilitated for YEARS instead of months! Take the slow road and you will get to your goal even faster!

Ok, I’ve ranted a lot. I definitely have more thoughts on this BUT I’ll save those for another time. I guess I just want you to start thinking for yourself about the messages being sent you day-in, day-out and whether they are helpful or hurtful to your health (physically, emotionally, mentally). Because the TRUTH is, dear mama, your body just created, carried, delivered a human being! That is HUGE. I hope you honor your body, thank your body, respect your body and it’s needs. Don’t “punish it” for not being what you thought it should be. Be respectful of yourself and everything will fall into place!

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