Making Peace with My Postpartum Body

Postpartum body image is something so many women struggle with. After six babies, I’ve decided it’s time to make peace with my postpartum self and focus on two reassuring voices.

So many women deal with postpartum body image struggles. Learning to honor our bodies after pregnancy and birth may not be easy, but it is so important. I'm training myself to make peace with my postpartum body. Making Peace with My Postpartum Body

 

I was holding my baby with one hand, brushing my teeth with the other, and I saw it. I muttered out loud while getting ready for bed,

Ugh. That looks awful.

It wasn’t a dirty sink or dirty laundry on the floor. It had nothing to do with the state of my home but everything to do with the state of my postpartum profile.

Holding my 4 month-old baby, I looked about 4 months pregnant. And that wasn’t what I wanted to see.

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Momma friends, we are not always very kind to our postpartum selves. The versions of us that are rounder, softer, larger, and striped are not often the versions of us that we prefer. I feel it, too.

The weight loss following all of my pregnancies has been different to varying degrees, but one thing has been consistent: I’ve struggled to love my postpartum body, especially my tummy, during that first year after birth. This has been especially true for my last four babies.

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There are things that I know in my head but I have struggled to anchor in my heart. Facts have whispered at times while my own unrealistic expectations and disappointments have loudly droned on.

I know that important body fat increases during pregnancy in preparation for breastfeeding, slowly releases during lactation, but is not completely lost until weaning, if at all. I know this process looks different for every woman (source, source).

I know that rapid weight loss is typically not beneficial for successful breastfeeding (source).

I know that pregnancy does a number on tummy muscles, especially the transverse abdominus that holds everything tightly together, and that these muscles need time to heal.

I know that breastfeeding and holding a baby can get us in the habit of bad posture and alignment, and that makes tummy stick out more.

I know that I spent almost 30 years completely ignorant of diastasis recti, and after years of gymnastics, sit-ups, crunches, and other damaging exercises, plus six pregnancies and deliveries, my tummy muscles need a lot of time and grace.

I know these things. I know them, I know them, I know them. But at times my heart has forgotten and worried about the clothes left hanging in my closet and the husband I never want to disappoint.

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But I want to make peace with my postpartum body, and I’m focusing on the voices that reassure me.

After months of feeling like I needed to tighten my tummy and pull it in anytime my husband would hug me or affectionately touch my belly, I worked up the courage to tell him. I worry that my belly disappoints you.

He’s never said or done anything to plant that insecurity in my heart, but it was there because my shape has certainly changed since our wedding day and I feared he missed that version.

My fears are unfounded. He has so sweetly reminded me many times and in various ways that this nagging insecurity is far from reality. So when I view my belly that has brought our six children into the world and start to see fat, I force myself to replay his words and his loving actions that tell me otherwise.

There are things about my shape now that he loves and there is no wishing for me to look like I did before I started the miraculous journey of motherhood. He doesn’t see fat, stretch marks, loose skin, and bulge. He sees his wife, the one he considers beautiful, even when I have trouble seeing it myself.

And I’m replaying the many, many words of Beth Learn from Fit2B. I know I talk about Fit2B on this site regularly when pregnancy and fitness come up, but momma friends, her words so often hit my heart just when I need them.

On workouts and on our Facebook group, she reminds us that we have fat, but we are not fat. We have muscle and skin and hair, too, but we are none of those things.

That if we can allow our arms to get bigger from holding babies and toddlers all day then we owe that much grace to the bellies which grew those people.

That our bodies and bellies, which have done so much to bring life into our home, deserve honor and respect and most of all, time to heal.

When I exercise with Fit2B, my focus is not on skinny and dress size. I’m not punishing my body for the natural changes of pregnancy and birth.

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Though I do want to lose pregnancy weight and fit into more of my clothes, I am exercising to regain strength and function. I’m learning to appreciate my postpartum body, but honoring it enough to not accept a broken one.

I’m training my heart to listen to my mind and the reassuring voices I need. To look at my round tummy and bigger clothing sizes and admire the marvel of pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding.

And yes, even see beauty.

Momma friends, if you are struggling with the “mommy tummy” or weak core issues from pregnancy and birth/cesarean, or maybe just need a gentle but effective fitness program that will teach you to honor your body, please check out Fit2B. I recommend it so much because it has done so much for me! 

Making peace with my postpartum body 1

Have you struggled with the changes pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding have done to your body?

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10 Comments

  1. Does fit2be have a dvd option for those of us who have limited data and can’t watch the videos online? I really need to do something, my core muscles are so weak after 3 children. I wish i had known about wearing an ab splint postpartum. I want to have another baby soon but I’m afraid my hips and core will fall apart, that’s what it felt like with my last 2 pregnancies which were 8’11” and 9’8″ yikes!

    1. Whew… those were some big babies, Trisha! Way to go, Momma! And you’re very wise to want to work on your core after bringing those sweet babies into the world. Those muscles worked hard.

      Yes, Fit2B offers two DVD options which can be a great solution when you don’t have unlimited internet access. The first one to start with is called Beginning and the other more advanced one is Firm. Both on Amazon, so easy to get! Those are my affiliate links. 🙂 And I’m really glad you asked about that. I need to update this post with that information because you’re not the only one with limited data.

  2. What a beautiful and encouraging post, thank you for sharing your story.
    It is very important to be kind to our bodies in a culture that can be quite cruel. I had a real ‘mummy tummy’ with wide diastis, hernia and problematic scarring from my third c-section with no way to repair naturally. I had it repaired with a general surgeon and an (almost) free plastic surgeon due to its medical reconstructive nature. I never liked my mummy tummy nor did I like the new flat ‘improved’ tummy with hip to hip scar and mesh repair job because it felt fake and still didn’t look ‘right’, in fact I worry the scar makes me look shallow, that I’ll be judged. Fact was I didn’t like any change, just wanted to feel like the me I always remembered…
    My mum said ‘there’s only one constant and that’s change’ and that is so true when it comes to our bodies, whether through bearing children or moving through the decades. Knowing that, we can be kinder and more gentle with our bodies since they move us through life without too much complaint. It’s so true that we have physical attributes but they are not WHO we are!

    1. Wonderful thoughts, Mel, and so true. Like you I want to accept the natural way my body changes over time, not lament it and worry about it. Thank you for sharing from you heart!

  3. I’m a member of fit2b and Beth shared this. So beautiful! It brought tears to my eyes. You put intowords what I didn’t know bothered me; I don’t want to disappoint my husband. Thank you.

  4. I am convinced that my husband still sees the body he married! After eight children and years of breastfeeding, it sure isn’t the same! But he still desires it the same! He must still see that 21 year old body.. I’m way past that! How about 57?

    By the way… His body isn’t the same either! But I didn’t marry his body or his hair! I married him and who he is is much more important!

    Don’t beat yourself up! You body has just done an amazing thing and is providing food that is just right for your little one. Pregnancy and breastfeeding were my favorite times!

    1. That’s a great point, Mama! I don’t expect my husband to look the way he did when he spent hours lifting weights for college football. He takes great care of himself now (and I think he’s quite attractive!), but he looks different than when we got married. And I don’t mind one bit. In fact, I think the gray hairs starting to show look distinguished. 🙂

  5. I honestly bounced back pretty quickly with losing weight after each baby, but I AM trying to make peace with my “over age 35” body. Lol I know having 4 babies has stretched things out here and there and my middle-age slower metabolism is mocking me each time I step on the scale. I am relating to this post!

    1. Age definitely plays a part, too! I sometimes can’t get it in my head that I’m not in my 20s anymore. 😉