Come November 11th (or whenever baby girl decides to make her debut), I feel like me trying to get my pre-pregnancy body back would be like me trying to get my 8th grade body back. I’ll be in a completely different life stage with a body that is right for that life stage.
Bodies are made to journey. They are made to change. Our society promotes staying the same, being obsessed with a certain body size, and if you get away from that body size begin making efforts to return to prior body size ASAP.
Postpartum I will continuing choosing how I want to care for myself…and that has nothing to do with aiming to end up at a particular body size. For me, taking care of myself involves nurturing a spiritual life, investing in relationships, talking about my feelings (my least favorite one…but necessary), eating consistently throughout the day (I’m a 3 meals and 2-6 snacks kinda of person), eating what my body is craving, being curious about new hobbies I want to try out, and doing movement that feels good. I’ll be doing those things because they make me a complete person, not because they guarantee a certain body size.
I’ve mentioned before how people talk about gaining the “Freshman 15” / “sophomore spread” / “junior jump” in college like it’s something to be avoided. In college, that body change is just your body going from a teenager’s body to an adult body. Your body is supposed to change and stay changed. Pre pregnancy to post pregnancy is no different. Your body is supposed to change.
Something that has been a bit scary for me in pregnancy was the worry that I’d be upsetting the balance of peace I had finally found in being my current body size. When I fully immersed myself in intuitive eating and intuitive movement my body gained weight and then I stayed around that weight for years. Now with pregnancy it’s like, “oh boy, here we go again. My body is off to find a new size.” I believe body sizes are made to journey and this time has still been an experience in self-compassion for me.
I know the way to find peace in my body size is to find peace and fulfillment with things outside of my body size / food / exercise. However, I knew my body was / is about to change the most it ever has in a 9 months period. The speed with which some of these changes come on in pregnancy makes it hard to wrap my head around one before BOOM I’ve got another body change and another. I believe these changes are excellent practice for preparing me for the changes / uncertainty of motherhood. I really do! Most days I view the changes with excitement and appreciation and a “ohmygosh this is the coolest thing my body has done” feeling and other days it’s new and I feel very neutral about the body changes :) Some changes I’ve noticed at 24 weeks pregnant:
- At breakfast with a friend Monday morning I was sitting at a table, eating a crepe, when I felt my hand touch my stomach. It was a place where my stomach usually doesn’t bulge out to and I was like, “whoa! what is that?! Oh. It’s my body. Okay. That’s new.” I told the friend about the experience…and then we moved on to talking about something far more interesting to me than my body size. Another friend I was recently at breakfast with mentioned that a couple months after giving birth to her kiddo she put her hand on her hip and was like, “what is that?!” What she was feeling was her hip bones were now in a different place than they were before. Changes!
- I’m more soft and fleshy now and look pregnant. Recently, someone told me I looked chubby. Yep. It was an interesting comment. At the time the comment kinda caught me off guard and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. In the moment I said, “there are far more interesting things to talk about than my body size.” Having had time to process it, in the future I’d say, “I hope I look chubby. That’s how my body should be looking right now.” I love that Eat, Pray, Love scene where Javier Bardem and Julia Roberts are swimming in the ocean and he tells her she’s soft and fleshy like it’s the best thing ever. I channel that scene when I’m feeling particularly soft and fleshy :)
- There is no better way to describe my body right now than mammalian. It’s really the best word I can come up with. I don’t mean it with a negative connotation…it’s just natural. I remember going to the zoo as an adult and seeing a mom and baby elephant together for the first time. The mom elephant had huge breasts and it was like, “whoa!” If you’ve seen an elephant who just had a baby then you know that elephant breasts are quite a sight! I’m not saying I feel like an elephant. I’m just saying that the mom elephant looked so different than any elephant I had ever seen before and it took me a while to get used to how that mom elephant looked. For me, every day is a new day to accept and embrace how this new body of mine looks…because it is different.
Postpartum I won’t be pursuing getting my pre pregnancy body back. I may want to. I’m sure I’ll feel foreign in my body and small talk conversations with people will be laced with their comments about putting forth effort to get that pre-pregnancy body back.
I can see why focusing on getting one’s pre-baby body back would be very appealing when life seems out of control as one is trying to care of a child that they don’t know how to care for and probably will feel like they don’t even know how to care for oneself anymore. Having laser focus on getting a certain body size back would be a way to cope with the situation while also numbing away from it. That’s not how I want to cope with the situation…because focusing on that would just be a distraction for the experience of motherhood. Mom’s out there may be like, “umm you’re going to want a distraction. It’s exhausting.” But I’d much prefer netflix as a distraction than blaming my body size for the stress of motherhood.
I’m sure I’ll have thoughts of, “holy crap this body feels so different…I feel uncomfortable.” But how I choose to cope won’t involve running to food rules or exercise. It’ll involve addressing the fact the I just gave birth and now this is overwhelming and I’m exhausted and this is how this life stage is going to be and there is nothing wrong with my body size being exactly what it is in this moment and somedays it’s really tough and some moments feel like beautiful magic & happiness.
That said…I feel it’s okay to feel the pressures of wanting thinness and feeling ourselves desiring to believe the myth, which is that thinness will bring us contentment and fulfillment. Feeling uncomfortable in one’s body can feel crippling at times (I know. I’ve felt it before.) and I don’t think that’s something people talk about that much. Instead of talking about how we can accept our natural body size for a certain life stage / what that crippling feeling of being uncomfortable in our bodies is really signaling, the majority of society instead focuses on what we should eat / shouldn’t eat / the steps we’re taking to get our pre-pregnancy body back asap.
I want to be a person who is at peace with her body changing size throughout her life. I always found it difficult to live an interesting life when I was obsessed with keeping my body size the same. My big picture goals for me are health and happiness. I know striving for weight loss / overeating / restriction / over exercise provides temporary excitement and / or distraction. However, it’s a myth that weight loss or disordered behaviors are going to solve my problems. Basing your worth off your body size will always lead to an unfulfilling and disappointing life because body’s are made to change. To the person who finds meaning and purpose in their body size, I imagine aging has to be terrifying because your body will look different at 45 than it does at 27. How much easier would that journey in aging be if your sense of self wasn’t tied to your body size? I feel like my eating disorder stunted my sense of self and I’m in year 7 of building and molding what that sense of self looks like.
Moral of the story: Just like my body knows how to gain weight in pregnancy, my body will know how to find the size that is right for it after birth. I have no idea how postpartum is going to feel or how it’s going to affect me. These are just some thoughts on how I’m feeling now. I hope this post is beneficial to moms, pregnant women, future pregnant women, non-pregnant women, and maybe even the men supporting women out there:)