Making Peace With Your Postpartum Body: It's an Inside Job
Updated: Apr 22, 2021
True conversation while pregnant with my first baby:
Me: “My belly is showing. I can buy maternity pants now. I’m so excited!”
BFFC (Best Friend From College): “Why don’t you just buy some bigger pants Marci? That way, you’ll have something to wear after having the baby.”
Me: “I won’t need it. I’ll be fine”.
I was healthy, after all. Everyone I saw (models, Kardashians) seemed to bounce back. Why wouldn’t I? I had no idea.
2 weeks after birthing that baby:
I am limping through Target while my baby sleeps in the car (don’t worry- husband is also in the car!) shopping for… you guessed it…pants that fit.
Here’s the thing. No one told me that it could take many months, even a year, for my body to feel recovered. But here is the bigger thing. My perfectionism and high expectations of myself and of my body, traits that had served me well in the past and helped me achieve so much, would not serve me now. As for having patience and gentleness with myself- not my strong suit.
If I could go back in time, and take all that I have learned, not only about the physical recovery from pregnancy and childbirth, but also about being patient and gentle, not only for my children but also for myself, here is how that conversation might go:
Me: “Dammit body, why can’t you look like you did before?”
DS (Deeper Self): “I conceived. I grew a baby inside of me. I birthed that baby. My body feeds that baby. Isn’t that wondrous?”
Me: “Yes body, it is…. What do you need, body?”
DS: “Slow down, Marci. I am working for you. All. day. long. Please respect me. Please listen deeply to my needs.”
Me: “What do you need in this moment, body?”
“I need to rest”
“I need to walk in nature”
“I need to feel sun on my face”
“I need you to put me to bed early”
“I need you to feed me kind thoughts”
Or- insert anything else my DS might say, as it changes moment to moment.
Someone like me, a Physical Therapist, can help you to get your muscles stronger and your body functioning well after having a baby, so that you can mother in a body that is strong and capable. As for body image itself- that is an INSIDE JOB. It’s a journey. I know, because I am on that journey too. I believe it starts with the conversations we have every day- in our heads, and with our bodies.
I invite you to slow down, and take that conversation deeper. Get quiet. Place your hands on your belly, the center of your body. Breath into your hands. There is such great wisdom held in our bodies. There is a conversation. Deeply attune to yourself and your needs. It can be as simple as asking yourself “what do I need right now?” For me, the invitation was to learn to mother myself with the same patience and gentleness I would give my children.
Let us women model for our children the confidence that comes with giving ourselves grace, allowing imperfections, and loving our beautiful and capable bodies exactly as they are in this moment.