A lot of my friends have recently had babies, are pregnant, or have been moms for a long time. It is a very interesting, exciting, and scary journey going through a pregnancy, birth, and possible breast feeding. Your body goes through the physical metamorphosis of a lifetime and sometimes your brain does not have time to catch up with your ever changing shape. It can be very overwhelming to see your breast enlarge to proportions you never thought possible, to see stretch marks, loose skin, and a stomach that you think cannot get any bigger and then manages to do so. The most frustrating thing after I had my children was coping with my pregnancy choices after the baby was born. With both of my daughters, I gained between 40-50 pounds. It was not an easy road getting those extra thirty pounds off of my body. Plus, its not like you have built in chefs, nanny services, and personal trainers to help you on this journey. What I learned from seeing my body change over two pregnancies, years of breast feeding, and losing 40-50 pounds (twice) are these little gems that I am going to share with my new, almost, and current mommies who may be struggling with body image:
1. YOU popped out a human being. YOU made a person. YOU did that! YOU are a superhero and YOU can do anything you put your mind to doing!
2. Sometimes the frustration with the physical changes of having a baby are representative of the frustration of the huge life changes that have taken place. I HAD to get my body back. Not because I want to look like Jessica Alba (I lie, I would kill to have her body) but because I NEEDED to have that piece of myself back. I have always been an athlete and I needed my physical body and the escape of exercise to feel like me. I needed to have some part of the old Jane back as a reminder that I am not just MOM or WIFE. I still have my own identity. Find that "thing" that makes you feel like you and connect with it. It may be mountain climbing, yoga, zumba, crossfit, running, swimming, martial arts, kettlebells, or walking/hiking. Find it. It will keep you sane and feeling like yourself. I did videos at home and eventually, when the girls were older, ventured to the Y and put them in the babysitting.
3. Not only are their physical changes that come along with being a mommy, but there are psychological changes, hormonal changes, and relationship changes that are not always easy or fun to deal with. Surround yourself with honest, loving friends who you can be your most authentic self with. Sharing the battles of new mommyhood together brings a bond like nothing else. Moms often need another mother to say, "This blows!!! I want my life back!" Do not be afraid to say "This sucks and some days I want out!" As much as you love your beautiful children, your newly found role as a mother, and your superhuman powers to be everything to everyone, sometimes it sucks and it is brave, not weak, to say so!
4. Get your spouse on board. Talk to them candidly about how you are feeling emotionally and physically. Let them help you. Nate and I went to the gym together. Honest to God, he would wear Molly in the baby carrier while we walked on the treadmill and talked. We would also cook together which was so much fun! Especially if you are working on one income and money is tight, a fun cooking session in the kitchen together can be better than an expensive dinner out. Do a yoga video together after baby goes to bed. Take a walk around your neighborhood with the baby in the stroller. Most likely your husband may have gained a few on those late night food runs, too and may want to release a few pounds. You need each other more than ever now in your journey as parents!