Two months ago we welcomed a beautiful baby girl into our family. There are so many special moments that come with finally meeting your child. It’s like a being on a honeymoon, the experience is full of excitement and jubilation. The first burst of elation after delivery, the first glimpse of features, the coos, the snuggles and all of the precious little moments are simply incredible. I could write on and on about it! However, this post is meant to highlight another aspect of motherhood. The postpartum body.
Unfortunately, women are inundated with the idea of “bouncing back” shortly after they deliver their child. We glorify losing baby weight as if it is a mark of good character. We comment on it, we ask what workout plan or diet will be started now that the baby is born and we offer “advice.” Not only that, but it seems that everywhere you turn there is a magazine, news article, or social media post on “How I Lost My Baby Weight in 2 Weeks and Have a Six Pack!” Okay, maybe two weeks is a tad facetious, but you get the point. The thing is, on top of everything that comes with adjusting to a new baby, a mother is also quite aware of her changed body.
I am still very early in my postpartum journey, yet I have already felt the pressure to lose my baby weight as soon as possible. I have found myself falling into the trap. The “hurry and lose it!” trap. The comparison trap. The insecure trap. The timeline trap. All of it. I wish I could say that some combination of education, body-positive talk and knowledge on the societal pressures placed on women could grant me immunity from experiencing this, but it hasn’t. Sadly, this persistent pressure has been experienced by most (if not all) mothers at some point.
One afternoon, while complaining about my postpartum frustrations to my husband, it hit me. Now my husband is a matter of fact person. He somehow has mastered the art of being his authentic self in almost every scenario, a trait I truly wish I had. So when I say things to him, I can always count on a sincere response or reflection. Maybe it has to do with his Latin roots or maybe it is simply his personality, nonetheless he doesn’t sugarcoat. So that afternoon as I was grumbling over the complaints I had regarding my body, he simply turned to me and said, “Em, enough. You are an amazing mother, you are beautiful and your body is exactly how it is supposed to be.”
Exactly how it is supposed to be.
Wow. He was right. My body is exactly how it is supposed to be. My body has changed in order to support our child’s needs and it is doing an impeccable job. I am not saying this in a light or flippant manner, the postpartum body is truly astonishing. After noticing how quickly my mind can shift into negative self talk, I have been making an effort to note the amazing things I have learned about my changed body. And it is time that we as mothers savor in the glory and power that our bodies hold. Let me share with you a little bit about why the postpartum body is amazing and why I love mine.
I can regulate my baby
If my little one is fussy, tired, scared, hungry, needy, or hurt, I can soothe her almost instantly (most of the time!) During pregnancy she was part of me. So now hearing me, smelling me, or being close to me is comforting…it’s home. I have never been able to regulate someone the way I can with our daughter. My ability to soothe her is amazingly powerful and I am so thankful that I get to experience it. Ironically, I write this as my previously fussy and needy infant is laying on my chest, now peacefully asleep.
I can sustain my baby
I have the power to provide all of the nourishment my baby needs. The fact that I can sustain another human’s life on my own is incredible. My body can create the perfect blend of sustenance for her development. If she is going through a growth spurt, then my body will make more milk. If she is sick, my body will make more antibodies. These are not small feats! This is all due to the highly intelligent human body. It is remarkable.
My senses are extremely sharp
With a new baby, our senses change and a heightened sense of awareness hits on multiple levels. My intuition, feelings, sounds, smells, and my sense of sight are all on high alert. While other areas may struggle (mom brain is real for example) these aspects do not seem to falter. Being able to distinguish between different cries and facial expressions in order to respond accordingly is quite empowering.
My body’s needs adjust quickly
People talk a lot about getting sleep with a newborn. In fact, this is a whole other topic that holds a lot of judgment and external pressure. While it is true, my sleep has definitely taken a toll…I am also amazed at how well my body has acclimated to this lack of sleep. Yes, it was really difficult during the early weeks, though eventually my body started to get use to it. Naps are divine of course and I have learned that passing one up is almost always a mistake. However, the ability to acclimate to this lack of sleep is phenomenal. A mother’s body is designed to function just as she needs to after a child is born. We may be tired, but we are perfectly equipped to keep functioning even with very little sleep.
These days, I am working on being mindful of where my thoughts wander when I start to focus on my body. I want to relish in the amazing things my postpartum body has offered my child and myself. To forget all of this and exert the bulk of my attention to how quickly I need to “bounce back” would be a shame. So yes, my body is different now, I may not always be happy about it, I may not always look on the bright side, I may still find myself falling into traps here and there…but in all reality, this body is quite extraordinary and it is exactly how it is supposed to be.
-Written by Emily De La Torre, LMHC