3 Things to do for your Postpartum Body instead of “Bouncing Back”

Currently, in my backyard, there are water bottles strewn everywhere. Earlier I had to clean up the mess that my dog made of himself because of playing with said water bottles that were innocently sitting outside to stay cool while my baby screamed her head off because she wanted my attention. Of course, as with any time I have to let my baby cry longer than a minute or two, I felt guilty the whole time I cleaned up a muddy dog, but there was nothing I could do about it.

I’m learning that being a mom means dealing with a lot more guilt every day than I could have ever imagined. I feel guilt about using my phone while I’m holding or nursing my baby. Guilt about where I put her down for naps or to sleep at night. Guilt about letting her sleep in my arms, and guilt about putting her down for a nap. Guilt about the fact that I am home all day but can’t get the house clean or cook dinner (just now realizing I’ve meant to put dinner in the crock pot, but didn’t). Guilt about having her out of the house too long…and the list goes on.

The last thing I need is to feel guilt about the way I look on top of all of the guilt that I fight every day.

I see it on my newsfeed from fitness-coach friends, on articles that pop up as ads on Facebook, in magazines that I get in the mail: there are just a thousand ways and products to spend money on to help moms “bounce back” after pregnancy. Tone up your “mom bod.” Be sure not to “let yourself go.”

I am reminded each day when I try to find clothes that fit that less than three months ago, my beautiful baby girl was being held and nourished inside of my body. While this should be a miraculous and beautiful realization, our culture that is obsessed with appearances causes me to often look at this body with fear- will it ever go back? And guilt- am I doing enough to “bounce back?”

I’m fighting this hard, though, because I think these are the last thoughts I need filling my mind. Insecurity isn’t new to me when it comes to my body, and more than ever, with a daughter I want to build an example for, I need to fight it. Here’s what I’m realizing new moms (and all moms, because let’s be real, not all of us ever fully “bounce back”) really need to worry about instead of bouncing back when it comes to our postpartum bodies:

  1. Nourishing- I’m breastfeeding, so I need to eat well over 2,000 calories a day to keep milk production up. It’s important to me that I try to eat as healthy as possible to pass the nutrients on to my baby. However, I know that some days require me to just eat whatever I can to keep calories up (grab and go takes on a whole new meaning when there isn’t time to sit down for a meal even when you are home all day). So nourishing my body feels a lot more important than dropping pounds or toning up. Surprisingly, my body has shed weight on it’s own when I treat it well by nourishing it and not worrying so much about it. At the same time, I know my body will probably keep on a certain amount of weight as I keep my calories up to nourish my baby.Instead of feeling guilt about what I eat and the fact that I can’t really diet right now, I want to appreciate the miracle my body is doing each day as it provides the perfect nutrition for my daughter.

    If you aren’t breastfeeding, or you’re past that stage in your baby’s life, a healing (and busy) body needs nourished no matter what. If you treat your body right in this way, it will probably do what it needs to do. That doesn’t mean you’ll be skinny or lose a ton of weight, but you’ll be healthy, which is so much more important.

  2. Strengthening it- I believe exercise is important, especially for health reasons. Moving my body in gentle ways that strengthen my muscles that I need to hold and support my baby makes me feel better about myself. Things I’ve done in the past like more intense cardio workouts and heavier lifting really aren’t working for me right now. Most new moms are probably a little too tired for all of that, not to mention the fact that we are still healing from the greatest workout of our lifetime; giving birth. Gentle movements like pilates or yoga and walking with my baby have been a way to strengthen my body and help it heal.At the same time, I have to fight forcing myself into it when I’m feeling too tired. I also have to fight the guilt I feel about not doing enough to “get my body back.” As new moms, we have to remember our purpose in working out really should be to strengthen and heal.

  3. Accepting it- This is so important, and something I may never fully accomplish. Accepting my postpartum body as my “new normal” has been hard, but certain things have helped. First, and most important, closet cleanouts and getting new clothes that fit. I will probably never be my old size, or at least my old shape, and I’m learning to be okay with that, but I need clothes that I feel good in. This is not about shopping and spending money just to do it, but instead buying things within my budget to help me feel good in my own skin. Hair cuts, pedicures, eyebrows, putting on a little makeup if I’m going out of the house- these things aren’t needed, but they help me accept and love my new normal.Do whatever it is that you need to help you get to the point of acceptance versus insecurity. If that involves a little bit of treating yourself, I think new moms (and all moms) deserve that once in awhile.

When I approach my postpartum body, I want to approach it from a place of love and acceptance instead of shame and guilt. As moms, our bodies have literally spent months making and nourishing the little babes we love and care for so much. The stretch marks and extra weight that we may now sport shouldn’t be looked at like flaws, though our culture might want us to believe differently. Rather than seeing flaws and feeling guilt when I look in the mirror, I want to remember the miracle my body has done and be grateful.

What my Newborn Told Me About Myself

What My Newborn Told Me About Myself

A year ago at this time was the first time I ever thought seriously about having a baby. Before that, there was a lot of convincing from my husband, but a lot of fear built up in me. The thought crossed my mind several times: Do I even want to be a mom, ever? I honestly didn’t think I could ever be ready to be a good one.

A year later, writing this with Gemma strapped to my chest in her carrier, I’m so thankful that God changed my mind. Truly, that is the only explanation for it- God wanted Gemma in the world, so he had his way with my heart. I’m forever grateful for the series of events that led me to finally, though hesitantly, decide I, just maybe, could be a mom: Nick bugging me about it to no end, my family in on the nagging, and a friend’s baby boy cuddling in the crook of my neck.

We were blessed that it happened quickly and in the timing I hoped for, but the beginning of my pregnancy brought a lot of fear and anxiety: What if I can’t do this? Somehow, when the hormones really kicked in, I became a little more calm and level headed. Towards the end, though I was so excited to meet my baby, I had no idea how I was going to handle being a mom. I’m not the most emotionally-stable person. Little things make me anxious, and a few little things building up can really make me panic. I’m selfish, too, and a bit of a control freak. These, among other flaws, scared me to death. How was I going to be a mom, let alone a good one?

When Gemma came into the world, there was no doubt. I was going to be a good mom- but I was going to have to break myself to do it.

I remember being so surprised in the hospital at how my new daughter was truly calm and content in my arms. I can remember exclaiming “She likes me!” surprisingly to my family surrounding me, and my mom and nana laughed. Of course she does, she knows who I am- I am her mom.

And from the first time she looked up at me, she began reshaping me. She told me who I was, and who I was going to become.

Since having Gemma, I’ve been faced with the sinful parts of me every day. The selfish part of me that wants to run on my own schedule. The impatient part of me that gets mad at everyone if she’s not having a good night of sleep (even though it is clearly no one’s fault), the anxious part of me that has a hard time trusting God with little things and big things. The self-reliant part of me that wants to solve everything on my own (by looking it up on the internet, of course).

As a believer, I’ve always wanted to “work on” these parts of me (and fix them on my own, somehow, of course) to become closer to God. I’ve tried countless times, and of course the best work that has been done in my heart has been done by God, not by myself, and often in ways I didn’t expect. For example, marriage has changed me and continues to change me in so many ways, though, like most newlyweds, I went into marriage thinking it would be pretty easy being married to my best friend, despite what anyone told me.

Being a parent, however, has broken me down in just two months and restructured parts of me that have been there all my life. Oh, how patient I had to become when Gemma screamed for hours in the evenings for three weeks straight. How selfless I had to become to push through with breastfeeding when I was in pain for over a month from oversupply. How much control I had to let go of as every little thing about taking care of a brand new baby made me anxious. How much I had to (and have to every day) rely on God to make all of this happen, and to continue this work on me to become the mom that Gemma needs me to be. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of how the hard work of motherhood will change me throughout my life.

Every time Gemma looks up at me with her big eyes, she tells me who I am. Though I know how selfish, impatient, and anxious I can be, she tells me I am loving, patient, kind, gentle, and trusting, because that is who God is making me through her.

I was fearful of being a mother because I was never going to be a good one on my own. But with God, working through the tiniest little love- through her smiles and cuddles and cries and coos- I am daily becoming the mom that Gemma needs me to be.

Being a mom has become one of my highest callings, along with being a wife, and to think of how much I feared it makes me laugh a bit now. I never thought I would be ready. Motherhood is something to fear in a way, as it is life changing, but I would have always been afraid and never ready. I didn’t become ready until the moment I met Gemma; holding her for the first time was all it took.

Not every woman’s calling is to be a mom, and that’s okay. But if you fear being a mom because you don’t know if you’ll be a good one, just know that one day, when a little miracle looks up at you for the first time, and every time after that, she’ll tell you who you are, and through the best and the hardest moments, you’ll become exactly the mom she or he needs.