I gave birth to a beautiful, 9 lb, 21 inch baby boy this summer. Lucky to have had a smooth, relatively easy pregnancy (pandemic aside), I was equally grateful for an uneventful c-section and despite some rougher days early on, a relatively quick recovery this 4th time around. I know this is not the case for everyone…it certainly was not the case in all my previous pregnancies but this time around, it is how my journey unfolded.
I worked out 5-6 days a week throughout my pregnancy, including the day of my scheduled delivery. I also loosely tracked what I ate (as I did pre-pregnancy) but allowed myself to lean into cravings and tried to not worry about the scale too much.
Fitness is a huge part of my life. It is my self-care, time just for me, and an important part of my mental health. So I knew I would be anxious to resume some level of activity pretty soon after the baby arrived. Not because I needed to get my pre-baby body back immediately, but because I needed to preserve that outlet for myself.
Now, maybe it is because social media wasn’t as central in the world when my other kids were born, but instead of feeling encouraged to pursue movement and my own path to recovery after delivering, I was surprised to feel a little ashamed. It almost seems like there are two camps postpartum: you should do everything you can to snap back instantly after baby OR if you aren’t solely caring for your baby and giving yourself space to recover, you’re doing it wrong. I know these are probably extremes…but these are the messages I felt like I was seeing over and over:
Get your abs back!
Don’t get off the couch!
10 ways to lose the baby weight fast!
Eat to nourish your body and don’t worry about the weight!
No excuses – just return to your pre-pregnancy size by all means possible.
Love your body as it is – if you want it to change, you don’t appreciate what it has done for you.
And because I didn’t feel like I fell into either one of those broader categories, I started to feel kind of embarrassed when I would plan to do a little workout instead of sleep when the baby napped. Conversely, I also felt guilty when I would give in to resting with the baby all day and eating whatever I wanted because it seemed indulgent vs. restorative.
I didn’t feel like I could celebrate my return to the gym, but then also felt like I had to justify that I wasn’t feeling totally comfortable in my own skin just yet.
I applaud the moms on both sides.
Everyone should have the space to make their postpartum journey their own. But instead of knocking each other down when that journey doesn’t look identical to our own, can’t we just embrace the individuality that comes with recovering from having a baby? Can’t I both love my body as it is right now AND want to continue down a path that allows me to feel my best?
We can own our postpartum experiences without referencing anyone else or anything else. And I am trying to do a better job of keeping my eyes on my own paper, so to speak. I can choose to ignore any message that doesn’t align with my own beliefs and just be proud of where I am at and where I am going.
Because postpartum is a journey with no real destination – it is forever.