Our culture in the UK expects soooo much of new mothers. There are the pressures that we face around feeding our babies, newborn sleep and having a ‘good baby’.
(What the actual fuck?!)
Not only that, but we place a crushing expectation on ourselves to lose our baby weight and get back into the pre-baby jeans ASAP.
The pressure to ‘bounce back’ is real. What does that even mean anyway?!
Everywhere you look, be it on social media or mainstream journalism there are messages to new mums about the weight or size of their bodies. Look no further than the front of the magazines you see the shops or the accounts you follow on Instagram to see women being applauded for getting their pre-baby body back in just 2 weeks.
These messages are damaging to our mental health and they show a lack of love and respect for our beautiful bodies, directly after they’ve done arguably one of the most amazing things a human body can do. The ultimate in endurance with a little bit of everyday magic thrown in for good measure.
I was lucky enough to feel pretty good for most of my pregnancy so I kept up my regular exercise routine of yoga and weightlifting with some modifications and replaced high-intensity cardio with walking. I felt good in my self and my body and I am sure 9 months off the booze helped!
I ate intuitively, working with what my body told me it needed. I loved my pregnant body.
Fast forward to 1 week postpartum. Coming out of the haze of the first few days, I looked in the full-length mirror for the first time and was shocked at what I saw. Whos’ was this body? This wasn’t the beautiful body that had played host to my gorgeous little human for the best part of a year. This was someone fat and lazy who definitely ate too much Ben and Jerry’s when they were pregnant, or so my inner critic would have me believe and with friends like her; who needs enemies!?
I was not one of those mums who’s weight just fell off breastfeeding. It felt like my body was desperately clinging on to every pound in some sort of survival mechanism
I was embarrassed by my reflection and counted down the days until I could exercise again.
After the 6-week checkup at the GP, I went straight out to pound the pavement for a run. This was hands down one of the worst things I have ever put myself through. My muscles felt weak, my pelvic floor was completely fucked and honestly, it felt like my insides were going to fall out. It took me 2 years to pluck up the courage to run after that.
Why did I feel the need to conform to an unrealistic expectation of what my body could do?
Perhaps you felt the same?
Slowly but surely the narrative is starting to change. Certainly, in the 3 years since having my boy, I’ve noticed small changes in the way women are portrayed in the media and the expectations of our postpartum bodies.
Women are rebelling against the companies that tell us we are not good enough or thin enough or young enough.
Stretch lines become strength lines, a cesarean scar is a beautiful reminder of the baby that your body once grew and that pesky little wobble in your belly, well that’s a place where love actually lived!
Campaigns, like I weigh, are growing in momentum, a timely reminder you are worth a million times more than a number on a scale or a size in your jeans.
I have so much love for the women bold enough to share with us their postnatal body pics on social media, Beautiful, raw, untouched.
These women are reclaiming their postpartum and totally owning it. Acting as a powerful catalyst for bigger companies to up their game and acting more responsibly in how they communicate with us.
The mothercare campaign isn’t she beautiful was like a breath of fresh air. The cynic in me knows it was a bloody good bit of marketing but it has be be applauded for at least daring to take a baby step forward.
Self-love and body confidence is a journey, not a destination
After 3 years I am still coming to terms with how my body looks, and I don’t have all the answers, truth be told these words are written as much for myself as anyone else and a timely reminder that my body is totally awesome as I prepare to brave a bikini again on holiday.
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