Beyond the bump…embracing our postnatal bodies

Where’s my body gone……..?

You can finally see your feet – a small but significant event after having a baby – that and being able to actually see whilst you shave your legs!   Having a baby has meant your body has gone through changes nothing short of miraculous but not everyone feels able to celebrate their own postnatal body.   But before you launch into a bout of promises and resolutions that may be at best unobtainable – I’m going to be like Victoria Beckham by the end of the month, exercise like Davina…… you know the thing, we want you to take stock of what you have actually achieved.   Take a moment to look, really study this beautiful and incredible little human you have grown.   You did this.  OK your partner may have done his bit too, but your body grew and nourished this ‘mini-me’ and did so for 9 months.

You may have stretch marks where before you had none, you may find sagging skin and thread veins and even a bulging tum but we would certainly recommend waiting at least three months before starting any intense exercise or strict diet regime.  It’s true the media – and social media, show women who apparently just pop back into place but in reality, you are never the same postnatally as you were before – you are now an improved and enhanced superwoman.  After all, look at what you have done!  With a healthy diet and exercise that starts relatively easy and then increases as you feel stronger, both your physical and your mental health will improve.  You will see photos of women, 4 days postpartum running/shopping/at award ceremonies……..don’t believe it.  Getting out of the shower and dressed is achievement enough, trust me!

A survey in 2013 by the Royal College of Midwives found that women who carried baby weight after delivery suffered with negative self-esteem issues and a considerable number felt under pressure to return to their form size and shape.    With most women – particularly those who do not have access to personal trainers/nutritionists/therapists and hairdressers to follow them around, I would say it takes a year to recover from having a baby.  And during that time, your body, mental health and life in general is all getting used to this new way of life – a life with a baby and this needs to be celebrated!   Your body will recover and you will fit into non-maternity clothes – trust me!  However, sometimes we never get our pre-pregnancy body back but that’s ok too.  This one you have now will, if looked after, allow you to feed your baby, run, dance and jump on the trampoline with your child (if you have done your pelvic floor that is!) and see your child grow.  Please do not be hard on yourself or your friends.   In spite of having 9 months of preparation, becoming a parent always comes as a shock.  You set out to have a baby but what you get is a complete and total takeover of your life!  Your baby does not need perfect – they just need you.

If you are having trouble coming to terms with your new life after having a baby, we would strongly recommend you talk to your midwife, health visitor or doctor.  Please do not suffer alone, there are many services to help and work with you.