If you’re a mom and you’re on Instagram you’ve probably seen the hashtags #postpartumgoals #postpartumweightloss #postpartumbody all over your suggested feed. Our culture has an absolute obsession with “getting your pre-baby body back.”
New mamas are literally bombarded with exercise regimes and diets to get you “bikini-ready” right after baby. There is no grace period. No pause to honour what the body has just done (BRB, just made a miracle!). No honouring of the postpartum period or drawing boundaries around the sacred but oft-forgotten three months after birth known in some circles as the fourth trimester.
Almost every traditional culture in the world has protocols around the first 40 days after childbirth – and they have nothing to do with calorie counting and cardio. Rest, nourishment and restoration are the orders of the day. The logic is sound – take this time to heal and feed your body, to bond with your baby and to be supported by your community and you will be less likely to experience postpartum depletion, postpartum depression and potentially even avoid fertility or a hormonal health crisis in the future. Read more about it here. But somehow, modern Western culture has missed the memo. And so we’ve swapped these deeply nourishing practices for salads, scales and selfies. All in a bid to get our “body back.”
For starters, let’s just be clear that the postpartum period is hands down the absolute worst time to be pushing yourself physically, punishing yourself mentally, or restricting your diet. It’s not the right time to try and get out of your pajamas, much less try to squeeze yourself into a bikini. But beyond that, why do we want our bodies “back” to begin with?
I DON’T WANT MY BODY BACK
I for one don’t want my “pre-baby body” back. Yes, I look forward to feeling lean and strong again. But why on earth would I want to go backwards? I want to move forward and embrace the wisdom and experience of my “mom bod.” That pre-baby body didn’t grow and birth and feed three beautiful babies. That body was beautiful but meaningless.
Before I had babies, I didn’t know the range of my body or how much it could hold. I didn’t know how vast, how supple my heart was. I didn’t know the depth and fierceness of Wild strength held in my reserves. I hadn’t met the warrior within. I hadn’t yet heard the ancient wisdom drummed into my bones by my mother and grandmothers and great-great grandmothers. Nor had I unraveled the red thread of their stories. I hadn’t stayed awake, laboring for days on end to bring a life into the world. I hadn’t yet danced to that rhythm of intensity, sensation and surrender. I didn’t know how miraculous this body is. Or what my limits were. I hadn’t faced the heartbreak and humbling surrender of birthing my babies under a surgical spotlight. I hadn’t made peace with that. I hadn’t held the weight of my babies in my arms. Or withstood night after night of broken sleep simply to be of service to them. I had no idea what I was capable of. I was a maiden. Not a mother.
THE BEAUTY OF THE POSTPARTUM BODY
A portrait of my postpartum body: A softly rounded belly – now empty, echoes its former fullness- a reminder of the lives I held inside. The sagging skin a testimony to my shapeshifting. Wider hips and general juiciness are souvenirs of spending more than 5 years being in the full bloom of pregnancy and breastfeeding, being blessed with three beautiful babies.
My breasts serve their highest purpose- not to be pretty and pornographically perky but to be endlessly nourishing, a soft and warm resting place for my babies. My layers of scars are a reminder that my body has been a portal for life. And that healing happens. My body is not tight or taught or perky or #fitspo or #inspo. But it has been brushed with the patina of motherhood. And I would never trade the stories and wisdom and experience that are now written into my cells for airbrushed abs or tits that stand at attention.
So you can keep your bikini boot camps and your salad challenges and your body bashing. Rather than retreating into the outmoded form of a past, less experienced self, I’m expanding into my full expression as a woman and a warrior.
Rather than trying to beat my body backwards into some pre-baby form, I’m moving forward with gratitude. I smile at the sagging skin and soft belly and bow to my bouncy buttocks and heavy breasts. Grateful. Grateful for all this body, and for the life and the legacy of love that has sprung forth from its depths.
If you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down, read this post on why obsessing over how flat your stomach might make you miss the real opportunity that birth and the postpartum period present.