I have a mom bod. Things are flabbier, saggier, and squishier than before I gave birth to my daughter last year. And by “things,” I mean my stomach, boobs, butt, arms … need I go on?
It’s been hard coming to terms with my new body (before I continue, let’s acknowledge this is a #firstworldproblem). When I was six months postpartum, I swear a waiter looked pointedly at my still-rounded belly before handing me a complimentary glass of champagne at a cocktail reception. I spent the rest of the night self-consciously sucking in my gut. The next day, the Spanx came out.
But the day after that, I got to thinking about my body and the changes it’s been through in the past year and a half. Learning to like my new body is a work in progress. But I’m getting there with a little help from the mantras below. If you’re living in a mom bod, I hope these help you too.
Acknowledge Your Body’s Greatness
Throughout my pregnancy, I attended a gentle yoga class where the instructor offered modifications for the pregnant women in the room. As she described the safe way for us to practice a pose, she would always introduce the modifications by saying, “For those of you growing a human, do X, Y, and Z.” And then she would say, “For those of you not growing a human, do A, B, and C…” and she would explain that version of the pose. It was the perfect reminder that although my body couldn’t do some things – like deep twists or crunches or even a simple reach for the toes by the end of nine months – it was already doing a heck of a lot.
So let’s pause here. You created a human! I mean, WOW! A whole person is here who wasn’t here before, and you made that happen. In your own body. It blows the mind.
Instead of sighing when you catch sight of your stretched-out belly button or the linea nigra that just won’t fade, refocus that emotion. Those physical signs are reminders of everything you went through to bring your son or daughter into the world. When I’m able to change my self-criticism into wonder at my daughter’s existence, my imperfect body suddenly seems a lot more perfect.
Even if you didn’t carry your child yourself, your body is likely still showing the battle scars of this journey. It might be dark shadows under your eyes from all the sleepless nights. Or perhaps you’re dealing with reduced muscle mass because you never have time for the gym anymore. Whatever it is that bothers you about your body, try to turn it into gratitude instead. Thank that body for getting you through the days and for giving you the strength to parent your child, even when you’re running solely on coffee.
Flaunt Your Assets
Words my husband never thought I’d say: “This is what I’d look like with a boob job!”
Shortly after my daughter was born, I had cleavage for the first time in my life. My B cups (on a good day) had ballooned into Ds, literally overnight. Seasoned moms tell me to enjoy it while I can because 365+ days of nursing zaps that perkiness and bounce right out. Forever. For now, I’m embracing my newfound cleavage with all the v-neck shirts and dresses I can get my hands on. Bonus: It’s actually a lot easier to nurse in low-cut tops.
I’m giving you permission, nay, demanding, that you flaunt your assets. Not to conform to any societal ideal, mind you, but to help you feel confident again in your own skin. You know that cesarean section scar looks bad ass – so wear that teeny bikini! Feeling like your arms are extra strong from hauling your baby around all day? Get some sleeveless tops!
On the other hand, maybe you’re reading this while thinking “I hate every part of my body right now.” There are still ways to fight that feeling. New jewelry, painted toenails, fly kicks, or a haircut (which also means “me” time!) can go a long way toward helping you feel better about your postpartum body, whether it’s been 10 weeks or 10 years since your child was born.
Lastly, never underestimate the power of clothing that actually fits right and feels comfortable. I finally gave in and bought two new pairs of jeans in the months after my daughter’s birth. My old ones didn’t fit well anymore, and it made me unhappy every time I pulled them on. Don’t do that to yourself. There’s enough stress in your life already.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
A few months ago, I was idly scrolling through old photos on my phone while nursing. I came across a picture from fall 2016 and could hardly believe it was me. I’m standing in our building’s gym, wearing a sports bra and workout leggings. My arms are toned. My stomach is flat. My abs are (slightly) defined. A complex mix of feelings surged through me as I looked at that prior incarnation of myself: envy, awe, pride, shame. Damn, I used to look good! I wish I still looked like that … I’m so jealous of my old self!
The comparison game is a deadly one. Whether you’re comparing yourself to friends or celebrities or yourself, it can be a quick confidence zapper. Even in the course of writing this post, I fell down an Instagram black hole when I looked up the hashtags #mombod and #bodyafterbaby. Who were all these women who had six-packs six months after giving birth? How did they have the time or energy to work out?
Comparing yourself to others can be motivating and empowering, but it can also make you feel inadequate and frustrated. If it’s the latter, it’s probably time to take a break from the comparison game. Put a moratorium on social media, if necessary. Don’t dig up those photos from before you got pregnant, especially when your baby is only a few weeks old. Remind yourself that just as your body’s experience of pregnancy was uniquely your own, so too is your postpartum body’s journey.
When you’re with a group of moms and starting to size yourself up (pun intended), see if you can instead compliment someone (yes, that “someone” can be yourself). I floated on cloud nine all day when a woman I hardly knew told me, “Wow, you totally killed those push-ups!” during a “baby and me” class. She inspired me to start telling my mom friends how amazing they are. It’s a lot more satisfying to do that than to catalogue the ways my body fails to match up to my old standards. Which leads me to the final mantra…
Give Yourself a Break
In my pre-motherhood days, I worked out all the time. If I didn’t go to spin class 2-3 times per week, I’d get cranky. The other days, I’d lift or go to yoga. I biked or walked to and from work. This active lifestyle carried me through my pregnancy too – at 39 weeks, one of the spinning instructors warned, “I better not see you here next week!” At 40 weeks, I was still lifting.
Given my active lifestyle, it’s probably not surprising that I was worried about how having a baby would affect my workout routine. I assumed I’d be racing to the gym as soon as I got clearance from my doctor. But that’s not what happened at all. My priorities had shifted. When my husband came home from work, I wanted to spend time with our little family of three. On the weekends, I would try to make it to spinning or yoga, but I was often at the mercy of my daughter’s nursing schedule. Or I was so exhausted that I had to take a nap.
All this time away from the gym means my body hasn’t changed as quickly or as effectively as I would like. In particular, I’ve lost a depressing amount of muscle mass. When I think about all the hours I put in with my trainer, all the hills I climbed on the spin bike, all the burpees I did – well, it’s hard not to get discouraged at how quickly the results of those efforts fade.
I could beat myself up about this endlessly. Or I could give myself a freaking break.
I know I will get back to the intensity and frequency of my workouts one day, when my daughter is older and her schedule is more predictable. Or maybe I won’t. But in the meantime, I’m finding other ways to stay active, like long walks, push-ups and crunches while my daughter does tummy time, the occasional set of squats in my living room. The reality is that my body is going to look different from “my normal” for a while. And even though that can be a hard pill to swallow, it’s also not the end of the world.
So let’s all take a deep cleansing breath. Stop being so hard on yourself. Your body after baby might not be the old body you had, but that is okay. This new body is pretty amazing in its own way.