How to Accept & Love your Postpartum Body
You grew a whole human, from scratch as it were. You spent nearly a year forming every bit of your baby and while your body did the very best it could the evidence of being a life-bringer can sometimes be a little bit harrowing. Stretch marks, scars, loose skin, acne?! What did we ever do to deserve this?
Motherhood brings about a wild amount of changes, from learning to function on almost no sleep, to figuring out how to care for a new baby, to the relationship and financial debacles, and even changes to your body. After the first couple of weeks of settling in with your new baby, you might notice some things seem to have resolved themselves, but others tend to linger. How do you learn to love and accept your new body?
It’s not forever.
Some changes tend to resolve seemingly quickly like loose skin or even acne from the hormone surge of birth, but others tend to linger like being more squishy in places or stretch marks. Remember that it took 9 months for your body to get here and it could take that long or longer for things to go back. Your hormone levels will soon balance back out and all those postpartum problems like skin issues, temperature regulation problems, never knowing what your bra size will be at any given moment, and digestive problems will go away. If you are nursing this timeline can get pretty confusing so just be patient and treat your body kindly.
Flip the script.
Focus on what your body can do rather than what it is like. Try to give yourself space to appreciate the massive amount of work your body has done to give you this precious baby. Every fiber of your being spent almost a year growing an entirely new person, and you did a great job. You may be nursing now and making food just for your baby, but even if you’re not you are someone’s go-to favorite person. Your heartbeat, the sound of your voice, the warmth of your embrace are magical to your baby. Try affirming statements “I am powerful. My body is magic.”
Banish bad self-talk.
Try to focus on the good and not on the bad. Take every thought captive, and refocus the negative ones. You will adapt, you are capable, you can do this. Start a gratitude journal and try to write down something each day that you’re thankful for. Designate a friend as pep-talker supreme and ask them to help you remember all the good things when it’s tough to do so on your own. If you notice you’re being negative more often than not, work on turning lemons into lemonade. Your stretch marks, for example, are signs you grew and adapted to your child’s needs.
Make peace with your closet.
Now is not the time to focus on all the clothes you “used to” be able to wear, but it could be a great time to clean out your closet. Go through your pre-pregnancy clothes and get rid of anything you don’t absolutely love, donate what is still in good condition and toss anything out of style or torn. Put your favorites away if they don’t fit right now, you may be able to wear them later or even get them tailored.
Work with what you have, buy some simple pieces that make you feel good like a dress or a blouse and see what you have to go with it. Being comfortable and wearing clothes that flatter will help you feel more confident. Accentuate the positive, go buy a new outfit that is comfortable and you feel confident in. Make sure you have a few things on hand to wear on days when you’re over-tired and just in a funk that you feel good about.
Do something fun.
Find a hobby that you like to help build back your self-confidence and help you wait out issues that will fade with time. Having some time to yourself and for yourself can help combat anxieties and stresses that crop up with so many changes going on. Go out with the girls for coffee, or have a game night. Pick up a favorite movie and watch it with your spouse. Do something just because it is fun.
After a certain point, you may feel like going to the gym. Start slow, talk to your doctor first to make sure it is safe and recommended. Try yoga or swimming first to get your body used to moving and breathing and then work your way up. Taking walks with your baby is also a great idea, visit the zoo or a museum.
Now is a great time to build a new routine and pick up new habits. Your life is different now so revisit what worked before and see if it will work again or if you need to change it up. Don’t worry if you have to do change things a few times, the new you needs some space to figure out what works.
Focus on you.
When making choices ask yourself “how does this choice serve me?” whether it’s which snack you pick, how you spend your free time, or even whether it’s time to take a break. You deserve this, you deserve to be nourished. Try to tune out the pressures of society and culture and ask yourself what your body needs and do those things. Self-care is important because you are the best you when you feel relaxed and healthy. Do what you can to support your body’s healing by getting enough rest, eating well, and exercising gently. Don’t be in too much of a rush to get back into the swing of things, remember you’ve been through a lot and may need to slow down for a while.
Reach out if you need help.
If you’re really struggling don’t be afraid to reach out to your doctor for help. Baby blues may come but they usually go within the first few weeks of postpartum. If you find yourself in a funk longer than that, are obsessing over your body, or have thoughts of hurting yourself or your baby, you may have postpartum depression and need professional help. Postpartum depression is common and while doctors haven’t found a single cause in every case, it is likely related to hormonal fluctuations, the stress of pregnancy/childbirth, and changes in your body and brain that happen when you have a baby. Help is available.