I’ve frequently been asked by other women (usually other mothers) what I’m doing or planning to do to “get my body back” now that I am past the initial six week postpartum recovery time. Weight and body image is an obsession of many new and not-so-new moms, and most are astounded that I do not know how much I weigh or how much “baby weight” I “need” to lose.
I’ve seen countless magazines at the grocery store with articles advertising diets, pills and exercises to help women get into “pre-baby” shape. As though somehow new mothers should all be striving to look as though we didn’t change and grow (physically, mentally, spiritually), as though we never carried a child under our hearts, were not active participants in the creation of a miracle…
Did I somehow lose my body by becoming a mother? Why do I need to “get it back”? Should I really feel compelled to restrict my food intake (at the cost of compromising my breast milk quality or supply) or join a “baby belly boot camp” (instead of spending more time playing with my daughter) so that I can fit into skinny jeans and some sort of societal image of what a mother “should” look like two months postpartum? Should I be saving for plastic surgery instead of saving for Willow’s Post-Secondary Education?
Here’s what I’m doing: I am eating my doctor recommended 500 extra calories per day to ensure a healthy milk supply (I don’t count calories, but I’ve incorporated extra snacks to boost my intake by roughly that amount). I eat delicious food whenever I am hungry and I enjoy every bite (especially since I had severe morning sickness throughout my pregnancy and struggled to eat). I take Willow out for walks in her stroller so that both of us get some sunshine and fresh air, and so that I can get stronger after months on bedrest. I “weight lift” my infant, groceries, and laundry. That’s it. No special calorie-restricted diet. No baby belly boot camp. No stroller jogging classes. No leaving my child at a gym daycare while I lift weights.
I proudly own the beautiful extra little bits of padding that make such nice soft spots for my daughter to cuddle into when she is tired, thankful for the extra fat stores that are allowing me to easily produce enough nutrition for my growing girl. As I get undressed at night, I often lovingly run my fingers over my stretch marks, seeing where my baby grew and where my body grew to accommodate her. As I bathe, I will notice the beautifully healed incision that helped my baby to get out safely when she was in distress. I note the pigmentation in my skin and the changes to the size and shape of various body parts when I stand in front of the mirror, and I smile knowing that I have earned every one of these changes in my beautiful mother’s body.
On the first day of Spring a baby was born. On the first day of Spring a mother was also born. A mother who realized that her body was stronger and more amazing than she could ever have imagined. A mother who vowed on that day to forever love this body which had seemingly betrayed her in the past, to continue to treat it with reverence, love and respect long after its precious cargo was delivered.
I waited years for the privilege of this mother’s body, with its permanent reminders of the incredible transformation I have been through as a human being and as a woman. So no, contrary to what the media would have you believe, I am not on a desperate quest to “get my body back”. I’m thankful for the gift of this beautiful, strong, functional body and the gorgeous cherub that it grew.