Being Kind To Your Body After Birth
Pregnancy and birth change us in so many ways. Our hearts expand and stretch. We learn a multitude of new skills. We discover how to function on very little sleep.
We also have a new relationship with our bodies.
Even when pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding all go perfectly to plan, a woman’s body is changed. There may be new marks on the skin. Muscles have separated. Breasts look different. Clothes don’t fit the same way.
A mother’s body is a beautiful and miraculous thing. To bring new life into the world is an incredible achievement.
Then there is the baby. Tiny, perfect, squishy.
We say, it was all worth it. And it was.
But, it is okay if you struggle at first with your new body.
Just as we all grieve a little for the life we had before children, I believe it is only natural to miss the body you had before. It can take a while to feel comfortable in your new skin.
Please be kind to yourself. It is best not to fight these feelings, but to hold them gently. Acknowledge them, but don’t let them hold you back from enjoying your baby or taking care of yourself.
Your new body needs kindness and nurturing. This is definitely not a time for extreme diets or exercise.
In the early days, your body needs to rest and recover. As much as you can, try and honour your postpartum body with nourishing food, comfortable clothes and rest. Take a warm shower. Have a soothing cup of tea. Get a massage.
As time passes, and you feel ready, find some healthy ways to move your body again.
My relationship with exercise has changed completely over the years. Being hopeless at sport and uncomfortable at the gym, I didn’t really engage in regular exercise for a long time. It was a chore, a punishment.
Now, I actually look forward to it (I can’t believe I just typed those words). The key was to find something I enjoyed. For me, this is cycling. Whenever I am feeling flat or stressed, a ride in the fresh air makes me feel so much better. I sleep better. I can be a more patient and present mother for my children.
I think that was the key change that I needed – my reason for exercise. Not because I have to, or to lose weight, or anything to do with how my body looks. For me it is because it makes me feel good. That reason keeps me coming back. It has helped me feel more comfortable in my post-baby, mid-thirties body.
If you have given birth, I hope you can feel proud of your body. It may look a little different. It may feel a little different. But with time you can feel strong and healthy and comfortable again.
Find something you enjoy, something that will feed your soul as well as strengthening your body.
If the budget allows, invest in some new clothes that will fit well and feel good.
Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with those difficult thoughts.
Hold tight to that wondrous baby you created.
And as always, reach out and talk to someone if you are struggling.
A final note – Not all exercise is safe soon after birth. It is recommended to see your GP or obstetrician post-partum for advice about returning to exercise. Many women also benefit from physiotherapy support at this time.