What I've Learned About My Postpartum Body Image
I came across a note I wrote one night a few months ago. A night when everything felt like it was falling apart. A night where I felt like I was losing myself in this new role of motherhood. I had intended to share it, but it was really personal and really vain and really embarrassing at the time. Looking back at it now, I feel refreshed. I feel like I have actually made some changes. I feel like I now fully understand that I am in control of my body image. It is painful to re-read the struggle, but refreshing to know what a difference a few short months can make.
June 23rd, 2015. Today I felt like I was losing myself. Putting away the laundry that had cluttered up over the past four months reminded me of how beautiful I felt when I was pregnant. How confidant I felt when I was thin last year. How utterly drab I feel postpartum. The progression from cute, stylish clothes daily to an alternating selection of elastic waisted running shorts and t-shirts has gotten to me. I'm losing an important part of myself--the part where I feel good in what I am wearing. The part where I can look in the mirror and not cringe. The part where I had a closet full of clothes that actually fit properly. I know this is just a lull. I keep reminding myself that this is just a temporary period of transition. My body will go back to the way it once was. My old wardrobe will fit once again. I'll feel good looking in the mirror once again. I don't want to loose myself in this awkward phase forever. I don't want to dress like a slob and feel like a slob just because I'm at home every day. My husband told me he didn't care what I wore. That he would love me even if I wore workout clothes for the rest of my life. But how can he love me when I don't love myself. Would I ever want to exchange Brody for my postpartum body? Heck no. He's worth every extra lb. Every ill fitting outfit and every pair of stretchy shorts I add to my wardrobe. But I'm over it. Over embracing that things will magically go back to the way they were. I'm fearful that if I don't make some changes, I will get sucked up in the tornado of motherhood and come out looking and feeling like a hot mess. I need to start feeling good about myself again. I can't sit around waiting until I'm at my postpartum weight to feel like my old self.
Accepting the "new me" has been tough. Yes, I'm still the "old me", but so much changes after birth that is has been hard to see the "old me" when I look in the mirror. Nearly six months in and I'm finally getting little glimpses of the "old me". It feels so refreshing. It has taken making some big changes and letting time pass for the "old me" to start showing up again. But let me tell you, the "old me" plus a sweet baby is just a recipe for happiness. I've never been happier.
Here are a couple of things that have helped me get back on track:
Making Our Workout A Routine
There are so many expenses with starting a family, but don't let that be an excuse to cancel your gym membership or back-out on your yoga classes. My husband and I have made the fitness bootcamp we attend a non-negotiable 4 days a week. Sure it may be hot outside or we may have gotten no sleep the night before, but we both have accepted that we go to the bootcamp rain or shine. Happy baby or cranky baby. We now schedule everything else around our workout.
Changing up My diet
For the months following Brody's birth, I lived on junky food and dark chocolate. Food that was easy to grab and required little prep. Boy did this make me feel worse. Not only did it keep me from losing any baby weight, but it left me tired and unenergized. The past two months, we have done a major reset on our eating habits. We're nearing the end of our second Whole30 and recognizing the impact that our healthier eating habits have on our moods and energy levels. Sure I miss those handfuls of chocolate chips, but I'm learning to handle the stresses of motherhood in other ways.
Purging the Closet
There are two things that you should immediately give away--any ill fitting pregnancy clothes that you are hiding under and any clothes from a few years ago that make you depressed just looking at them. For me, there were a few pairs of shorts from a couple of Summer's ago that may never fit these postpartum hips. Rather than seeing them hanging in my closet and getting frustrated at myself, they are hopefully now hanging in someone else's closet getting used (thanks Goodwill!). Now that you have cleared up a little room, go shopping. Buy yourself a few items that make you feel like a million bucks. Don't worry about what the size tag says. Don't worry that they may not fit you in a couple of months when the rest of your baby weight comes off. Don't worry that you are spending money on yourself when you could be spending it on something for your baby. You need this. You deserve this. The difference a great fitting pair of jeans or a cute top can make is priceless.
I still have a ways to go. There are lingering pregnancy pounds. THere are now massive bags under my eyes. And there are those darn eyebrows I've been meaning to wax for the past month. But what I've learned is to not accept where I am now, but to embrace it. Sure it meant buying a pair of pants the next size up and cutting out my daily chocolate chip binge, but the mental perk-up it has provided has been invaluable. I can no focus my energy on Brody and my husband rather than battling those negative body image thoughts that were fogging my mind far too often.
Embrace this new phase in your life. You are a whole new person.