I originally titled this post “Loving Your Body Through Pregnancy” then changed it to “Loving Your Postpartum Body” before scrapping them both and coming up with the current title that encompasses all of the seasons of motherhood. This includes conception, pregnancy, postpartum, breastfeeding, chasing active toddlers and so many more (I only stopped here because that is the season I am currently in!)
I think the journey of loving your body, regardless of if you are a mother or not, looks different for everyone. Some women naturally feel comfortable in their own skin, while others struggle significantly in this area. My journey to love my body has definitely not been an easy one- but it is one I won’t take for granted.
For those of you that don’t know, I was diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa in the summer of 2006- the summer before my freshman year of high school. I attempted to gain control of my illness by working with a local dietitian and therapist, but we quickly realized that was not enough. My amazing parents researched the best eating disorder treatment centers in the United States, and landed upon Remuda Ranch in Arizona. I spent two months in their intensive treatment program, and then continued my treatment at home with bi weekly therapy appointments for years. I definitely had a few setbacks and minor relapses in the early years of recovery, but I would consider myself in full recovery now- yay!
That being said, I take my recovery VERY seriously…because I worked SO hard to achieve it. A therapist once told me to treat my recovery like the greatest gift on earth- so I have done that ever since. I am super attune to situations or events that could trigger old behaviors or thought patterns- and pregnancy was definitely one of those events!
I knew I was going to gain weight, and my body was going to look different when I found out I was pregnant, but when I discovered my body was housing TWO babies I had a mini freak out. I knew if I wasn’t careful, my disordered thoughts about body image and weight would take over my life and potentially sabotage my pregnancy! So I created a game plan:
First and foremost, I set a strict rule for myself that I was not going to look at the scale during my OB check-ups. PS: I do not own a scale at home, and haven’t since 2006 (you should try it, it is SO freeing!). I simply turned around when I had to get on the scale, and I kindly asked the nurse to keep the number to herself. I of course knew that it was a good sign if I was gaining weight throughout my pregnancy, but I also knew that the number would make my head spin if I saw it.
I think this is a great idea for anyone to do, regardless of if you have past history with an eating disorder or not. Your body is literally growing and housing a human being- WHO CARES what the scale tells you! Plus, it is a temporary number! It will likely change again in two weeks at your next check up, and then again after you deliver, and yet again three months postpartum. Save yourself the agony and just turn around…trust me when I say the nursing staff will understand!
The second thing I did for myself was set very clear boundaries with my family and friends about asking me questions regarding weight gain. I never think it is okay to ask someone about their weight, but for whatever reason everyone thinks they get a free pass at this question when they see a pregnant woman- and they are WRONG! Nevertheless, I had more than one person ask me “so how much weight have you gained?” and my response was simple yet stern- “I don’t actually know how much weight I have gained, because I chose not to look. I care more about my babies and their well-being than a number on a scale, and I would appreciate it if you refrained from asking me those types of questions”.
Small side note- I did eventually look at the number on the scale the day I delivered. I knew there wasn’t anything I could do about it at that point, and it was only temporary because I was about to have two babies pulled out of my body.
The third thing that I did for myself to protect my body image mentality was that I put NO pressure on myself to workout. This was no problem when I was pregnant, because I was simply too sick to work out- or even really walk around the block! And then when the babies were born I knew I needed to heal my body.
I tried to “work out” when I was about nine months postpartum but it just didn’t feel right. I was still pumping/breastfeeding at the time and my body still didn’t feel ready. Instead of shaming myself and feeling like a failure, I recognized that my body had a different purpose during that season of my life.
I use the phrase workout in quotes, because I really don’t like that phrase- I much prefer “moving my body”. For whatever reason, moving my body takes so much pressure off myself. Working out seems like a chore, whereas moving my body feels like a natural routine.
I also feel like it is easier to incorporate movement into my life with two toddlers than a strict 30 minute workout routine (even though I secretly wish I could get my butt out of bed at 530 AM to workout…but that is for a different post). I try to walk to take/pick up the kiddos from daycare, and take them for walks in the evenings. They are also active little humans right now, so I definitely get my steps in just chasing them around the house.
I’m definitely not telling you NOT to work out- that is silly. But what I am suggesting is to listen to your body- and do what is best for your situation that creates balance and happiness.
Last but not least, I always kept my closet updated with only clothes that fit! I very quickly started to grow out of most of my clothes by the start of the second trimester. Instead of feeling discouraged that over half of my wardrobe was suddenly too small, I simply removed all the “too small” items from my closet. I put them in labeled bins in the basement to potentially discover after pregnancy- KEY WORD- potentially!
I then tried to slowly purchase/acquire staple pieces that could grow with me throughout my pregnancy- like super stretchy leggings, long tunic tops, dresses, and open cardigans and sweaters. Those staple items got me through pregnancy, and the first leg of postpartum. I had no temptation to “bounce back” into my old clothes, because they were nowhere in sight.
I slowly started to reincorporate some of my pre-pregnancy clothing back into my wardrobe, while donating the things that did not fit to Goodwill (Goodbye Daisy Duke denim jeans- HAHA!).
Please note, this transition did not happen overnight. I reincorporated things back into my wardrobe throughout the first year. The final stage came after I finished pumping at 12 months, and I could finally pull out my pre-pregnancy bras!
There you have it guys- those are the four main things I did throughout my pregnancy and postpartum journey to keep myself in the right headspace to love my body and respect the many, many things it has done to create and sustain life!