I was talking to a newly wed over the weekend about postpartum struggles especially gaining weight after pregnancy. She is a gym rat and got married a few weeks ago. As she spoke about women who get fat after babies, I had to hold back the laugh. She said, and I quote, “I know pregnant women use pregnancy as an excuse to eat all the things they desire. I don’t believe there is anything like craving, I think it is just an excuse to indulge in overeating.”
As someone who had weird cravings during her pregnancy, all I could do was smile. I thought briefly about whether my cravings were real or not but I couldn’t remember or be bothered by them. I also thought about seeing her when she gets pregnant and even after baby. I wondered if she will be singing a different song by then. The dominant thought though, was how I had added weight yet again with my second baby. The interesting part is how accepting I am this time of my new body.
A few weeks ago when I had the first Mothering The Mother
meeting, a new mom complained of hating her body. She said she used to be very slim and after baby, she had added 2 dress sizes and hated it. She added that even her husband was in on the complaining. I had to laugh. It reminded me of the time I had my first child and added all this weight that I used to hide to have a bath. Forget sex, it wasn’t happening. I couldn’t imagine getting naked in front of a mirror, talk less of another person, in this case, my husband. And yes, he voiced his concerns about my weight which led to my moving out of the house for a week. I was that insecure. Permit me to talk you through this new body that can emerge due to birthing babies and how you might transcend it.
Immediately after having my first child, I didn’t add any weight. For the next three months, I looked as I did during pregnancy, apart from the excess skin in the tummy region. But after three months, it seemed like I expanded. I think that expanded is the right word in my case because everything moved. From my neck to my arms, to my waist, to my feet. I even had folds on my back. I didn’t know what to do with all this extra flesh so I hide it under big clothes and overeating. Over time, I started expressing myself less and wasn’t going out at all. I couldn’t work out either, instead, I turned to food and ate a whole lot, maybe for comfort.
When my son turned 10 months, I started thinking about the weight. I read a few articles about postpartum weight. I found this hashtag on Instagram #takebackpostpartum
. The lady who started the hashtag wanted to help mothers own their new bodies that come after birthing a child. I knew there were mothers who “snap back” after baby but I was in the group of those who got bent out of shape, literally. When I found this hashtag, I started following it. I read different stories of new moms who got fat after babies and how they had to learn to accept their bodies. The hashtag did not focus on how to “snap back” instead its focus was on acceptance of the new body because what if you never snap back?
After rejecting the idea that I may never snap back, I started entertaining the thought that this fat body might be my new weight. It was annoying at first and I had some regret around getting pregnant when I did but with time, I started to think about the possibility that it could be my new body.
I looked at the real reason I was resisting this new body and it wasn’t because I was different in any way or that I had changed fundamentally. It was the shame.Everywhere you look, there is body shaming. “Fat” sounds like a curse word, something offensive that we don’t want to be labeled with. I investigated where I got this from and the culprit was hidden in plain sight. It was the music videos that defined sexy as flat abs and long necks, it was the magazine covers that had girls in bikinis showing off that “stick-like” collar bone that can hold water in it, it was the models on fashion TV that told me my body was not the acceptable type. And it was me that bought and accepted all of it. That had to be one of the hardest reconciliations to make, that I believed there was something wrong with my body because television told me what sexy should be.
One day I stood in front of the mirror and looked at my new body in all its glory. I saw the double decker neck, I saw the cheeks, the flabby tummy that was hanging, don’t even get me started on my sagging boobs (I was warned severally not to breastfeed exclusively as this could happen), I saw my arm, what we call the “Christian mother arm”, it jiggled when I shook it, I saw my thunder thighs, and my back had folds. I didn’t even know it was possible for the back to have folds. As I stood there looking at my body, I decided I was going to accept this body as my new body. because what if I never “snap back?” I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life resisting something I was going to live with. I mean, I needed the body to carry me about on earth so how can I continue to hate it? That day was the beginning of my turnaround.
By the time my son was 11 months, I started taking long walks and sometimes I ran. It wasn’t hard to keep up with this routine because I wasn’t working out to get rid of the body, I was working out because I had accepted the body and wanted to feel good about myself. I gave out all my size 8 clothes and bought new ones to match my new size. In another 5 months, I had lost all the extra weight and I was back to a size 8. It wasn’t a struggle and it didn’t change the way I felt about myself. I had accepted the new body and was ready to remain that way if it didn’t want to change. It was in accepting it that I was able to change it.
When I had my second baby, I was prepared. I imagined I would do things differently but I had these cravings and real or imagined, I was always eating something. A few weeks after I had her my body didn’t change much. I remember my mum complaining that I was losing weight. But two months after her birth I expanded, again. This time I didn’t waste anytime resisting it. I accepted the new body and made some new cloths to fit it. I heard people say things like, “you have added so much,” “I didn’t know you had fat in you,” and my personal favorite, “why did you allow yourself get fat like this?” In the past, I would have jumped into a defense and even picked a fight with the commenters but this time I didn’t. My answers ranged from a smile to statements like, “birthing a baby can do that to some of us.” On occasions I watched my mum explain to her friends that I had a CS and my tummy couldn’t be pressed and I usually lose all the weight bladibla.” Bless her. She saw my struggles with my first son and wanted to help this time but you see, this time, my mummy confidence is on fleek. I know I don’t owe any explanations for this new body. If it will go, great, if it chooses to stay, great. It doesn’t stop me from rocking my crop tops and owning every inch of it.
If you are reading this and struggling with your new body after baby, hear me, YOU WILL NOT LOOSE THE WEIGHT BY HATING ON YOUR BODY.
If you want to loose the weight, and that is a noble want, you will have to accept the body you have now. There is a saying, “what you resist, persists” and it is true for everything as well as your new body. It might take a while, (and you know you have all the time) but you will need to work yourself to that place of accepting your body as it is before you can do anything sustainable about it. I do not suggest diets as they seem to fail over time. Ever wondered why someone can diet, loose weight and in no time, add all that weight back on? When you start telling yourself you don’t want to eat rice, or bread or any of those foods you think makes you fat, you start craving the foods unconsciously. That’s why when you have the opportunity, you can eat in one sitting all the food you have stopped yourself from eating for months (remember what you resist, persist?)
When you finally accept your body (and you will if you are doing it right), you will find that you are not your body. And there is nothing wrong with getting fat. In accepting your body, you honor the vehicle that makes it possible for you to exist on the earth. When you get to that level of self-love, you can then manipulate the body anyhow you want. You will find losing weight a little easier because you are no longer in a race against time to get the fat off, instead, you are making healthier choices about what you want to put in your body. You work out to feel good and you admire slim people (not hate them because they are so slim and they should wait until they have babies. lol) From this point, you are free to loose the weight you want to loose and at a reasonable pace. After all, it took the whole of 40 weeks or there about to make this human that aided the weight gain. You should give yourself at least, 40 weeks to loose the weight. It could be more, or less but that shouldn’t cloud your days. remember you have a little one who needs you. You cannot cater to the little one if you do not cater to your own needs.
Because I know the postpartum struggle is deeper than just reading these words, I am available to chat to you about your particular situation if you like. Find me no Facebook
. Sending you good vibes and love on you journey.
Photo Credit: www.mikaelashannon.com