Going into pregnancy is easy. It’s not dramatic. It’s so gradual that you have time to adjust to the changes your body is going through on the outside and the inside. Hitting postpartum is anything but gradual. Within 24 hours (give or take), your body goes from bulging at the seams to loose and saggy. Just like that. If you’re a first-time mom, it’s a shocker. If this is your second (or beyond), it may not be a shocker, but it can be frustrating to get through that immediate transition period.
Here are four tips for dealing with a postpartum body that I experienced as a second-time mom, who delivered just 26 months after her first child. You might be able to relate, especially if you have ever been body conscious during that time.
1. Corsets. I did not use one with my first pregnancy, but I decided to try one with my second pregnancy “to shrink my waistline and support my back.” Hah! I even invested in one of the Bellefit postpartum girdles and was very careful about doing my research on the sizing and style. I tried to put it on immediately postpartum, and that was hilarious! I could barely get my legs in it, let alone start to fasten the hook and eyes. I tried again two days later. It took me 10 minutes to get it fastened, and I missed a couple of hook and eyes. I looked absolutely dreadful in a shirt and slacks, as it made my stomach bulge at the top and my butt at the bottom.
I also could not have a bowel movement for the entire two days until I took it off. It also weakened my back and abdominals because it did not allow me to engage my muscles. I began to dread the day time when I had to wear it because it was so darn uncomfortable. I decided it was not worth the tradeoff of a potentially slimmer waistline.
Takeaway: Follow your instincts. The corset was not even necessary. Within a couple weeks, my baby belly was mostly gone.
2. Recovery. Recovering from my second natural birth was not as tough as my first natural birth.. I was ready to hit the gym one week postpartum. I tried to follow the BirthFit postpartum plan, but it was far too easy. I felt good lifting weights immediately. I have a feeling that staying fit and strong during pregnancy helped me with labor and recovery. I was called "a beast" at the gym. But, it's not "beastly" to show up when you feel good...when pull-ups are easier...when lifting feels right. Just because I was one week postpartum doesn't make me a beast in my opinion. Any woman would show up to train like I do if she felt this good afterwards, right?
Takeaway: Listen to your body. Even if it goes against conventional wisdom, you know what your body can and cannot handle.
3. Comments. What's with all the comments? I was lectured for going to the gym before my six weeks checkup. My boobs were "all over the place," no matter how many hooks-and-eyes on my 36G bra (yes, there are SIX!) I got comments about how beastly I am. That I'm pushing too hard. That my body looks amazing. That you cannot even tell I've had a baby. That I was so inspiring for lifting during pregnancy—how far along was I? (Yes, I shot him daggers when I told him I had just HAD a baby!) I don't know what type of comments I wanted to hear, but I did want to be considered "normal" again.
Takeaway: Build a tolerance for comments. Be prepared for anything. Don’t take the comments to heart, good or bad.
4. Body Focus. Has anyone else noticed that the attention on the mom is almost all body-focused? How I looked compared to others was how I was judged. My body is NOT here for your viewing pleasure. Whether or not you "like" my postpartum body does not matter. I'm not trying to be the sexiest woman in the gym. I may wear booty shorts, but it's not to get attention (contrary to popular belief). It's so I can work out more comfortably without sweating like crazy in a pair of pants...I would take my shirt off (postpartum jiggle and all) if the dress code permitted it. I just get in a better workout without baggy clothes (or clothes period).
Takeaway: Wear what you feel most comfortable in. Don’t let other people’s focus on how fast you get your pre-baby body back affect your body image.
Your Turn: If you’ve ever had a baby, what frustrations did you encounter during the postpartum period? Any tips to share with other struggling new moms? Tweet me!