Postpartum Body Image

Postpartum Body Image
By Jennifer McGurk, RDN, CDN, CDE, CEDRD

Photo Credit: Adrian Dreßler via Compfight cc

I had a very easy pregnancy and felt great almost the entire time.  What I didn’t expect was the shock and roller-coaster ride of emotions and body image after giving birth.  Not a lot of people tell you about the intense ups and downs during the postpartum period, especially when it comes to your body.  Everyone says, “Enjoy every minute!!” and “They are only this small once!!”  I remember feeling guilty thinking I wasn’t a fan of the newborn stage and felt so uncomfortable in this new body post-baby.  I would ask myself, “Why do I feel so ‘blah’?”  All I’m supposed to be doing is sitting on the couch and breastfeeding.  The only expectation is to bond with baby Connor, how hard can that be?”

Throughout my pregnancy I told myself I would get back to my normal self as soon as possible.  I didn’t care much about my weight but just wanted to feel good about my body.  I’m a very active person who loves yoga and exercise.  It felt amazing to participate in those activities while I was pregnant.  I also enjoyed gaining weight, knowing that the baby was growing and I was eating to support a healthy pregnancy.  I went back to the doctor a week after giving birth and had lost twenty pounds right away.  “Well that was pretty easy,” I thought to myself as I walked out the door… “I bet I’ll have my ‘normal’ body back in no time.”  So five more weeks pass by, and I walk in for my six-week postpartum checkup.  Those five weeks were probably the hardest weeks of my life, as the initial “high” of giving birth wore off, and life with a newborn started to actually sink in: no sleep, no activity, and increased anxiety.  I get on the scale at my six-week checkup, and the nurse weighs me and says, “Well, we don’t see that too often!  You actually went up!”  I kept on telling myself that weight wasn’t important to me, but in that moment all I could think about was the annoying negative body image voice winning over my healthy self.

Life went on, but something shifted in me around the three-to-four-month mark. I went back to work and felt fulfilled in my career, Connor started sleeping more, and I started to introduce formula and wasn’t exclusively breastfeeding (which honestly took away a lot of stress).  I also asked for help with babysitting so I could get out of the house more often.  I started to not care as much about my postpartum weight loss and started to focus more on doing something each day for myself and self-care for a healthy body.  I felt myself change both mentally and physically as more self-care happened.  I am now feeling so blessed and happy, and my anxiety has decreased.  I am walking more with my mom friends and babies, going to weekly “Mommy and Me” yoga classes, and am training for a five-mile race on Thanksgiving Day.  I am also slowing down each day, cutting back on my “to-do lists,” and just taking it one day at a time with my son with no expectations.  My body feels strong as it has now fully recovered from childbirth, and I feel almost “back to normal.”  But guess what?  I weighed myself the other day out of pure curiosity and wouldn’t you know—my weight was the exact same number it was at my six-week postpartum checkup.  Thanks to a healthier attitude and lots of self-care, I feel incredible both physically and mentally.  I also feel blessed that I can teach my son what it means to love your body no matter what the scale says.

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