Let's face it. As a woman it is really hard not to have self-esteem and body issues at least once in your lifetime. We are constantly shown distorted images of beauty through the media, of which many of us cannot ever attain. We struggle to be thinner, taller, more beautiful striving to change what is only skin deep and tormenting our inner selves.
Pregnancy is no different. It's hard not to compare yourself to the many “yummy mummy” celebrities who and are walking around in a bikini or strutting their stuff on a catwalk in lingerie just weeks after giving birth. We are taught to think that if we do not look perfect all the time or if we have imperfections we are ugly. And so we become aware of our imperfections. We become obsessed with being “beautiful” and escaping pregnancy without any outward evidence that it had ever occurred. We worry we will get stretch marks and lather on the Palmers Cocoa Butter or Bio Oil in an effort to never get them from the moment we find out we are pregnant.
After the new bundle of joy arrives we expect our bodies to have changed but when it never goes back to “normal” we bargain with God to give us our bodies back. Then we spend huge amounts of money buying beauty products to hide or fix these new imperfections.
Isn’t all this worrying and dwelling exhausting and expensive? Don’t you think it’s time you believed in yourself and accepted yourself with love so that you can teach your children to do the same? Wouldn’t it just be easier if you accepted your body for the way it is and honored who you are as a woman and as a mother?
I am no expert on this topic and can only share my experience and what I have learned along my journey of motherhood. Here are my 10 tips for learning to accept and love your body after childbirth:
1. Focus on your new baby
Isn’t it amazing that in just nine months you created a beautiful human being inside of you? Feel proud of yourself and your body for adapting to accommodate this wonderful blessing. Enjoy your new bundle of joy and the precious moments that you share together. The time really does go by too fast.
2. Find at least one thing you like about yourself every day
Focusing on what you DO have and not on what you don’t have or wish you did creates good self-esteem and eventually leads to self-acceptance.
3. Educate yourself during pregnancy so you know what to expect
Some great books are: "Mothering The New Mother" by Sally Placksin, "The Year After Childbirth" by Sheila Kitzinger and "The Girlfriends Guide To Pregnancy" by Vicki Lovine. No matter what remember that it takes 9 months to make a baby and generally takes 9 months for your mind and body to find its new "normal" after.
4. Eat healthy
It can be hard when you are at home all day with your child. Maybe you are sleep deprived or you can’t always find the time to exercise. You might feel awful but put the comfort food down. Fuel your body with good energy food and you will have more energy, feel better about yourself and eventually that baby weight will come off naturally (most of it anyways!).
Take up a meditation or yoga class if you can. Learn to focus on the link between your body and mind rather than on outward appearances. Take time throughout your day to meditate, if only for a few minutes. Clear your mind of negative thoughts so that you can fill it with positive ones. When you think positively you attract positive energy and therefore good things will come to you.
6. Set realistic goals
Do not try to lose weight or change for ANYONE else other than yourself. Set realistic goals. Throw away your old clothing rather than dwelling on needing to fit back into them again. Instead, work toward being healthy and happy for you and your family. Celebrate small victories.
7. Find Time To Exercise
You don’t need to go to the gym to exercise. Do sit-ups in front of the TV. Walk around the backyard while you are hanging laundry and work up a sweat. Pop an exercise DVD in while your baby naps or workout with your baby. Join a baby and mom fitness class if you can or put your baby in the stroller and take a long walk everyday. Once they become toddlers your whole day will be spent chasing them around!
8. Go Shopping
Yes, I said it. Shopping after giving birth is a daunting and depressing task. Taking a good friend that you can laugh with and perhaps having a glass or two of wine first always helps. Go with an open mind and do not expect clothing to fit you the same as it did before. Instead, focus on your new assets and find clothing to accentuate them. And if all else fails buy shoes. A woman can never have too many shoes can she?
9. Express your feelings
Talk with friends or your partner. Keep a journal. Network. There is a great website called The Shape Of A Mother where moms share there stories and photos of their bodies after childbirth. You are NOT alone.
10. Stop comparing yourself to others
I have a friend who has two children under two but never looks tired and always looked put together. Turns out she had a nanny and the oldest goes to daycare full time. Simply put, don't judge others because it isn't always what it seems. Oh, and toss those celebrity magazines. They are not superwoman-you are!
Accepting your body and honoring who you are as a mother allows you to live each day with gratitude and to love with an open heart. So appreciate how lucky you are to have a healthy child and how blessed you are to watch him/her grow up. Believe in yourself. Spend less time worrying about what you don't have and accepting what you do have. And never forget that it takes a healthy and happy mom to raise and nurture healthy and happy children.