Learning To Love The New You
Give it time
It's the stuff of which a pregnant woman's fantasies are made: you'll give birth to your baby and immediately slip back into your pre-pregnancy jeans -- or, better yet, you'll be able to step straight into your bikini. (Hey, why not go for the bikini? After all, you're not going to work stretch marks, a cesarean scar, a soggy abdomen and leaky, cantaloupe-sized breasts into your fantasies, now are you?)
If this is the fantasy that's running through your head as you come into the home stretch of pregnancy, I've got bad news for you: it's a rare new mother indeed who can carry off the bikini look within hours of leaving the delivery room. It takes most of us much longer than that -- sometimes even forever -- to get our old bodies back. And that can lead to The Mother of All Adjustments for women who have just given birth.
Like many women, Mary Hare of Rockwood, Ontario, found it difficult to adjust to the bodily changes that she experienced after the birth of her first child three years ago: "During my pregnancy, I felt great and sexy. Then came the postpartum period. My body image sank into the sea."
Kimberlee Smit, a Peterborough, Ontario, mother of two, had a similar experience: "I was thoroughly content with my body prior to having my children. But now that I've had children, the breasts that once enjoyed a higher view and perky full A-cup closely resemble a couple of knee-high stockings with golf balls in the bottom. Yes, my body image has changed dramatically!"
Cut yourself some slack
So what's a gal to do when she's left with a less-than-supermodel-like body after giving birth?
First of all, cut yourself a little slack. Realize that it took your body nine months to grow a baby and that you need to give yourself at least that much time to get your body back in shape.
Secondly, once you're stopped lamenting the appearance of the stretch marks that mysteriously crept across your abdomen while you weren't looking -- move to the action stage. Jumpstart your exercise program and start paying a bit more attention to what you eat. Of course, it goes without saying that crash dieting is a definite no-no for any new mother, whether she's breastfeeding or bottlefeeding. The physical and emotional challenges of new motherhood are enough to contend with without dramatically cutting back your food intake at the same time.
And finally, accept the fact that your body may never morph back into its pre-pregnant state. Motherhood is a truly life-altering event. It's not surprising that there's often some physical fallout as well.
Mary Hare wishes that women were a bit more accepting of the types of bodily changes that frequently accompany new motherhood.
"Women should be taught that giving birth and becoming a mother are life changes and this heavy pressure to be thin again is some bizarre ritual that negates that fact. By returning to that pre-pregnancy figure, we are encouraged to believe that nothing has changed: we've just added a child to the mix and life goes on as before. But, of course, life does not and should not go on as before. Our body changes are a very primal and accurate reflection of the changes that have occurred in the rest of our life. Welcome them," she says.