“What I need to hear is that it's ok to feel sad that my body will never be what it used to be. I put a lot of effort into learning to love that body, and now I've got to start all over again learning to love this one.”
This was a line from a pretty amazing book: Come As You Are, by Emily Nagoski. This book really should be required reading for all women. It’s not a parenting book. It’s not a book about pregnancy or childbirth. Instead, it’s a book about a woman’s sexuality and all the ways society flaunts it and denies it.
The line above floored me when I read it. The author was quoting a client who had just had a baby. Her client was upset that so many people were trying to make her feel better that she hadn’t lost the “baby weight” yet. She was tired of hearing people trying to cheer her up and offer up solutions. What she wanted instead was for someone to validate what she was feeling rather than trying to change how she was feeling.
This is something I’m currently working through as my body changes to support the growing baby inside of me. As a fitness and wellness professional, I’ve habitually worked hard to keep my body strong and most recently, finally figured out my eating to feel less bloated and drop some excess water weight. Now, 21 weeks into my pregnancy, I’ve gained 11 lbs and am struggling to come to terms with the fact that the work I put in has disappeared. I feel mad about this!
However, I am also putting in the work to reframe this thinking. If I hadn’t done that work before I got pregnant, then maybe I wouldn’t be strong enough to support this pregnancy in the way that I am now. I have been able to continue to run, strength train, and walk to the train station every morning. I have energy and feel great!
I provide this personal example to show postpartum women that by changing your thoughts and outlook, the emotions that you attach to your physical appearance will also change. Yes, you can feel sad that your body looks different. Yes, you can feel angry that you have to put in extra work to rebuild it. And yes, you can feel disappointed that this may take time. Accept those feelings and allow yourself to experience them.
The next phase is to do something with those feelings. The trap is when we allow ourselves to wallow in those feelings and not take action. Use those feelings to take steps to improve your wellness. Maybe a workout isn’t in the cards yet, but perhaps you’re feeling up to taking on a meditation practice? Maybe you’re not ready yet to be a Top Chef at home, but could you start making better choices when you go to the grocery store?
The real take-away from the quote above is that you’re not alone in feeling like your body is new and different. You’re not alone in wanting to feel some grief in having to let go of the old body and learn to accept this new body. Because this new body allowed you to grow a new human life and brought your baby into this world.