This is a post I have been wanting to write for several months now, and I'm so glad it is a topic that is part of the Real Mom Series that some other female bloggers will be addressing today as well. Please be sure to read their personal stories as we shine some light on how we are trying to take care of our bodies and minds while balancing the role of motherhood: Effortless Chic / Sarah Sherman Samuel / Apartment 34 / The Refined Woman / Parker Etc. / A Daily Something / Our Style Stories / Sacramento Street
This is me four months postpartum. I'm 148 pounds in this picture and wearing size 12 jeans. I took these photos knowing that I wanted to eventually discuss this topic of caring for your body and mind postpartum because this is probably the hardest thing for me to do for myself. In fact, loving my body and mind well has been hard for me to do all of my life, but motherhood definitely makes it more challenging. (Click here to read about my past body struggles). My hope is that any mom that reads this and feels similarly knows that she's not alone and that she is completely normal.
Motherhood forever changes your body and mind no matter if you have carried a child or not. Worries that were never there before race through your brain, sleeping through the night is a rarity for months, and time for yourself seems to be scarce. And, if you have had the gift of carrying a child in your body (I purposely say gift because I recognize that not every woman gets this chance even if they want it), you know that your body changes drastically during and after baby. This change is something I felt anxious about before I got pregnant with Elle and it returned when I was pregnant with Levi.
The funny thing is that my body was in better shape after Elle was born. I was thinner, I started to eat a lot better and go to the gym 3-4 times a week, my stress levels decreased, my strength increased, my energy increased, my mind was able to relax, I started sleeping better and my clothes fit better. (See my 30 flirty and thriving process). So, after bouncing back better than before, why in the world would I be anxious again about the changes in my body for my second pregnancy?
Well, I have even less time juggling two kids, my business has grown since my first pregnancy and I'm older. That's reality, folks! Is having another child the greatest gift in the world? YES! Would I trade it for anything? NO! Would I go through this again? In a heartbeat! That doesn't mean my struggles to love my mind and body go away. That doesn't mean I should just automatically feel like celebrating these stretch marks, loose skin and added pounds. Especially, given my profession as a style blogger, it's incredibly hard to stand in front of a camera time after time posing myself in looser clothing to hide the muffin top.
But the voices around me sometimes pile on guilt for having this frustration and dissatisfaction with my physical state. I hear, "How dare you complain for a second about these changes when you have the gift of children when so many women don't?! How can you complain when you have all of your limbs, a working heart, no cancer?..."
Thankfulness for my children and body is so evident in my words and actions, but knowing that I have the potential to feel and be better than I currently feel haunts me every time I look in the mirror and see a tired face, weak, and out of shape.
It's a process and it takes time. That's what I remember about my last pregnancy and that's what I have to constantly say to myself this time around. "Be patient with yourself, Alex. You will feel like yourself once again." I can't really rush it as much as I want to. Some of it isn't even in my control. Levi is still having a hard time kicking the 4am feeding, but I know he will eventually get there and that this is only a season. In fact, I'm now 142 pounds and a size 10 two months later. Change has been made, and though I feel weaker than ever due to some complications with my thyroid, it's an encouragement to me that progress is there.
So, to all of you mamas who might be in the same place or even ten years postpartum, it is possible for us to feel the best versions of ourselves. If there is a normal reason for dissatisfaction with our bodies that is in our control and within healthy expectations, let's remind ourselves that progress is possible even if it comes slowly. Just be patient with yourself.
If you are someone that is dealing with unrealistic levels of dissatisfaction and trying to control your body in unhealthy ways, please seek help with a counselor. I'm more than happy to recommend some if you live in Arizona.
Photos by Rennai Hoefer