I’ve had three babies. And on the days that they were born, the magnitude of having brought life into this world was unparalleled for me. Each time, I was in awe of the little person who’d grown inside of me, who I’d known through their kicks and turns, and then there they were. I mean, not like POOF, there they were. But add a full day of labor, a surprise c-section and two planned c-sections, then, you know, there they were.
After months of gaining the weight it takes to build a tiny human, I was ready to feel fit again, and each time I made a commitment to myself to get back to my “happy weight”, because that’s where I feel my best, and I find it easier to maintain than to lose.
I worked out my eating hangups about a decade ago, and I took a moderate approach to the transitional time my body was in post baby. I bought clothes in advance of my c-sections each time (see below for suggestions for your post-baby wardrobe), because I never wanted to continue wearing my maternity clothes that I’d overworn and was sick of. And I accepted that it would be weeks, if not months, until my pre-baby clothes fit again.
I let myself be exactly where I was each day. I watched what I ate, and used my favorite philosophy of “all things in moderation”. And I lost the weight each time in a few months.
But I find myself again in new territory, because for the first time in seven years, I am not breastfeeding, pregnant, or even thinking about becoming pregnant.
What I thought was going to be extended breastfeeding for my last baby and I turned into Baby Shep being the master of his own tiny-human-destiny and deciding, rather abruptly, that he was finished. He quite literally bit me on the nipple and signed “ALL DONE”.
And so, my body is all mine. The scars and stretch marks are permanent and I do not mind them. I embrace them. But I do find myself wondering what my breast situation will be now that I’ve nursed three babies for a combined, oh, 40 months or so. I suppose only time will tell.
But as a first step in reclaiming my breasts, I had a spicy margarita at brunch, threw out my nursing bras, and had my husband put the baby down for his nap since there was no chance he wanted to nurse. Wild, I know.
And then I had a heart-to-heart Q&A with 15-year Mommy and Me teacher and Certified Parent Educator, Synthia Praglin on her take on:
Polite As Fudge: When you discuss ‘body after baby’ in your Mommy and Me classes, what’s the general tone and takeaway from the class?
Synthia Praglin: Most women have a love-hate relationship with their bodies even before they have children. Add pregnancy and childbirth to the scenario and this relationship takes center stage. After giving birth, the sense of strength and confidence that comes from having had a baby allows some women to feel more confident about their bodies, but others struggle with a culture that showcases women as having perfect bodies post-baby, concerns their partners aren’t happy with their bodies and, not least of all, the the many physical changes that we experience post pregnancy. Motherhood, especially for first time moms is a time of transition. Feeling overwhelmed, out of control and highly vulnerable makes it easy for negative feelings about our bodies to take over our thought patterns and color how we see ourselves.
Polite As Fudge: I hear a lot of my friends say that they don’t talk negatively about their bodies in front of their children. What do you think that effect will be on our kids’ generation for their own body image? How can we go back and help ourselves with our own body image?
Synthia Praglin: This is so important. As role models, we need to be aware of the messages (both direct and indirect) that we give our children concerning their bodies. Some of these messages come from those we received as children. If we constantly put ourselves down and are critical of our bodies, our children will likely develop many of these same thoughts about themselves. We must teach our children to love their bodies, but we must first learn to love our own bodies! Begin by treating your own body with the same love and kindness you would treat your children. This will go a long way towards helping with your own body image. Identify those negative thoughts which affect how you think, feel and act and try instead to appreciate your assets. Gently remind yourself what an incredible thing your body just did!
Polite As Fudge: Can you explain a little about what you’ve seen women go through with their weight loss journey’s after baby? (Here’s a little about mine: I gained about 40 pounds with each pregnancy and heard a lot of hurtful comments. I lost the weight within a few months each time through portion control and breastfeeding, and as I lost ten pounds, 15, 35…I wore clothes that I bought specifically for my post baby body, and didn’t expect myself to wear either my maternity clothes or my pre-baby clothes. I think that helped me to feel good about how I looked along the way). What tips do you have for a new mom to feel good about her body wether she loses the weight quickly or takes more time?
Synthia Praglin: Embrace yourself! Easier said than done, but having a positive self image will do wonders for a woman in so many aspects of her life. Recognizing that our bodies have done something incredible and seeing ourselves as strong and nurturing can do so much to change the image we see when we look in the mirror. We need to stop comparing ourselves to moms who live in the spotlight with chefs and trainers and instead find realistic role models. There’s nothing wrong with setting realistic goals that you can accomplish rather than setting yourself up for failure and frustration. Exercise will do wonders for your mind and body, which will likely make you feel better all around. Find something that you enjoy doing, rather than something you dread. And maybe, if we stop focusing our mindset on “getting our bodies back” we can love the body we have.
Polite As Fudge: For me with breastfeeding, it took five days for my milk to come in each time. I really thought since I had breastfed before that my body would somehow provide the milk faster, but that just wasn’t the case. And my babies lost weight until my milk came in, so I decided I’d supplement with formula until I was sure they were getting enough from me. I’ve heard women say nurses and lactation consultants gave them a “tsk, tsk” for supplementing with formula, not trying harder with nursing, etc. What’s your advice for women on listening to their intuition — wether or not they want to breastfeed, wether or not they want to supplement, etc.
Synthia Praglin: This is a hot issue in so many of my classes and among women in general. There is so much pressure placed on moms to breastfeed, sometimes at their own expense. It’s wonderful if you can and want to do it, but it’s not for everyone. With new moms being so incredibly vulnerable in those early days, hearing that something is “best” yet she can’t or decides not to, can oftentimes leave this mom anxious and guilt ridden. Add to this the judgment and lack of support by other mothers, sisters, friends and a mom finds herself in defense mode. If her self esteem and confidence are dependent on what other people think, the outcome is never good. To complicate the matter, hormones, sleep deprivation, and guilt over her choice often lead to sadness and depression. This vicious cycle affects not only mom, but her baby as well. This choice should be the mom’s and no one else. As I tell the moms in my classes, when you (finally) put your head down on your pillow, only you can answer the question are happy with the choices you made today? Rather than judge, let’s support one another. Let’s offer understanding. The truth is, we don’t really know all the reasons why. And we don’t need to. What we need to do is take care of one another so that we can be strong to take care of ourselves and our babies.
Polite As Fudge: What was your body after baby experience? How do you feel about your body now, 18 years into your motherhood journey?
Synthia Praglin: I think it’s safe to say, I could not wait to get back to working out and working off the baby weight. I had been a die hard gym rat and the day my son was old enough to be at the gym daycare, I was there. My love-hate relationship with my body was definitely a struggle after giving birth. 18 years later and I’m dealing with the effects of the aging process on the body! I continue to exercise, eat healthy and try to find the balance, reminding myself of who I am.
*A Little Postnatal Body Tip: Wear what fits your body now. I didn’t like wearing maternity clothes after I had my babies. Because I was sick of them. So I bought a transitional wardrobe from places like H&M that I could incorporate with my pre baby clothes that fit. Voila, after baby wardrobe. I also bought these high waisted compression leggings and top and wore flowy blouses overtop of them, because it was comfy and still made me feel put together (ish).