I hate the term “bounce back.”
And it really irks me when it’s said to someone who has just had a baby. The pressure to get your body and your life back after the birth of a brand spankin’ new human is real, ya’ll. It’s always presented as this positive thing, too. “Oh, don’t worry, you’ll bounce back. You’ll get your body back. You’ll lose the weight, etc. Everything will go back to normal.”
Let’s break down why we don’t bounce back after something big, like having a baby. We can’t.
Going back implies that there’s something wrong with right now. There’s not. There is another person in this world because of what your body just did. Someone who did not exist now does, and your body looks different because of it. What’s wrong with that?
Bounce back implies quickness. Ever drop a bouncy ball? That sucker comes back at you with almost full force in less than a second. How is your body and mind supposed to do the same? Your body took nine months to change and prepare for the arrival of a child. It’s going to probably take even longer to change back, and – I hate to break it to you – it might never be what it once was. It takes 6-8 weeks just for your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size. The rest of your body is going to take its time, as well. Most women have a different body for the rest of their life, and that is ok. Did you know your shoe size might be permanently different after birth, or that it’s common for boobs to drop a cup size after breastfeeding? Your body’s change is a testament to the incredible journey you went through. YOU ARE NOT A FAILURE BECAUSE YOUR BODY NEVER MIRACULOUSLY CHANGES BACK TO ITS PRE-BIRTH APPEARANCE.
“Bouncing back” also feels like a necessary part of postpartum living because EVERYONE says it. On top of adjusting to a new schedule, healing, eating, trying to get sleep whenever possible, dealing with your mental well-being, and caring for a newborn, you’re also supposed to return to the person you once were. Insert whatever curse word you’d like here because, %$@#!, that’s a lot to expect of a new parent. It’s too much. It is not necessary to lose the baby weight. It is not necessary to hide your stretch marks, or get back your old sex drive. You don’t need a boob job. The body you have right now is wonderful. The body you have will always be wonderful, no matter how it changes.
Now, all of this doesn’t mean you become a whole new person. You still have some of the same interests and passions. You still want to feel and look like yourself, and that’s why accepting your postpartum body can be so dang hard. I’ve never had a baby, but I see the impact it has on the women I know and love, and I see the struggles they face trying to reconnect with the person they were before the baby. But there’s no going back. Instead, you have to regrow. You’re different, and maybe you don’t know what to do with all the change. You’ll figure it out and you’ll regrow. You’ll start doing the activities you loved, and maybe you’ll find new ones. With self-love and care practices (like joining support groups, positive affirmations or seeing a therapist if you’re struggling with postpartum depression), you’ll feel confident and beautiful again. It takes time. You can’t rush a flower up out of the ground. You won’t be able to rush your growth, either. After something as big has giving birth, you can feel broken, lost, confused – like, who’s body is this? – but you will heal. You’re going to get it and grow into this magical person who has a changed body, heart and mind. The most beautiful plants and flowers always return after winter. You will, too.
Ginny’s Postpartum Story
As I was scrolling through Facebook, a friend of mine who had recently had a baby, posted this: “Too often have I heard women say, “I want to do a photo shoot but not til I lose weight” I would like to prove that no one has to lose weight to get good photos, feel good about themselves and look sexy as hell!! So here I am, 23 lbs heavier than I was pre-pregnancy, in no rush to “bounce back,” as my baby is currently thriving off my fatty milk.” Of course I was like HELLLLLLLL YAAAAAAAAS and needed to do something creative with her. We chatted and decided the “regrowth” theme was the way to go. I purchased every fake piece of greenery I could and went to work setting up a springtime fantasy boudoir studio.
After our session, I asked if I could include her thoughts on life after birth. Like I said, I don’t have children. I can empathize and teach self-love, but I’ll never actually know what it’s like to live postpartum unless it happens to me. That’s why I’m forever grateful that Ginny agreed to share her thoughts. I think it’s vital that we learn about regrowing from someone who is doing it.
What are some of the struggles you face regarding your self-image now that you’re pregnancy is over? The first three months were really hard some days. I had been really happy with my body before I got pregnant and during my pregnancy, but once it was over and I was left with saggy skin, stretch marks, and squish I felt like my body had betrayed me. It had done such an amazing thing creating another life, but once that was over I felt like it left me with something I couldn’t recognize. I think hormones had a lot to do with these feelings and just the shock of the abrupt change. I can honestly say, four months into motherhood, I feel pretty good about my body again. I see the differences from my pre-pregnancy body but I appreciate them now. I’m proud of them.
How do you feel different now than when you were pregnant? When I was pregnant, I was so scared about all the ways my life was going to change once I had the responsibilities of motherhood. I didn’t know what was going to happen to my old self, all my dreams, my job, my nights out. I was so afraid I was going to miss out on something. Now that I’m a mom, I’ve put all those fears to rest. I am more driven than I’ve ever been because it’s no longer just about me. It’s about showing my son that hard work and dedication really do pay off and that someday he too can make his dreams come true. I want him to believe that anything is possible, so I have to show him that it is. It’s a very powerful and empowering feeling.
Are you doing anything to feel like yourself again? There is one thing I wish I had done right from the start and that’s getting clothes that fit and that express my personal style. I went months wearing nothing but pregnancy leggings and my boyfriend’s t-shirts because none of my old clothes fit. I really started to feel like myself after I bought a few pieces of clothing that were “me”.
What do you wish you would have known about postpartum life? I wish I had been told that the adjustment period just takes a little time. Having a baby basically turns your life upside down and it takes a little while for things to settle. It can seem so overwhelming at times but after a few months you develop a new normal. For me, three months was definitely a turning point. I feel comfortable with my new body, my sleep schedule, and staying home with my son and spending less time at work. Everything takes time but trust me, all you new moms out there, you will find a balance.
Any words of support for new moms? What do you wish people would tell you? Being a mom is hard! Moms-to-be are told how wonderful it is, how rewarding, how beautiful, and it is absolutely all of those things but I think it’s important to share the other side, as well. I want to share the real stories, the nights I was so tired I would cry when the baby would wake up crying, the weeks of chapped and bleeding nipples and feeling like my body wasn’t doing what it was supposed to, all the early days looking in the mirror and wondering who the girl was that was looking back at me. There are so many moments when I felt alone because no one had ever told me that these feelings could happen, and if they did, it’s okay. I think my best advice is to join support groups, follow inspiring and real accounts that show you the nitty gritty stuff, the tears, the mess, the identity struggle. Just know you aren’t alone and you’re doing great, Mama!
Anything you hate hearing as a new mom? People are always going to offer unwanted advice, the best thing to do is to take what you can and ignore the rest. Every child is different and no piece of advice is going to work for every kid. Trust your instincts and do what you think is best.
A big thanks to Ginny for sharing her journey. Make sure you follow her on Instagram for more goodness like this. If you’re a new mom, just know that you’ve got this. You are doing the best you can, and that is enough. You are enough. You will figure this all out, and if you need help to do so, that’s also ok! You’ve got this.
For more self-love inspiration and feel good vibes, join the Buxom Babes group on Facebook.