Postpartum Body Chronicles Pt. 1 – Getting Started

Cheryl Hargrove Mom Mindfulness

Body Image Blame

Every woman has her own journey with pregnancy and the postpartum period. We each have different health, fitness, and life experiences going into pregnancy. Which means, we have markedly different experiences for 40-weeks (that whole 9-month thing is a crock of s**t, it’s really 10-months). Leading to our own unique stories, nightmares, and birthing experiences surrounding our labor. THEN, we go through the postpartum period, which again, can have its trials, triumphs, and difficult tribulations.

Which begs the questions: Why does society place pressure on women to adhere to a certain postpartum body image norm after pregnancy? Why do we feel shunned if we don’t comply?

Most importantly: Why do we feel the need to “bounce back” and look like someone else’s heavily staged underwear ab photo of themselves?

Do we blame social media? Do we blame our society? Where, oh where, do we place our blame?

“Bouncing Back”

When I was pregnant, so many people, men and women alike, would come up to me and say, “You’re going to bounce back so fast after having him!” Although their words had good intention, we are so conditioned to talk about a woman’s body as if that’s the ONLY thing on our mind after having a baby. Even in a CrossFit gym where views of women’s functionality and capability differs widely from the norm.

My response to everyone would be, “Yeah maybe or maybe not. It’s okay if I do, but I also can see it not happening. I’m just not trying to place any pressure on myself either way. I just want to survive.”

Was that entirely true? No. I definitely wanted to look a certain way after 3-months, 6-months, 12-months. I had a bit of an expectation for how I would recover, despite my nonchalant response. My experience has come to show me that it took a whole year to feel like myself again. Does that mean I was happy with my body image although others were supportive? No, but I sure as hell tried to convince myself I was okay.

Societal and Social Media Suggestions

Back to blame. Who, oh who, do we have to blame for our feelings of inferiority? Yes, we have so many external forces telling us to look a certain way. Not necessarily telling us, because it’s more subtle than that. They’re suggesting to us, that by posting their photo 3-months after having a baby that they have abs again, that you can do it, too.

(And no shade at these people. I’ve posted pics of myself pool-side with the family, bikini-clad. If you’ve got it, show it off. My point is that it’s not productive to obsess over someone else’s progress when you should be focusing on yourself.)

Do we blame that person? Do we blame social media for flooding our lives with these images? Well to start out, you chose to follow that person. Who is the culprit of that? You.

You chose to take time out of your day to peruse Instagram. Hmm…. what can I “explore” today? Do I fall for it? The click bait? Crap… I did. And now I’m in an Instagram wormhole 1-hour later and my hip flexors are cramping and I need to pee.

Who let me lay in on the couch with this thing glued to my hands?! This thing that hit me in the face after my hand went numb?

You.

Accountability

We all need to take personal accountability with where we place our energy and emphasis in life. Yes, it’s so easy to get sucked in, because that’s what it was designed to do. It’s designed to make you want to keep scrolling… down… down… down the page. Tap, tap, double tap. Heart emoji. It’s oh so easy. I can do everything with my thumb and sit on the toilet without having to actually have a real conversation with anyone in life.

So who do we have to blame? The first step we can do is to stop blaming and take accountability for our own actions. You’re a big kid. I started by reducing my time on social media and – what I deemed to be – frivolous internet activities. (And no, streaming the entire season 1 of Carnival Row in 2 days doesn’t count as “frivolous.”) If it serves a purpose and adds to your life, it’s not frivolous, as long as you know how to step away.

Course of Action

How did I do that? I found other things to do. Play with my kid. Talk to my family. Be present and in the moment. S**t, I’d gaze off into the distance on the patio and just let my mind be blank. Dare I say it… I’d let myself be bored laying on the ground staring at the ceiling fan swirl… until my kid decides to 30-seconds later to walk over and sit on my bladder, jumping up and down.

We’re never just stripped down in our own heads anymore. It’s always flooded with information overload. We can’t be by ourselves, both physically and mentally. I found that it was easier for me to stop caring about what other people were doing when I was exposed to them less. Process of elimination. Removing what was unnecessary consequently enhanced what was right in front of me, without adding a thing.

I didn’t have to try to convince myself that I was ok with my own image. I was actually starting to feel truly at peace with it. And no, your stomach skin will never have the same elasticity or look the same when you’re sitting down ever again. Unless you’re Audrina Patridge from the Hills.

Pre-reqs for Change

So this post is titled Postpartum Body. What’s the first thing that we need to do in order to change our postpartum body?

We need to change our minds. We need to change our mentality around WHY we want to change. Our bodies have gone through miraculous transformations – both inside and out. Hormones are going crunk. Hair is falling out. You haven’t had a REM cycle in months and you give zero f**ks that your kid is in the same outfit two days in a row. Dry shampoo is a way of life.

We need to be okay with ourselves. Who we are without distraction and filters. Who we are in real life, not the highlight reel. Authenticity. Does that mean that I have it figured out? Hell no. I just know that my life is drastically better when I spend less time on an imaginary fairy-tale land that doesn’t exist that I have no control over and MORE time on what’s right in front of me: my family, friends, and direct community.

So for the end of this post, I’m not giving you any exercises. Any sets or reps of kegels or lying glute bridges to complete. Get your mind right first. Find your purpose for who you are and how that’s changed. Are you spending your time consumed with what others think? How others look? How you look in comparison to them? Or are you fully committed to changing the one and only thing in life you can change, which is your own choices and habits?

When you can say, without a shred of doubt, that you are doing this for YOU and no one else, then we can embark on gettin’ that postpartum body back into action 😉

Next Time…

Next week’s post will feature some actual stuff to do regarding the pelvic floor 🙂

Disclaimer:
I’m going to finish off this post by stating that this post is a collection of thoughts and experiences I’ve had over the past year and a half as a new mom. I don’t have things figured out. I never will. My journey as a mom has only just begun. It will change every day. My only hope is that this post can provide some enlightenment or toilet-reading entertainment 🙂

Cheryl Hargrove Administrator
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