Written by: Lilyan Andrews
Although needed, authentic conversations about body image are all too often uncomfortable, and no less uncomfortable is the topic of postpartum body image.Too many messages in the media, whether direct or indirect, are telling moms how they need to “bounce back” after giving birth. There is so much stress on women not to “lose their figure,” and unfortunately that stress can come from loved ones or even ourselves.
Surprise! This is Postpartum
I was the first of my close friends to have a baby, so you can say that I was a deer in headlights after giving birth. Maybe I should have read more of those “What to Expect” articles or books, but I figured people have babies all the time and if they can figure it out, so can I, right? No, not entirely right. I remember packing my loose pre-pregnancy jeans in my hospital bag thinking I would surely fit into them after giving birth. While I did lose 25 lbs with the delivery (my baby was normal weight, but it was July and I was swollen with so much water retention), I was still 20 lbs away from being even close to what I weighed pre-pregnancy. Luckily I had also packed comfortable leggings that stretched over my 5-month-pregnant looking belly. But what was I thinking? Did I think that bouncing back was just as simple as pushing the baby out of my body? I now laugh at my naïve pre-mother self and I’m proud of how far I’ve come.
The Miracle of Life
There is an unrealistic expectation that having a child should leave no trace of it on our bodies. But our stretch marks, loose skin, and scars say otherwise. These are what I like to call battle scars. Scars of the pain we endured to carry and bring human life onto this earth. The miracle of life growing in our bodies still blows my mind every time I ponder it. The gift God has given us to bring life into the world is unfathomable at times. What is more important is how we honor God in our walk as mothers, and how we raise our children. We should remind ourselves of the bigger picture: that our bodies were blessed to bring life into the world, and it is no longer just about us, but about our precious babies as well.
Tending to Our Physical Needs
While there is nothing wrong with wanting to get in shape, it becomes dangerous when it starts becoming an obsession. I’m all for taking care of your body so it can perform to its fullest capacity. Feeding it the right nutrients, spending adequate time exercising, and getting enough sleep are all things that should be on the top of our to-do list. In fact, after having my second child I noticed how my energy levels were way lower than usual, even after she and I both started sleeping through the night, so I decided to do something about it. I signed up for Beach Body and joined an encouraging group of women who steered me to get in the right nutrition and some form of exercise. I quickly noticed having more energy during the day and being able to keep up with my active toddler and baby. Some days I was on top of it, and some days I wasn’t. Part of the program required you to check in with the group at the end of the day. I remember one day I didn’t eat well and skipped my exercise, and to be honest I was being a bit hard on myself. One of the group members told me to give myself some grace.
Break Free from the Shame Through Grace
I had never heard that term before. “Give myself some grace?” I liked the way it sounded but practically applying it turned out to be quite challenging. I did come across a book that was tremendously helpful, not just for moms, but women everywhere. Breaking Free from Body Shame is a book I highly recommend every woman to read, because 97% of us are unhappy with our bodies, a ghastly statistic that we need to start addressing. The book walks the reader through how God created us and how the world has distorted that image, and now it’s our time to reclaim our bodies as good. (You can listen to a chapter from the book on this podcast episode).
Currently, I’m expecting baby #3 and I can gladly say I’ve gotten better at giving myself the grace I need to get through the difficulties of motherhood. Whether it’s being a good mother to my kids, having the house in order, or being in shape, I’ve learned that it’s okay if it’s not all going according to plan. And this time I’ll be packing my maternity pants in my hospital bag and embracing them for the months to follow.
So can you join me, and give yourself some grace too?
About the Author:
Lilyan Andrews is a girl mom, priest-wife, certified life coach, blogger, and an engineer. While she is passionate about many things, she loves teaching and coaching others towards healthy relationships. She has an active blog that has reached thousands, where she writes to guide Christian youth on the struggles they face. If you want to know more about Lilyan, check out her blog, or connect with her on Instagram (@lilyanandrews).