My life forever changed 6 years ago, when I birthed my first sweet baby girl.
My body did as well.
With it, came the constant barrage of mixed messages our culture aims at women with postpartum bodies:
Embrace your tiger stripes!
But don’t let yourself go!
You now have more to love!
But don’t eat too many sweets—they’ll just add more to those love handles.
And so, the past 6 years, I’ve teeter tottered between two extremes–that fine line between apathy and acceptance.
I said I accepted my new body as it was, but, really, I was just apathetic. Except for a short fitness challenge I hosted in early 2013, I’ve spent the better part of the past 3 1/2 years not caring for my body.
But here lately I’ve begun questioning myself: Is it possible to truly love your post-babies body without succumbing to the temptation to just let it go?
Is there really no use trying to get back into shape when you can never go back to the figure you had in your twenties?
It’s true that my body (and, most likely, your body) will never be the same, but, maybe, just maybe, could it be better?
Before kids, I was always that thin girl. You know the one. I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight. And honestly, I never even weighed myself or gave thought to my figure until I went from thin to very skinny.
No, I never had an eating disorder. (Really, I didn’t.) But when I lost 15 pounds during a bout with mono in my early 20s, people started noticing. And if I’m painstakingly honest, I reveled in the attention. I didn’t want to lose more weight, but I surely didn’t want to gain it either.
To regain my strength after that sickness, I started exercising. I was also very active in my job as a traveling ESL teacher. I literally walked school hallways all day and came home and did aerobics videos at night.
But looking back, I probably wasn’t very healthy. At 5 feet, 5 1/2 inches tall, my size 2 clothing swallowed me, and I took a nail and bore extra holes in my belts, so I wouldn’t have to buy new ones. My diet, sadly, mainly consisted of low fat, processed junk.
I kept the weight off for about 7 years.
I gained exactly what my doctor suggested during my first pregnancy. Because I was underweight, she instructed me to gain about 40 pounds.
And at 27, my skin and tummy bounced back. Baby Girl #1 didn’t even leave one stretch mark, and I was donning my pre-pregnancy wardrobe two weeks later.
I went through an extremely stressful season when she was about a year old, and I gained 10 pounds in two weeks. But then I actually looked healthy.
It took longer to lose the baby weight after Baby Girl #2. A whole year in fact. And then I got pregnant with Baby Girl #3.
Life was crazy during my pregnancy with my third. I was starting a business, and I was mothering two age 3 and under. I didn’t exercise. At all.
I gained 50 pounds, and my previous stretch-mark-free belly became riddled with them.
(My husband likes to remind me that, in some other cultures, stretch marks are revered, and the fatter, the sexier. I haven’t always bought it.)
My third pregnancy ensured that my body would never, ever be the same.
Since I never had really had to try to lose weight, I was at a loss for how to start. And, more than anything, I was scared that I actually would try–and would fail.
Earlier this summer, I finally got to the point where I realized it was now or never.
Either I could really, truly let myself go at age 33, or I could pull up my bootstraps and at least try to get back in shape.
I started a morning workout class about a month ago, and, to my utter shock, I LOVE rising at 5:30 a.m. to exercise! Around the same time, I started the Whole 30. Because we already eat a mostly whole foods, unprocessed diet, I’ve found this gentle detox/system reset surprisingly simple.
Have I lost weight?
I actually haven’t weighed myself a whole lot because I didn’t want that to be the focus.
As my friend Megan wrote recently, strong is the new skinny.
I’m finally at the point where I don’t want to be skinny again. I want to be strong.
The biggest difference I’ve noticed?
Exercising my body lifts my mood, renews my energy and, truly, makes me a better wife, mom, homemaker and even blogger.
How do we know if we are accepting or just plain apathetic about our postpartum bodies?
Oh how I’ve asked myself this question so.many.times! Here is what I’ve come up with:
Apathy says: “I have a diastasis. It will never heal, and I will always look pregnant.”
Acceptance says: “My tummy may never look the exact same way again, but I can heal my core and make it strong.”
Apathy says: “I have stretch marks. I might as well not even try using any kind of cream or lotion to try to smooth them.”
Acceptance says: “I may never get rid of these stretch marks, but I can at least soften and scent my body with my favorite lotion.”
Apathy says: “I can never let my husband see my scarred body. We must be intimate in the dark.”
Acceptance says: “I’ve earned those marks, and my husband thinks they are beautiful. Mothering his children has only added to our love.”
Apathy says: “I must hide behind my fat rolls. They will always be there, and there is nothing I can do about it.”
Acceptance says: “I may never be skinny, but I can become strong. I can exercise, eat healthy foods and embrace a newfound energy that is not defined by how much I weigh.”
There’s a fine line between apathy and acceptance.
And sometimes we tell ourselves we accept our postpartum bodies as is in an excuse to be apathetic.
I want to find the balance. I want to be truthful with myself and others. I want to accept the fact that my body is altered but not lie in apathy and self-pity about it.
I want to do what I can to make my body beautiful without making it an obsession. And embrace this new season of tiger-striped strength.
Some of my fellow bloggers have also broached this subject, and I love what they had to share:
I’m Not Losing Weight (and It’s Okay) (No, Really) @ Megan Tietz/Sorta Crunchy
Style Crisis: How to Dress a Body You (Sorta) Don’t Love @ Megan Tietz/Sorta Crunchy
On Postpartum Weight Loss @ Modern Alternative Mama
Do you struggle with the fine line between apathy and acceptance when it comes to the postpartum body? Do you accept your body–or are you apathetic about it?