I love my babies.
When my kiddo is soundly sleeping in my arms, I feel like the best mom ever. Baby snuggles are the best. And those first smiles - most precious moments in the world!
Babies are pretty amazing.
You know what's not amazing?
Rather, the pregnancy weight.
Those of you who know me in real life would probably roll your eyes at me with the amount of weight I gained in my fourth pregnancy. I know, I know, I was lucky to only gain 25 pounds the fourth time. I've been lucky enough to gain less weight with each successive pregnancy; usually women gain more weight each time. Please don't assume that I'm bragging about the poundage. I've been on the opposite end of the spectrum as well. I gained 50 pounds in my first pregnancy, more than any of the other first-time mommies in my social circle. I didn't lose that weight through breastfeeding either. It was a long nine months before I finally lost the baby weight.
When it comes to baby weight, most medical professionals would agree that it's important to lose some (if not all) of the extra weight. Obesity is a growing challenge in America. However, medical professionals disagree on how quickly those pounds need to come off. Some recommend losing the weight within a few months through diet and exercise. Some suggest taking an entire year to slowly lose the weight. Oftentimes the mantra is, "It took nine months to gain the weight, it'll take nine months to lose the weight."
Jaime Arruda, MD wisely states, "Probably the most important thing to remember about this is that everyone gains their weight and loses their weight differently in pregnancy, and that it’s not a competition as to how quickly you can lose your postpartum weight."
As a counselor, a friend, and a mom, I see women struggle with things other than the number on the scale. Self-esteem. Self-confidence. Self-image. Most women just want to feel good about their bodies after childbirth. Moms not only sacrifice their time and emotions to raise children, they sacrifice their very bodies. Our skin bears stretch marks, our abdominal muscles flab, our chests never look the same again. Even our feet can permanently change! The number on the scale may get down to your wedding day weight, but your wedding dress may still not fit because your rib-cage expanded during pregnancy.
Pregnancy affects all women differently, and so does postpartum weight loss.
Don't fight to look like a supermodel.
Fight to simply feel good in the skin you have left, scars and all.
I'll say that again:
Fight to feel good in your new skin.
How do you win the battle of new mom self-confidence?
Answer these questions:
What makes you feel beautiful?
What makes you feel strong and capable?
Over the last few weeks, when did you feel the most confident in yourself?
And on that occasion, what were you doing, wearing, and thinking?
Think about the last time that you felt "like your old self" again.
In that moment, what were you doing, wearing, thinking?
How will you know when you have reached the moment where you accept yourself?
What will you say to yourself when you are good with yourself?
Ponder over your answers.
And tell those kind words to yourself now. Smile at yourself now.
Allow yourself to be human and imperfect. Be patient with yourself while making a game plan to get feeling good again. If that means losing some baby weight, then make a plan towards that goal. (Check with your doctor if you have medical concerns.) If feeling good means updating your wardrobe, then get to it. Feeling good about your body can also involve daily positive affirmations, volunteer service, or frequent self-care time where you relax from stress. When I see counseling clients struggling with self-image, their weight is usually connected to anxious eating habits. Under-eating and overeating are common stress relievers, and neither are healthy habits. Every mom experiences stress. Analyze within yourself if you are coping with stress in a healthy way. Are other stressors affecting your ability to love yourself?
Sometimes, even as you fight to feel good, your results will not be "perfect." I know amazing moms who can't seem to lose every pound of baby weight despite their conscious eating and exercising. Sometimes abdominal muscles stay separated. Sometimes chest sizes shrink even more. Sometimes scar lines don't fade but remain bright purple. We cannot control the unexpected, but we can control whether or not we try to reach our goals. If you have tried honestly and sincerely, than you have not failed. Don't withhold kindness from yourself. Don't withhold smiles from yourself. Do your best, and love your effort.
No matter the number on the scale, fight to feel good.
No matter your deflated bra size, fight to feel good.
Remind yourself about your inner strength and beauty. Tell yourself compliments. Work on your goals for physical and mental wellness. Kick those nay-saying, negative thoughts to the curb.
Eat healthy. Run around after your kids for exercise. Breathe fresh air. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Express gratitude to your loved ones often and to your God for the blessings of family.
Write love letters to yourself. Praise your efforts to be healthy for your family. Accept compliments from others with a "thank you" instead of "oh, thanks, but I still (insert self-degrading comment.)" Replace negative self-talk with a loop of received compliments. Whatever stage you are in, whether gaining baby weight or losing baby weight, simply love yourself and fight to feel good.