I purchased a bathroom scale for the first time in my life just over a month ago. It actually was kind of a difficult decision. I’ve never been super focused on the number on the scale. I know what a healthy weight range is for me, and, realistically I know I’ll end up back there someday. But, also realistically, I know I am like many women who do not recognize the shape of the woman they see in the mirror after giving birth. I jokingly refer to it as my period of “deflation,” but it is difficult to know the way you feel inside and the way your body looks are not in union. It’s difficult when your pants can’t make it over your widened hips. It’s difficult when you still, 2 months after giving birth, can’t fit your wedding ring all the way on your finger.
I think a lot of us probably feel that way. I gained 18 lbs more weight during this pregnancy than with the previous two. And the reason for that is actually something to celebrate. I was incredibly nauseous for the first 20 weeks, but a new medication helped enough that I didn’t get sick as often. With the first two kids, I lost weight during the first trimester. With one of them, it was nearly 10% of my bodyweight. That didn’t happen this time. And, as a result, I naturally gained more. So, the extra weight is, in many ways, good news.
Holding All The Things
And I know that I am doing much better now this third time around at being gracious to my postpartum body than I have in the past. My body grew, sustained, and gave birth to human life, which is freaking amazing. But I think I can love and appreciate my body for its ability to do that, and also accept that it is still in a period of transition. That pregnancy and postpartum are both times where our bodies change dramatically. I can say- “Ok. It sucks that I have to rotate between 4 shirts right now that look appropriate,” and also stare at my daughter and say “Woah. This amazing little creature was formed inside of me.”
I can know this, and also sometimes I just really just want to wear my wedding ring, and have more than one pair of pants that fits. I can feel frustrated when that pair gets majorly spat up on, and I have to give them an emergency wash with not enough time, and then spend an evening out doing pub trivia with damp pant legs.
I can hold all of those things and accept that they all are valid. I can sit with dichotomy. I can grant that pregnancy and postpartum are both times that require patience and grace. Yes I can.
Getting A Move On
Exercise is one of the key components to my treatment plan for Postpartum Depression/Anxiety this time around. Being active helps my mood, and enables me to manage the stressors of each day more effectively. I also know it will help to tone and strengthen me. And lose the baby weight. So, once I was cleared to move, I started a manageable yet effective workout program, interestingly titled Bikini Body Mommy. I make it like an appointment each day that I cannot miss. And the program isn’t how it sounds. The lady who runs it is a mom of 4, who looks normal, and is working on strengthening her body as well. It’s very focused on acceptance, and being strong and healthy. Just being honest – its much easier to go through this program during my postpartum period than it would be to watch a perfectly toned 0% body fat Jillian Michaels or Other Hyper Toned Woman tell me to get a move on, or that I can handle 10 more reps or something. I’ll take the mom with the kids in the background of her videos, who deals with the same stuff I do when trying to get a workout in thank you very much.
Anyway… the Bikini Body Mommy 90 day challenge has set intervals where you take your weight and measurements.
I like seeing progress, and I like things I can quantify. I wanted to engage in the program with fidelity, and so, I bought the scale. I bought the tape measure. And began.
I am now nearly 30 days into the program, and I am seeing progress and change. I’m feeling stronger and more energetic. All of which are good things. But I am also keenly aware that my 5 year old daughter is watching everything happen. And I am aware that how she sees me handle this time will teach her a lot about what she should think about her own body.
The Little Eyes Upon Me
Even if my own brain is screaming in excitement when I see the scale dip down a bit, or I notice that or that hints of a waist are beginning to reappear (and those abs are in there somewhere, I just know it), I am consciously, painstakingly careful about the words that I let out of my mouth, and of the way I let my daughter hear me talking about my body. To some extent, I have always been this way around her. But now, especially now, I am more careful than ever.
She, my precious girl, is so confident. She is so secure. She knows she is lovely. I want to build upon that, and teach her to be gracious to herself when her body goes through change. Because women’s bodies go through a lot of change in a lifetime. We are meant to expand and retract. We are meant to grow life, and give life. Our metabolisms speed up and slow down. Our bodies change monthly as our fertility cycle repeats time and time again. Our bodies are not and never will be stagnant. And I want her to know that when she, too, goes through those inevitable changes in her body, that health and strength can be the rocks she can stand on.
So here’s what we’re doing right now.
Right now, my daughter sees me exercise 6 days a week, for about 20 minutes at a time. Sometimes she joins in with me, and we talk about how strong we feel, or how we can feel our muscles working. She knows exercise is a priority. She knows that for kids, running, and playing, and anytime she is moving is good exercise. And that she’s welcome to join in with mommy. And let me tell you, that girl can plank.
Right now, I let her see me sweat. It’s ok that it is hard work. It took mommy’s tummy a long time to stretch out to grow the baby, and it’s ok and normal that it takes work and time to help get those tummy muscles un-stretched out and strong again.
Right now, I’m careful how often she sees me step on that scale. She knows that it is one way I can track how mommy is getting healthy. But I don’t make it a focus.
Right now, (and always and forever because I need food to live,) she sees me eat. Regular food. And treats. This momma cannot a day without chocolate go. But she sees me eat healthy portions, and she hears me talk about filling up on good-for-you foods first with vitamins that will make us strong, and then leaving a little room left for a treat afterwards.
Right now, (and hopefully forever,) she does not and will not hear me complain about feeling flabby, or misshapen. Truthfully, I am a bit flabby due to the extra skin. I had 8 lbs 10 oz of humanity fit inside my abdominal region. The flabbiness is simply a reality of the situation. But, though I may be tempted to feel like I am, I am not misshapen. I grew a human. This is the shape my body has after giving birth to said human. It is differentshapen if anything. But the prefix “mis” means wrong, and there is nothing wrong with a body looking like this after doing what it did.
Right now, even if I may not particularly like what I see, she does not see me look disapprovingly in the mirror, or pinch or grab the stretched out parts of myself. She does, however, see me take my progress photos, and she knows I am taking them so I can keep track of how strong I am getting, and so I can see my muscles grow.
Right now, she knows it is more important to be healthy than to be skinny. She knows this because I ask her from time to time, and she always gets the answer right. And I hope and pray she continues to believe it. Because it is the absolute, and total truth. She also knows all women are shaped differently, and we all are different shaped at different times of our lives. And that all of that is normal, and good.
When Others Say Things
I was glad tonight when a woman approached me and said “Look at you, all skinny already,” that Felicity was out of earshot. However, she was in earshot when her daddy recently, and briefly, forgot the deal and said “Look at mommy, isn’t she getting so skinny?!” I said, “No, daddy, I am getting healthy, and strong.” And Felicity echoed the same, acting almost as if her daddy was silly to have spoken in that way.
That a girl.
JP didn’t mean to do anything wrong- he was trying to pay me a compliment and acknowledge all the hard work I’ve been doing. But, he’s also man whose body has pretty much stayed the same since high school. Having never been a woman, he doesn’t fully get what we are doing here. But he also realized the mistake and corrected his own language as well. Nice recovery. Positive message reinforced.
In some ways, I am also helping to teach myself how to think more healthily and graciously during this time. I have to frame my own thoughts better in order to make sure that the words I say match the message I want Felicity to hear. And, the little ways I’ve seen her repeat back to me the things I have spoken let me know that, at least as far as this goes, we are doing okay. She’s talked about how long it takes to grow a baby and stretch out, and that getting un-stretched out takes a long time too. She cheers me on when I am working out, yelling “You’re getting stronger mommy!” Yes, sweet girl. Yes I am. Thanks for the compliment.
These things are music to my ears. These things keep me going, and encourage me to continue on this path.
The path to health. To continued happiness. To being content right where I’m at. Even if I have a few more evenings with damp pant legs in my near future. We’ll get there. After all, these things take time.