August 17, 2017

How Mothers can Befriend their Bodies after Birth.

Chatting with women who are about to become a mom is one of my favorite things.

As a mother of two, I’m touched that many turn to me for guidance on what to buy, where to go, and how to be prepared. And at some point in these discussions, once we’ve covered the products and the plans, I notice a level of worry that seems to seep into the discussion, and with almost a sense of hesitation and embarrassment. The biggest worry of all reveals itself. No, it’s not the best bottle to purchase, or how nursing will go, or even how to parent a child!

The number one source of anxiety for most moms is what will happen to their body.

This massive amount of unease surrounding a woman on the subject of her natal and postnatal body comes from the moment we conceive. Our body is no longer our own. Hormones begin to surge, breasts begin to round, our bellies and hips widen to accommodate a growing baby, and then we eventually give birth.

And what happens after?

We’re left with something that feels “other.” It’s not quite the body we knew before; and it’s unclear if it will return to its recognizable shape. For most women, our body is our center, our grounding stability, the space in which we connect with ourselves and our partner sexually. Feeling like we don’t know it is unnerving and emotional. We are not shallow for worrying.

So how do we step out of this worry and, instead, befriend our postnatal body so we can navigate changes healthily to arrive in the shape we want to be in (which for most moms becomes an aspiration of strength and energy)?

It starts with mindfulness—bringing our attention to the moment, to our thoughts, and seeing them for what they are. In other words, we don’t have to “lose ourselves” in emotions. Instead, we observe what’s come up for us and choose to simply “be with it.” When we’re more grounded using mindfulness, we are able to be resourceful and make the most of the tools we have.

Here’s how to befriend our postnatal body using two of my favorite critical practices for any mom—mindfulness and resourcefulness.

Our body is an ever-changing entity.

No matter what life stage we’re in, our body’s current state is not forever. Pain, extra weight, large breasts, inability to nurse, and sleeplessness are all experiences that will pass. In motherhood, some moments can feel like we’re stuck in an abyss—a moment that will never change. Exhaustion and surging hormones will do that.

Trust me, as a mother of two and a friend to many other moms, I can say that every moment passes. Our body is just part of that. The awkward postpartum period when we don’t fit into maternity clothes or our pre-pregnancy clothes are confusing and draining. It’s when we want to move our body, but haven’t been cleared by our doctor and our boobs feel so heavy that bouncing seems like a risk! Trust me, these moments will pass! Our body will adjust back to itself and we will move again with ease. Trust this truth and take deep breaths.

Use the available resources and move.

When we are present, we see the resources we have around us. The early days of postpartum, when our body doesn’t yet feel like ours, is the perfect time to find gentle, easy movement. Long walks with a baby in stroller or carrier, walks with other moms at a nearby track or mall, or even a fitness or yoga class created for moms with a little one in tow. Finding movement, companionship, and something to do with our baby are all excellent ways to befriend our body in the moment. And often in the company of others going through a similar transition.

Celebrate the power of the female body.

Sadly, our culture doesn’t celebrate strength and softness in women at the same time. But there’s no reason we can’t do it for each other and ourselves. Celebrating our strength should be easy. Anyone who has been through it knows how epic it is to carry a pregnancy and give birth. We really and truly are superwomen to do it.

Just meditate on how amazing we are as a life giver! Consider that as we get our body back to movement—finding our body’s strength again will allow us to be an active and productive mom. When this feels tough at first, we encourage ourselves and don’t berate ourselves. We have done so much; we can do this too! Let’s also celebrate our softness. Babies are soft, our bodies are soft after birth, we are sleepy and hungry, and we must do an exceptional amount of snuggling. Embrace this sweet softness, knowing it is fleeting.

It’s so easy to get into a cycle of self-criticism or worse—wanting to be anywhere but where we are. Part of my book, Going Beyond Mom, is about wanting to be fully in the moment. The only way to do that is to accept it, for all its imperfections, and recognize the beauty in that.

This is a great lesson of motherhood and it is one that begins with your body—embrace it.

Author: Randi Zinn 
Image: Arwen Abenstern/Flickr 
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Khara-Jade Warren

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Randi Zinn