You may be surprised by how your body looks and feels after you give birth. If you worried about your size when you were younger, your uneasiness about your body may reach new heights. Or you may find that you return to your pre-baby size very quickly. Or you may be unperturbed by body changes.
People tend to have an odd fascination with how women’s bodies look after giving birth. If you returned to pre-pregnancy size quickly, you may receive glowing, well-meant comments about “how you don’t look like you’ve just had a baby” or that “having a baby didn’t change your figure one bit.”
Attitudes about how women should look after giving birth stem from the messages that we get from society and the mainstream media. Books, movies and advertising portray perfect postpartum bodies. Celebrity mothers look chic and perfectly in shape after having their babies. Numerous slimming programmes and packages target postnatal women who want to return to pre-pregnancy shape.
Several photographers have set out to show the world how real postnatal bodies look through photography projects like this and this, exposing pop culture’s unrealistic expectations of women’s bodies. Many mothers find encouragement and camaraderie in these celebrated images of bodies just like their own.
Despite the popularity of these photography projects, you may find that your body looks nothing like those portrayed. If your body has not changed much post-baby, rest assured that you simply fall within the vast range of what’s normal.
Many women find that they perceive their bodies differently after their babies are born. With the backdrop of pregnancy, labour and birth, they have a newfound appreciation of and gentleness toward their bodies.
In the day to day rigours of mothering a baby, ideas about having tight, toned, media-worthy bodies quickly seem distant and unrealistic. Our priorities and time constraints have changed, babycare now takes centrestage!
As Joyann Liau, 32, a working mother to three-year-old Lucas, says, “Before pregnancy, I tried many ways to stay slim: diets, slimming pills, slimming centres. I was borderline underweight. After giving birth, I had a rounded tummy, stretch marks and extra kilos.”
The first runner-up of Mrs Singapore 2013 and a strong advocate of breastfeeding adds, “I never thought to try and slim down quickly. My priority had suddenly shifted from ‘myself’ to ‘my child’. I was happy that I now had the special power to breastfeed.”
Time of Healing & Change
Think of the first three months after your baby’s birth as the fourth trimester of your pregnancy. While you are nurturing your newborn, your body is also healing. Honour your body and give it time to slowly ease back into its prepregnant form. Some mothers think of the remnants of pregnancy as the marks of the rite of passage that their bodies have gone through.
One mother sees her stretch marks as a reminder that her pre-baby body had been too small and needed to grow to contain all that love inside. Angelina Leong, 34, mother to an eight-month=old girl, shares, “It bothers me when people call pregnancy stretch marks or caesarean scars ‘battle scars’. There’s something very negative about thinking of pregnancy and birth as a battle that mothers have faced and overcome. For me, the body changes are simply a part of the experience, another milestone in my womanhood journey.”
Nurturing the Woman Inside
In the weeks and months after giving birth, focus needs to move away from how our bodies look to who we are and the season we are in, as women and mothers.
Find physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual balance each day. Eat well and live mindfully in your body. Sensual experiences such as baths and massages or physical activity like yoga or pilates help many of us feel alive in our bodies.
Joyann shares, “I ensure I take time out of my busy schedule to pamper myself and do something I like, such as baking, to excite my spirit. I also spend time with my loved ones. Having Lucas has taught me to love myself for who I am and be confident inside out.”