Eff That Perfect Post-Pregnancy Body Dream
By Sonia Jhas
These days, social media is filled with That Mom whose body, after having a baby, appears to bounce back within weeks. One minute, she’s doing her countdown-to-delivery, and the next minute, she’s posting an ab-selfie talking about how she’s feeling fit, and strong, and unstoppable as a new “#fitmom!” Well, I’m here to say, as politely as I possibly can – and with all due respect—
Eff this woman and her perfect post-pregnancy body.
Eff all of them for making us somehow think that immediately bouncing back after having a baby is normal or even expected.
I’ll admit it, I thought I’d be a “fit mom” within three months after having a baby. I thought, based on all that I had seen on social media, and all that I thought I knew as a health and wellness expert, that I, too, would have that perfect come-back story. I figured it would take about a month to get myself in the rhythm of motherhood (ha!) and two months to start cleaning up my diet and hitting the gym (double ha!). I had been working out during my whole pregnancy, so I figured a month off wouldn’t set me back too far; by month three, I’d be picking things back up, seeing my fat melt off, and my muscle resurface. In my blissful naiveté, I envisioned a world in which I’d be toning and sculpting my body while my beautiful baby girl napped peacefully.
Eff that dream. Here’s what really went down.
- Expected birth plan: Vaginal birth. Reality? C-section.
- Expected physical recovery: 1-2 weeks. Reality? 6 weeks.
- Expected time to emotionally adjust to motherhood: 1 month. Reality? 6 months.
- Expected hours of uncontrollable crying: 0. Reality? 3 months.
- Expected time off from the gym: 1 month. Reality? 6 months.
- Expected hours sleeping with baby: 0. Reality? 4.5 months — all naps, all nights.
The result of this? No workouts. Ever. For 6 months.
I want to be clear about why this bothered me. I wasn’t gigantic during my pregnancy and I wasn’t gigantic after. I gained about 35lbs (16kg) throughout my pregnancy and lost about 15 to 20 (7 to 9) of them within the first month after having a baby. But those leftover 10 to 15 pounds … that was enough to put me in a different bucket. I didn’t look huge, but I definitely didn’t look fit, and I didn’t feel fit. I most certainly didn’t look like an Instagram health and wellness expert. I didn’t look and feel like me.
I won’t lie, it was a dark time in my life. I don’t think I had postpartum depression in it’s truest sense, but I definitely had some exaggerated baby blues. At the time, it legitimately felt like the worst of times. But, in hindsight, it made me realize that even for us go-getter, on-top-of-things folks – bouncing back after having a baby ain’t easy. It made me realize that for anyone who doesn’t have a team of people working them out, cooking their meals, and taking care of their newborn, it literally takes 9 to 12 months to really get their bodies back.
It made me realize that most of what we see on social media is the exception, not the rule.
Post-baby, our bodies do some serious work. We’re talking: shedding fluid, retracting organs, healing your hoo-ha, and rebalancing your hormones. Post-baby, you are doing some serious work. We’re talking: making sure your new tiny human doesn’t die, breastfeeding (o-m-g … so hard, why does nobody warn you about this?!), staying awake all night, and potentially crying hard and crying often (thank you, hormones). It’s real. It’s complicated. And it’s hard in more ways than we realize – on the mind, body, and soul.
It took me a little while to come to terms with the fact that I was finding motherhood difficult, that I wasn’t finding the transition to be smooth or easy. That I was feeling like a failure – as a mom, as a fitness expert, and as a someone who’s generally expected to have her ‘shit together.’ But once I was able to acknowledge and express my reality, the pressure lifted a bit. Instead of fighting with myself and operating from a place of hate and failure, I was able to operate from a place of wanting to rebuild, grow, strengthen, and elevate myself as an individual and a mother.
Why do I tell you all this? Because, to be honest, if you’re feeling fat, confused, stressed, emotional, helpless, and at times kind-of-desperate in this post-baby phase of yours, you should know you are not alone. I’ve been there, too. So often, I get questions about how I got my post-pregnancy body back so quickly and easily. And my response, each and every time, is that it really was not as easy as I had expected. It was emotionally and physically challenging, and above all, it took time.
But I’m here to tell you, too, that things will turn around, and that while the post-baby journey is indeed complicated, it doesn’t have to be negative. So, stop with the shitty self-talk, stop hating your body for the state that it’s in, and start loving it for the fact that it produced an incredible miracle – one that is surely making your life more challenging than you ever imagined, but one that is also making your life fulfilling in ways that a defined set of abs simply cannot.