Calling Body Positivity BS. How You Should Really Feel About Your Body After A Baby
How should you feel about your post baby body? On social media we’re now used to seeing postpartum bodies in all their various forms. From bloated post-birth bellies to loose skin and stretch marks, there are plenty of women who feel comfortable sharing their new contours and celebrating every change as part and parcel of their journey to motherhood – and fair play to them.
Then there are the postpartum images of ‘perfect’ bodies of mothers who have taken themselves on a focused journey of clean eating and exercise to ‘reclaim’ their physiques – the proud before and afters showing just how much you can transform a post partum body with support, healthy eating and exercise. Hats off to them too.
But what is healthy when it comes to body image after having a baby? The ‘Body Positivity’ movement has gone into overdrive in recent years, and while in lots of ways it has uplifted women and has led to more ‘realistic’ images of bodies being shared, feeling positive about your own body isn’t as simple as it sounds. Body positivity almost feels like it is not ok to admit when we don’t feel happy with what we see in the mirror.
Inevitably how we see and feel about ourselves is tied up with how we look. Our physical bodies are part of our identity and it’s usual for a lot of pregnant women I work with, to feel concerned about how their body will look after pregnancy. Worries span everything from weight gain to stretched skin, saggy breasts and hair loss. Many women want to feel confident and in control of their body image but pregnancy is a period when your body takes control, and grows and stretches as much as it needs to in order to keep baby safe.
It’s a complex issue because as mothers, all women want what is best for their unborn children, but as women, we want to feel good about ourselves – and for most that includes feeling happy to be in our skin too. Once pregnancy is over, most new mums are usually keen to ‘get back into shape’ and are eager to come to terms with their new bodies, but it can take months (if not years if there is a fast following second or third pregnancy) before your post partum body settles. The process of getting used to being in your ‘new’ body is an internal and external one and it is one that’s filled with ups and downs and hidden twists as well.
There are arguments out there which insist women should learn to love their ‘new’ bodies and be grateful for the experiences of pregnancy and motherhood. However, for women who feel sadness or a huge lack of confidence related to their postpartum body, it’s no good telling them to accept themselves, when their lack of body image is affecting their everyday lives and even their mental health.
In these scenarios, shouldn’t women be allowed to pursue whatever they wish and whatever they have the means for in order to feel good? Inside and out? Be it having a personal trainer, a nutritionist, counsellor or cosmetic surgery? I think so.
It may be controversial but I’d even go as far to say that body positive as a term isn’t serving us as well as it could be. Feeling body positive isn’t as easy as it sounds and it means that any one who doesn’t feel body positive is automatically body negative. I think a new term for body positivity needs to be coined, one that’s inclusive of the ups and downs we all have with our bodies. One that’s realistic and gentle and understanding of the fact we can’t and won’t ever feel one particular way a hundred per cent of the time.
Ultimately, the most important thing for all mums is to be able to go through life feeling good about who they are inside and out, on most days. There’s always going to be the odd low day.
Your relationship with your body is one that evolves and changes throughout your life and pregnancy is a pivotal moment. It’s a moment of intense change and transition. It adds another facet to how you see your body – but nothing can take away the fact it is the only one you have, and whatever it takes for you to find your groove within your new body, is all right by me.
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