Becoming a mom is one of the most rewarding things life has to offer. But it can also be one of the most difficult things, too. Your body is a completely different version of what it once was. And it can be tough to get familiarized with it and be comfortable in it. It's most certainly a process. But we wanted you to know that you're not alone on this journey.
Hear from three moms you may recgonize where the talk about their journey to re-discovering their confidnece after baby(ies).
I was raised by parents that worked long and hard hours every day to ensure that their four children would wake each morning with breakfast, and go to sleep each evening with dinner. We grew up laughing, bickering, full of scrapes and bruises familiar after spending our days outside from sunrise to sunset. All four of us had imaginations the size of the universe and didn’t ever think to consider whether we were loved. We were, and are, so wholly loved by our parents.
My father passed unexpectedly after a brain cancer diagnosis this past fall. Just 41 days after we learned he was sick, I held his hand for the very last time. Dad was my human. He was my coach for 15 years, the first man that I danced with and the only man that I’d drink Keystone Light with. Some mornings, I still rise paralyzed by his wake.
When I was considered to contribute to Chelsea’s month of mothers, I was asked to explain how I found my confidence postpartum. I pondered the thought for weeks before the answer finally dawned on me. It would not have been the answer I would have given nearly three years ago when my sweet husband and I gave birth to our first piece of perfection, Ophelia Elizabeth. I would have given some crap about how I got up out of bed immediately following my cesarean, left the hospital early and went to Target the next day. My answer would have focused on how I made sure I stayed strong and away from postpartum depression. Long walks with Opie and nursing to get my body back... But that would’ve been a lie.
I know now that what gave me my confidence postpartum, other than my radiant steed of a husband, was: My foundation. My upbringing. My parents.
Paul, my husband and I, lead what most would consider to be a ‘trying’ parenting style, I suppose. When Ophelia was born (July, 2015) we were both spending 45+ hours a week working. I had two jobs at the time and two jobs was the LEAST amount of jobs I’d ever held at one time. Paul manages a bar and works from noon-midnight most days. I left for work at 6am and would be in bed before Paul got home. We go days without seeing each other for longer than a half hour. I managed a restaurant and managed a boutique and worked 7 days a week for, usually, weeks in a row. There was a point in my postpartum journey, after I had returned from my four week (which freaking sucked - take way, way longer) maternity leave, that I worked something like 52 days in a row. Next month will be the first month where my husband and I might achieve some sort of normal with our lifestyle. It’s looking like, with his new job adventure, he’ll be home around 9pm most nights! I won’t know what to do with him around at home so much! This is my foundation. Work hard, always.
Don’t mistake that last paragraph for bragging. It’s actually a form of self-hate and, though it hasn’t taken much of a marital toll on us, yet, as I am writing this it sounds wholly like closet marriage annihilation. I don’t recommend it and would never recommend it.
I did that whole work-until-you-die thing for about three months after Opie was born. Then I had an emotional breakdown at the boutique and knew I needed to stop it. That was not news to me, I was just too afraid of change and afraid of hurting people that I love. Due to my upbringing, though, I realized in those couple months postpartum that I was not superwoman. I am one woman, with a newborn, that hasn’t even been able to grow the proper nursing relationship with said newborn on account of my time spent away.
Though my parents had their shit (everyone does), they never put their work before their children. We were broke. It didn’t matter. They were always at my softball games, choir concerts, geography and spelling bees (state champ!) and every other leisure or school function I threw myself into. If one of my parents was absent, it was because my brother or one of my sisters had something going on at the same time. They were present. Always. I had been a mother for a quarter of a year and I was already absent. A lot. There is such a thing as a work/life balance. There is not such a thing as a work/life/mother balance.
It is not untrue, you know. The many long summer walks I took Opie on postpartum, the support that came from Paul and the learned ability to stand up for myself are all reasons to explain my new-found motherly confidence. Motherhood changed me in a challenging, trying and beautiful way. That fact alone gives me confidence every single day. The toddler we are raising is brilliant, imaginative, curious and absolutely stunning. She is challenging, stubborn, whiny and argumentative. She is half of me and half of Paul and will wholly be raised in the same respect that my husband and I were.
The feeling after I had my baby: Pain, scared, happy, tired…. Emotional. Everything I had been preparing for was all of a sudden here. I thought I was ready. I knew what to do. WRONG! He would not latch, his bilirubin was high, he woke up a lot. I wanted to sleep, I couldn’t move, but I had to care for this tiny human. They took him in the morning for some labs and other procedures and had been gone for maybe two hours, and I just started to bawl. I missed him so much. Even though he was not far, it is emotional to have the human you have been connected to for 9 months gone for a while. I had to learn self-care all over again. I had to, and still have to remind myself to shower, and eat healthy. Because that little boy needs me around.
The people that have helped me gain my confidence are my mom, my sisters, and my boyfriend. My mom was there through every part of my pregnancy. And boy was it a long road. She would make me go for walks, watch him so I could shower, and even encouraged me to go on dates with my boyfriend and to do things with my friends. She helped me regain my mental health. My sisters and I have talked pretty openly about the changes that my body has endured. My body will never ever, ever be the same. Even if I could be a size 2 again, it would not be the same size 2 I was. But I have a son, who is amazing, which is way better than looking cute in a swimsuit.
And then my boyfriend, he is so great at reminding me that what my body looks like does not matter. My personality, the kind of mom I am, the kind of person I am is more important. When I comment on my weight he says “just wait, your body will come back” or “well we will start running or biking together, you don’t have to do it alone.” It has helped with my mental image. Having the people around you support you makes the world of difference.
A few resources I have used is a mom group. My biggest regret in terms of myself was not joining a mom group sooner. It was so relieving to hear other moms talk about the issues they were having from babies not latching, or their babies not pooping or sleeping, and talking about going through weight loss or not enough weight loss. I was not alone! Crazy right? But it changed my world. I found somewhere I could openly talk about me and myself and not feel selfish. I also started working out in classes for pregnant moms. There is no way I could do a “normal” class. It would have been too stressful on my body. But I could do the classes I did during pregnancy. One of the instructors had also just had a baby a few weeks before me. And she built me up. She would push me and made me stronger.
Am I where I want to be? Heck no! Do I want to be smaller? Someday, yes. Do I still rock my pregnancy clothes? YEP! And proudly! Don’t compare yourself. Take yourself where you are. AND LOVE YOURSELF! It is the best thing you can do as a mom.
My name is Alison. I am a momma to five babies. During my twenties, I spent approximately 120 weeks growing babies. I went through two miscarriages and have three amazing kiddos ages 5, 3, and 2. I birthed over 23lbs of baby! I have watched my body create miracles and I have hated my body for being changed by those miracles. I have spent countless hours processing pregnancy and motherhood. I have cried to my husband. I have cried to strangers. But today, I can honestly tell you that I love my body and I am so proud of what it has done and I love every scar and wrinkle and reminder of my babies. I want to walk with you on this postpartum journey and share just a few basic tips that have truly helped me.
- Curate your social media!
Find some Instagram accounts that are fun and encouraging and just don’t follow anyone that talks about “fit mama,” “fitness after baby”, etc. Most of those before/after photos are unrealistic and will not be helpful while your postpartum belly is like a bowl full of jelly! A few of my favorites: @cottonstem, @msrachelhollis, @stasiasavasuk, @natalienorton, @thealisonshow
- Harness the power of the “one photo” perfection!
It is easy to think that everyone else has perfect bodies postpartum by looking at their social media accounts. Well, you can do that too! When you are having a good hair day, or you actually showered and put on mascara, or your LOVE your shirt, grab that phone and take a selfie! Even if you never share that photo on social media, you deserve some photos of yourself (and your baby) that you LOVE! When you look back on this time, you can remember the best parts and forget the rest.
- Use power accessories!
I love bold, colorful jewelry. It is easier to forgive yourself for negative body feelings when you have something you love about every outfit. Other accessory ideas include fun nail colors, new sunglasses, beautiful scarves, or a new pair of shoes. Also, you may not have time to do your full makeup routine every day but pick your favorite component and make that a two-minute MUST. Whether it’s mascara, lipstick, eyeliner or just a little under-eye concealer, a quick swipe of your favorite makeup gives you a boost during those sleep-deprived, hormone-crazed days.
- Spend less on clothes for your baby, and more on clothes for yourself!
Get clothes that fit at every postpartum stage. The transition out of maternity clothes is both a physical and emotional one. It will happen over time as your body adjusts to its new normal. Don’t torture yourself by trying to fit into pre-baby clothes right away (or ever). Buy a few casual outfits that you feel good in! You don’t need to buy expensive clothes but girl, you need some clothes that fit (even if it’s only for a few months).
- Then, go to Chelsea’s and let them find a couple of nice outfits for special occasions.
Some of my favorite new baby photos are in outfits that Chelsea picked out for me! Decisions are hard. You are learning about your new body while sleep deprived and full of hormones. Schedule a personal styling session and let someone else dress your body from an objective point of view. Then buy a few things that someone else says look good on you and believe that you are a sexy, beautiful momma! Repeat after me: I am beautiful. I am powerful. I am perfectly imperfect.
Most importantly, believe this: there is absolutely nothing wrong with your body. If the clothes don’t fit your body, there is something wrong with the clothes. Your body just created and sustained the life of another human being for months. Do not base your feelings towards your body on how an article of clothing fits. Your body is greater, smarter and infinitely more valuable and beautiful! My body is forever changed! My hips are wider, my belly button has never returned to it’s pre-baby shape, my belly has permanent wrinkles but I love this body even more now than I did when I was 22. I am more confident. I am more kind. I give myself more grace. Most importantly, my heart has been stretched and squished as much as my belly! Somehow during my heart-stretching, I found more love for myself as I found more love for each new baby stretching my belly. ;) You’ve got this, momma!
If you have any tips or resources on how YOU found your confidence after baby - we want to hear from you! Leave your words of wisdom in the comments below!