Recently a friend of mine, who gave birth just 11 short weeks ago, was told that her belly was still huge, and asked why she still looked pregnant. No, the comment did not come from an unaware child, nor a mentally ill individual – it was just a rude man being a bully. Obviously it really upset my friend, and it infuriated me!! What a horrible thing to make someone feel ashamed of a body which has just endured one of the most physically, emotionally, and mentally difficult processes known to man (and woman) – a process which started with, and resulted in pure love. I’d like to think this man was honestly misinformed about how a woman’s body changes to accommodate a child… but I know that’s not always the case.
The current (non-scientific) sentiment towards how a woman’s body should handle pregnancy is, to my understanding, something like this: Once you get pregnant, you stop doing all activity aside from walking, prenatal yoga, and very light weight-lifting. You should eat healthier than someone dieting, but still put on a good 30-40lbs. Once you’ve had your baby, which only accounts for about half the weight you put on, you should be able to lose the remaining 10-20lbs within a few months, even though you shouldn’t do any exercise for 6 weeks after giving birth, and you should not reduce your calories for fear of your milk drying up. The weight, apparently, will just magically fall off from breastfeeding and kegels.
Mmmhhhmmm. As a woman, and as an athlete, this attitude makes me feel completely trapped. No wonder we are so frustrated, and even resentful of the daunting permanent effect of childbearing. Headlines such as “Get Your Body Back” don’t really help the cause either. To me, this line implies that women have somehow “lost” their bodies during the process of making a baby, but I think pregnancy is the time to finally find our bodies’ true purposes.
(Side note: I’m also starting to see a trend towards shaming mothers who have managed to get in great shape after having a baby, which is unfortunate. We shouldn’t be attacking women for having a toned tummy any more than we should be attacking women for having a soft one. As long as a person is healthy and happy with how she (or he) looks, then that should be all that matters!)
My intention with this blog is not to shame women into feeling that anything less than what I’m doing is unacceptable - not at all! I want to start a conversation about how we can make these life and body-changing experiences as healthy and positive as they can be. I want to let people (both women and men) know that pregnancy isn’t a time to retreat and pity yourself for the changes that are going on in your body – it’s a time to go out and celebrate the strength that you possess, and be in awe of all the adjustments your body is instinctively making to help you bring this new life into the world. I want to empower you with knowledge, because our society has been viewing pregnancy as a “condition” for far too long. Yes, it's going to be hard... harder for some women than others; we have very little control over how our bodies will react to pregnancy. It'll be painful, and frustrating, and overwhelming. But at the end of the day, what you are doing is nothing short of amazing. Please be proud of your body; be kind to it; look at yourself with the same unconditional love and approval with which you look at your children, and know that every single mark and scar has had a purpose; eat, exercise, and live in a way that makes you both healthy AND happy. And if anyone is rude to you about how your body looks as a result…. I have a few suggestions for that too ;)
Yours in health and maternity,