I received an e-mail from a reader who expressed sadness that she couldn’t “snap back” to her pre-baby wardrobe immediately after giving birth. She felt so sad about not being able to do what she sees so many other women do on Instagram—y’all know how I feel about IG sometimes—when it comes to being able to ‘bounce back’ to what life was like before the baby.
But, the baby’s here, now—life isn’t the same.
So many people get jammed up in thinking that life has to be what it was before you had another whole human being to raise. The expectations are crazy high—even though there’s a new responsibility that will be there to suck up all your free time and time you may not necessarily have to give, you’re also supposed to have this incredible amount of energy to devote to something like exercise and cooking. It underestimates how much effort is required to do the cooking and exercise and the prep work for both; it overestimates how much energy you’ll have after work, a baby, and tending to your own personal needs (I mean, if you can even make time for that. Just sayin’…because showers are usually the first thing to go when you’ve got a newborn.)
I think we set irrationally high expectations for new moms and their bodies—we expect women to bend over backwards in order to be attractive and appealing to us, regardless of the pressure it puts on them. It’s not enough to literally give birth to new life, and relax and enjoy that for the little bit of time you have it. No—you have to carry the child, give birth to the child, and care for the child all while working overtime to be “hot” again.
Are there women who “snap back” quickly after they give birth? Absolutely. Hell, I thought I’d be one, myself. But it doesn’t always work out that way—it certainly didn’t for me—and it doesn’t reflect poorly on you if it doesn’t work out that way for you, either. If you gained weight in progress of giving birth to a new human being, consider it an incredible and awe-inspiring reason to have gained it, and give yourself time to get acclimated to the shift in your life before trying to address it. It might seem like everyone’s snapping back post-baby faster than we think, thanks to IG and other social media outlets, but we have to remember: we are often watching people whose livelihoods depend on their bodies, and they likely have support systems and mechanisms in place to help them get to where they need to be. And, while that might be nice to have, we still have to contend with the real world. (In other words, most of us ain’t got it like that.)
The world is different after childbirth. Time doesn’t seem as endless as it might’ve before. The world isn’t as quiet as before. You might be twice as stressed as before. It’s not enough to go into all of this trying to find ways to fit back into what you’re used to—you have to create a whole new understanding of your world and the way you react to it. You have to acknowledge that you may not have as much time to devote to cooking as you once did before. Maybe you can’t get to the gym the way you’d like since there’s no one to help you care for your child. Perhaps you aren’t as energetic as you once were with all the late nights. It’s okay to acknowledge the changes in your life and that you need time to discover solutions.
I know that this is little solace to the woman who is frustrated that she still isn’t in her wardrobe, and I know that fitting back into those old clothes is about more than looking cute—for example, expensive work uniforms need replacing if you can’t fit in them when it’s time to get back to work!—but, if you’re at the point where the baby is already here, all you can do is take it slow. Take deep breaths, relax, and accept that the added pressure and shame for not having snapped back only serves as a derailment. It’s not a motivating force, it’s not an energy boost, and it’s rarely a guarantor of success.
This might be frustrating to hear from the woman who took a year and some change to finally start trying to fit back into her pre-baby wardrobe but, if anything, I’m exactly the person to give this advice. If I had accepted the added pressure and stress of trying to lose weight on top of trying to figure out how to care for a baby and manage my career and contend with my post-partum depression… I might not be here right now. I’m very clear on the dangers of unnecessary pressure, the pointlessness of focusing on things that aren’t intended to better you as a human being or ensure your well being. For many of us, it’s simply not a path towards wellness—it’s merely something we can do for bragging rights.
(Which, don’t get me wrong—we all like to brag every now and again…but is the pursuit of this, considering the circumstances, in your best interests? Not always.)
When it’s time for you to begin, you’ll know it. You’ll feel it, you’ll feel comfortable, you’ll feel ready. You’ll lay the groundwork, you’ll secure the proper support, and you’re slide into position with no pain or frustration. When you’re ready, you’ll be unstoppable. There’s no point in rushing it and cheating yourself out of valuable snuggling time. Lay back, enjoy your baby, and give yourself the gift of cute, stretchy leggings to help you stay in relax mode while you take time to recover, regroup, and readjust. And, when you’re ready to get back to working out, you’ll kill it.