Dear Mom Who Couldn’t Bounce Back,
I see you there, five months after delivery, still in your maternity clothes. I see that look in your eyes when you hear of others who were back in their normal clothes three weeks after giving birth. I know your pain because I am you.
After my first two children I bounced back pretty quickly. I was transitioning back into my pre-pregnancy wardrobe a respectable 2 months after each birth. While I had new insecurities about my post-baby body, I met society’s expectations for ‘bouncing back’ after having a baby and felt good about it.
Then I had my third baby, and things were different.
At that point I had just given birth for the third time in 3.5 years. That can have an impact on how quickly a body can return to it’s ‘normal’. I also had three small children to take care of, which left me little time for cooking or exercising. The weight didn’t just ‘fall off’ as it had after the others and that made me feel awful. Sound familiar?
But wait, all those celebrities seem to snap right back to their former glory in just a month or two, right? Sure, but let’s take a minute to think about that. They have access to things that the most of us don’t. Last time I looked I did not have a personal chef to cook me healthy meals, or a personal trainer to help me reclaim my shape, or a personal assistant to run my errands so I can focus on losing the weight, or a nanny to watch the kids while I exercise. Do you?
I don’t begrudge celebrities these things. They are all wonderfully helpful. I’d love to have someone to run to the store for me when we’re out of milk and I’m so tired I can’t see straight! What is important to remember is that if you don’t have their resources why on earth would you be mad at yourself for not meeting their standards? Quit beating yourself up because you don’t feel that you measure up.
Now that I’ve had my fourth child I’m back where I was before. I’m not as young as I once was and too many nights of sleep deprivation have left me with little energy. The baby weight that I tried not to gain came on anyway and seems to have decided it likes its new home on my thighs. Not long after Elizabeth’s birth I heard the nasty words start to come to my mind. Words like ugly, frumpy, tubby, and worthless. I mean, look at that number on the scale! Clearly that made me awful. It was several months down the road and I was still (and am still now a few months later) wearing some maternity clothes because my regular ones don’t fit. Blech!!!! How could I not say those things.
The year started to come to a close and the talk among my friends turned to resolutions. I was going to do this. I was GOING to get thin. People started talking about choosing a ‘word for the year’. I’ll bite. I prayed and God gave me two words for 2015. Balance and gentleness. Of course, clearly the balance was meant that I would do a better job of balancing things like time on the computer with time with my family. Do a better job of balancing my schedule to fit in exercise. I was going to be gentle with my kids and not yell. I was going to be gentle with my husband and not get annoyed over the silly little nothings that come up in daily life.
Then one day I reached for (okay, ate) cookies on a day I *promised* myself I wouldn’t eat any treats. I realized what I was doing and started down the rabbit hole of berating myself. I messed up again. What a failure I was. A total failure. I can’t get anything right. In that moment I heard a still small voice ask me something. “Is that gentleness?” Is calling myself every nasty name in the book for slipping up and doing something I had planned to avoid really being gentle? Perhaps the word ‘gentleness’ that God gave me for this year was meant for me to apply to how I treated myself and not just others. Is aiming for perfection practical, or even possible? Is kicking myself for every mistake going to do a bit of good? Nope, and it’s not going to help you either!
What I am NOT saying here is just to let go, pack on the pounds, and don’t care about the risks. We all know that added weight can have genuine health consequences. What I’m trying to say is that if you have found yourself not where you want to be after having a baby, it’s okay. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t call yourself nasty names. Don’t buy the lie that it makes you worthless. Be gentle with yourself. When you start to react to your own shortcomings stop and ask yourself this question, “If I heard my child say this to someone, would he be in trouble?” If the answer is yes, stop saying it! Strive for balance instead of perfection. Promising yourself you’ll never eat another treat again probably isn’t going to happen. And to be honest, probably wouldn’t be much fun! If you haven’t exercised in two years, swearing that you will exercise every single day from here on out probably isn’t going to result in success. Aim for being active more days of the week than you are not active, or more days than you currently are.
Find a balance between living healthy and dealing with life’s curveballs. Be gentle with yourself.
Come back next week for the second part of this series: For The Mom Who Couldn’t Bounce Back and Recover.