Moms Who Know

Guest Post: the Weight of Motherhood

Keri and I met in Bradley class last year as we both prepared for the arrival of our babies. I did not know this from sitting in class with her, but I know now that she is a gifted writer and photographer. She has been published in elephant journal & LiveWell Colorado, and keeps her own blog at withlovefromcolorado.com. You can follow her on Instagram at Instagram.com/kerihans. Keri is also a graduate of Institute for Integrative Nutrition & has studied Ayurvedic Medicine at California College of Ayurveda. 

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The year before I got pregnant, I saw them everywhere. Women with the glow–of pregnancy and new motherhood.The whole world seemed to be expecting Or maybe I just noticed it more because I was finally ready for a baby of my own. I began envisioning what it would be like to be pregnant, how it would feel to know a tiny human was growing in my body, how alive I would feel, and how I would look with that bump. I was excited and ready for the glow, but as someone who has spent most of her life battling body image issues, I was still a little nervous about how I would handle the weight gain.
Healthy women who are having a normal pregnancy are supposed to gain between 25-35 pounds. Before becoming pregnant, I ran everyday and hadn’t had a bread in 5 years to ensure I didn’t gain weight. After I became pregnant, I found that bagels were about the only way I could stomach eating greens or other veggies and I was advised to trade running for walking due to fairly intense cramping that it caused early on. Only a few weeks in, I had gained 11 pounds.Three trimesters of bagel sandwiches and daily 3 mile walks later, I had gained 50 pounds. It was not what I expected.
Which was an initiation. Because having a baby means that very few things will go as you plan or expect them to. There is no better lesson in surrender that I have seen. I surrendered to gaining double the weight that I expected, and to a birth plan gone insanely awry, to months of almost no sleep, and raw, red-rimmed glaring eyes blinking slowly whenever someone chirped, “Is he sleeping through the night?”
Motherhood was and is by far the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I have more wrinkles and some days dark circles under my eyes, but I have a wider smile and a feeling of wholeness that I didn’t know I was missing. To love someone this much is crazy. And amazing. All at the same time.
But still. It does not loIMG_5714ok like what I thought it would look like. And 8.5 months later–only three pounds from my pre-pregnancy weight, I do not look like what I thought I would look like either. My belly is rounder, skin a little loose. My butt is smaller, my hips are even wider, and my boobs–well, let’s not go there.
A friend of mine was lamenting the other day, “It’s been a year, and I still can’t get rid of 20 pounds. I gained 40 during pregnancy, and he was almost 10 of it. I work out until I’m so sore I can barely walk every other day. I think I’ve finally just accepted that my body needs this extra weight for nursing. Maybe some bodies don’t, but mine does.” And I’ve had other friends struggling to keep weight on while nursing post-partum. All of us question, all of us expect different from ourselves.
And society does too. The media feeds us image after image of women looking fit and fabulous and rocking flat abs only a month or two after having a baby. I could go on and on about the images we see and the expectations we women create for ourselves after having a baby. But the thing is–I’d just be telling the same story that shames us into believing we are not enough. And I’ve had enough of that story. So have you.
That’s why Jennifer Garner made headline news in HuffPost Women this week. Finally!, women collectively cried, here is a woman who recognizes that having a baby means you might always have a baby bump. And that bump is something to be celebrated as much as the birth of your child–it’s where that life started and was nourished for nearly 10 months. My favorite college professor once described love as leaving room enough for others to grow. That bump is physical evidence of the body’s love; when we become pregnant, every cell in our body makes room. It’s about time we make some room in our psyche for ourselves too.
Whether you struggle to keep on weight while nursing your child post-partum, struggle to heal and loose weight after an unplanned c-section, struggle to find time for some semblance of your old fitness routine in between work and raising a family, you are worth a better story. And I am too.
A kinder one. A healthier one. One you would tell your daughter if you have one; one I will tell my son. It’s good to have goals and expectations, to feel their worth and weight, but it’s not good to get caught up on your own weight. It’s better, instead, to focus on nourishing yourself and your child and your growing family in whatever ways you can find time.
This doesn’t mean you should always just take it easy on yourself. Sometimes nourishing yourself means the carthatic experience that sweat can bring. It means movement (without dread), it also means finding time for stillness. It means finding balance between stretching and strength-training, between play and work. It means choosing foods that nourish your body instead of junk foods. You are not junk, and if your soul needs comfort foods, it’s a good idea to ask yourself if it’s the food or comfort your soul needs. Nourishing your body and mind are the best way to choose health, and when we are healthy, our bodies will naturally look how they should look.I think as humans we are given the most incredible gift in life–having a body. However, it’s easy to forget the responsibility that comes with the gift of having a body. Motherhood has helped to remind me how important a responsibility choosing health is. In everything we do, we are modeling what life looks like for our little ones. I think it’s so important to check in with ourselves–especially in the morning and evening, especially before meals. I like to keep an open dialogue with myself daily. Sure, it’s great to have a fitness routine and schedule time for it in our calenders, but it’s also important to balance routine with how we feel. To ask ourselves in the morning–how am I feeling today, and given the answer to that question–how can I move today in a way that supports, strengthens and nourishes my body? Maybe it’s crossfit, maybe it’s a run, maybe dancing, maybe yoga. Before eating, it’s important to ask–what does my body need to feel healthy and nourished? How can I satisfy that with the ingredients we have on hand? (When this is an option–Motherhood also makes meal planning a challenge!). And before bed–how did I nourish myself today, how did I model health? What will I choose differently tomorrow?
The more mindful we can become about the choices we make surrounding our health, the better we can model what a healthy life looks like for our children. It’s in being mindful about our healthstyle choices that we can live that better story, that we can have the energy to keep up with the changes motherhood brings, that we can challenge the rigid expectations we might have to embrace living a vibrant, healthy life.
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