Thursday, June 28, 2012

Vous êtes Belle

If I could choose one topic that often goes ignored or when mentioned, is filled with doom and gloom, I would immediately choose the post-partum body.

Thanks to the rapid period of pregnancy with fluctuating hormones and weight gain, it's an inevitable fact that our bodies will change, in some ways permanently.

Women might feel dread as they read that sentence. Not only does it imply falling out of the social limits of beauty and losing control of our own bodies, but it also means shopping for new clothes that fit and look nice on us.

I can hear the screams now.
Some women take a stand. They might, for example, claim that they are going to avoid breastfeeding to avoid the sagging. (This has been proven ineffective, by the way. Pregnancy is what increases the risk of sagging. If you've already gone through pregnancy, might as well breastfeed to get some benefit for your body, besides your baby.) Or they might embark on numerous diets and exercise programs, even during pregnancy. Some even take on extreme levels of distance running, participating in marathons and triathlons. (This author warns against over developing certain muscles, claiming it leads to increased pelvic pain and increased birth interventions.) Of course, many women maintain a healthy, balanced view and exercise normally throughout pregnancy.

Lauren even ran a 3 mile before her c-section!
And some women take a seat. Don't be so quick to assume it's out of laziness! For many reasons, pregnancy can arrive with painful situations such as impaired mobility, joint pain and morning sickness. Goals to exercise go out the window, replaced with much smaller yet rewarding achievements, such as keeping food down or going grocery shopping. Society already bombards us with all the warnings about not exercising anyways, so I feel it's evened out in comparison to the links I provided earlier.

This back and forth has women confused. It IS, actually, presented somewhat as a debate. Should a woman accept her body as it is, stay where she is at and learn to love her body? Should a woman feel obligated to exercise and/or diet soon after birth until she has returned to her original weight/shape?

They seem opposed, don't they? And each one carries a nugget of truth:

First, we should accept our bodies. This means we should acknowledge where we are on the beaten path. Our journey right now, the way we are right now, is an experience, whether we like it or dislike it. Openly looking at our bodies and learning all we can about ourselves is definitely beneficial to our personal development.

During pregnancy
After pregnancy

Nearing 42 weeks
One week after birth
The way our bodies change during pregnancy is amazing and complex. It speaks to deep power, strength and a primal call, saying life is going on; the world is turning. The way we look after birth can shock us, maybe even make us nervous or scared. We might want to ignore it, wish it away. We might even hate it. But, these bodies belong to us. These experiences are part of us. Like a contraction, we can choose to try to run away, or we can open our arms wide and feel it wash over us.

Second, we should respect our bodies. It's something moms need to hear frequently. We have needs, too. Our bodies are important, too. If mamas still shake their heads while reading this, then think of it this way: if you aren't healthy, that will impact your child, too. You and your baby deserve a healthy mama-body! You deserve to feel good, to look good and to achieve the right health and shape for you. This in turn will battle against depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy, assist with the baby's weight in utero and overall prevent or decrease the risk of complications and interference.

Eva is 8 months pregnant and nursing her toddler on a nature hike.
Getting in some exercise with a munchkin on the back and in the belly.

The way to resolve the seeming opposition between these two "sides" is to keep it personal. In other words, when you want to exercise (or don't want to exercise) what is your intention? Exercising and eating to feel happy, healthy and prepared for motherhood is going to put you on a balanced path. Exercising and eating to set a goal and feel the accomplishment or to keep you connected in a supportive community is going to benefit you. If your goals for exercising are not realistic and healthy, then the exercise itself will most likely become unhealthy.

Similarly, taking a good, honest look in the mirror to learn about your experience and to feel the inherent strength and beauty of your body is an indescribable step towards self-actualization. Seeing yourself completely, without wishing any different, is an acceptance that most people yearn for and never find. Recognizing where you are, where you want to be and finding peace in that will benefit you. If your goal is to hide from problems in your life or inner fears and feelings of inadequacy, then this process itself will most likely lead to unhealthy living.

To all the women out there, looking at their bodies in the mirror, smiling, frowning, squishing fat or flexing abs...You are beautiful, Mother. Vous êtes Belle, Mere.

Six months after birth, and after 2 c-sections.

One year after birth

Feeling accomplished after a race

After two kids

About 9 months after birth

About one year after the 2nd child, still nursing both.

And my favorite video that shows exercising as part of an intense journey of self-discovery:

To learn more about motherhood and to see more photos and read stories of women who have walked the journey of being a mother, please visit The Shape of a Mother. 

1 comment:

  1. Awesome post!!
    entirely agree with that opening statement...that we "Indeed Just Might Be Stronger Than we Think"....
    Prior to birth and 'mommahood' ... i was quite conscientious about fitness and nutrition....trying to give the little one The BEST s/he could receive while co-sharing my Spirit My Body My Love My Blood.

    After pregnancy i contine to BE BLESSED with a little one who is Highly Alert Attentive and Taught me how to breastfeed!
    I continue to focus on nutrition and fitness...Yes indeed US WOMEN HAVE AN AMAZING-NESS...TO nurture in the womb and birth naturally....

    I reaally wish that ALL SOON TO BE MOMMAS...TAKE A PAUSE...AND REAALLY reaaly BELIEVE the truth that you really are strong and have the capacity to birth without intervention.

    Although i am VERY GRATEFUL for our precious little one; i do believe i was intervened with other intentions. I wish someone coyld have sat me down Looked me in the eye and Said....Drink.Eat.Walk and BREATHE....during labor....AND I WISH SOMEONE WOULD HAVE SAID....a plateau in dilation is Natural AND it happens for a reason..(our LP was sunny side up) just needed time to squiggle down the canal and turn into position....


    peace and love