Picture this: you just gave birth to your newborn. You clap yourself on the back for running the marathon that is labor. Maybe you deal with some hard feelings about the way your birth experience turned out. You probably face the many challenges of breastfeeding, changing diapers, trying to sleep, and managing visitors. Not to mention the aches and soreness down there. Postpartum is an unknown beast.
So you wander over to Pinterest to search for some home remedies. You type into the search bar “postpartum.” The predictive text suggests “workout,” “diet,” and “weight loss.” Even when you type in “postpartum recovery,” you’re still met with oodles of pins suggesting how to tighten your skin, what workouts to do to “get your body back” (in 6 weeks, no less).
First of all, 6 weeks is barely enough time for the sensitive tears and swelling to heal. It’s not nearly enough time for mothers and babies to establish a strong milk supply. It’s certainly too short of a time period for a woman to emotionally process her birth.
At 6 weeks postpartum a woman has barely stopped being pregnant.
Her body is still swollen from water retention gained in pregnancy. Her hormones have not regulated yet and won’t for several months at least. This is no time to pressure women to exercise vigorously or diet in order to lose weight and the pooch and “get her body back.”
Secondly, this time period is for resting and learning your newborn. Cultures around the world treat the first 40 days at least as a sacred time of rest, sometimes called “lying in.” Our culture should follow suit, and it starts with how we talk to women about their post partum period. Rather than asking about their weight or clothes, ask about their emotions and how they’re processing their birth. Rather than glorifying those who get skinny right away after birth, ask them when you can bring them a meal.
Thirdly, beyond these claims being sexist and rude, they’re not possible. My body has created a human and nurtured her under my rib cage forcing my organs to places they’ve never been. My hips and pelvis have borne the weight of my full term fetus, a heavy uterus, an extra organ I grew just for my baby’s survival, along with all the extra fluid and blood needed to sustain life for the both of us. A baby has descended through my stretchy but sensitive vagina and stretched my perineum beyond belief. My breasts have made and carried and transferred milk for 16 months now. How can anyone claim that my body could ever be anything else ever again? Not only that, but how could I ever want to go back?
My body is a fortress of strength and wonder. Rather than longing for my body to regress to what it was before pregnancy, I aim to honor my body every day for the feats we’ve accomplished together.