Embracing Your Tiger Stripes And Learning To Roar!
If you have found yourself cursing, critiquing or comparing your new body after baby with despair, you are certainly not alone. With our years of exposure to false body and beauty advertising, many of us have developed unrealistic beliefs, perceptions, and expectations of an impossible body ideal that simply doesn’t exist. Sadly we have also lost our old tribal rituals which once celebrated and supported this miraculous transformation. And so it’s no wonder we grieve these changes as losses rather than admire them as gains.
But thankfully the tides are now slowly changing. Being real and honest is the new black! Being comfortable and confident in our own skin, with all of our perfect imperfections is the new sexy! The recent public embracing and sharing of motherhood journeys and transformations is here to remind us of our awesomeness. It encourages us to be gentle with, and kind to ourselves, and to learn how to worship and admire our bodies and their potential instead of despise them and focus on their limitations.
Why not join this movement? With the arrival of a new baby maybe it’s time to break old habits and create new ones? This will require patience and practice. But it’s so worth it! We may still experience doubtful, critical or fearful feelings within ourselves when it comes to “not being an ideal”, but it’s important to remember that these are just feelings that pass. We can choose what we do with our energy and thoughts. We can redirect our attention. We have an opportunity to create a different perception and a different relationship with how we feel.
So here are some tips to help you on your journey to appreciating and revering your body.
Create your own body loving mantra
Start practicing some body gratitude. Shift your perspective by writing down all the ways in which your body is serving you and your baby now. Start with a positive mantra like a “I honour/respect/appreciate/thank/admire my body for…” Whether it’s in a journal or on a sticky note stuck to your bathroom mirror, look at this daily to remind yourself of all that you are and will achieve moving forward. To admire your body for its strength, power and grace.
- My body grew another human being
- My breasts have fed and nourished my baby
- My strong arms hold and cuddle my baby and rock it to sleep
- My legs enable me to play and run around with my baby
- My body is strong/powerful/resilient
- My stretchmarks are a symbol of how my belly grew to accommodate new life inside me
This might feel awkward or unnatural at first but the more you practice this the more you can embody this mindset. Repeat these to yourself as often as possible. Why not get your partner on board too!
Acknowledge each physical stage of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood
You have navigated different physical stages of motherhood as you grew, birthed and now raise your babies. Try to acknowledge and honour precisely where you have been and where you are now, in each phase.
- In your pregnancy your body pumped hormones and created space for nine months to enable the development of each and every organ that your baby needed to survive, and continually grow into the child that you love and cuddle today.
- No matter how you gave birth, your body underwent one of its greatest physical tests of endurance to date, and it deserved to have time to rebuild and recover.
- If you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you have entered a whole new world of living your life in two to three hour increments both day and night, to nourish your baby. This is truly selfless, and exhausting work!
- As you raise your child, you are hauling baby gear and strollers, maneuvering protesting kids into car seats, rocking sleeping babies at night, and keeping up with your toddler as they explore the world.
- Your amazing body is allowing you to keep up with the many demands of motherhood through each of its stages, and that is something worth reflecting upon with the awe it deserves.
Get support to get healthier, confident, stronger and moving
It’s time to prioritise your health over your appearance. This should not be seen as a luxury, but rather an essential requirement to support your health and wellbeing. Seek out your medical and physical support network or cultivate simple healthier habits that help to repair, move or relax your body. Whether it’s a:
- Pelvic floor physiotherapist
- A great GP
- A walking group or fitness trainer
- A massage therapist or acupuncturist
- A dietician or nutritionist
- A counsellor or coach
- A pre/postnatal yoga or pilates class
- A stroll with your partner and baby or pet
- A great meal delivery service that makes delicious and nutritious foods
Find your mind and body mojo-making tribe. This is not about punishing yourself to become smaller, tighter or sexier. This is about strengthening, nurturing and replenishing so that you can have a better relationship with yourself inside and out.
Ditch the scales and invest in some new threads
Seeing the numbers on the scales can be triggering in pregnancy and post natally, especially for those with a history of eating disorders or body dysmorphia. Ask for your GP to keep those details to themselves when you have your routine check ups. Ask them to monitor your overall health but advise them that you don’t want to get swept up in the numbers. Instead of a weight check-in with numbers, use each postnatal appointment as a personal wellness check-in to assess how you feel in your body and mind, and where might you benefit from some extra support.
On the fashion or beauty front, ask a close friend or family member to help you revive your wardrobe with some comfy and stylish new additions or to find some great new makeup. This doesn’t need to break the bank. A few new wardrobe staple additions or a new lipstick can really make you feel great outside and in. If you are unsure and feel like being spoilt, why not engage the help of a stylist who specializes in personal shopping, colour matching and fittings
for different shapes and sizes.
Enlist your partner in the process
We need to be able to lean on our partners for support here. Many mothers complain about their weight and general appearance to their partner and it is common for many partners to see this as an invitation to problem solve. They are tying their best to help and to lift you up, but they often don’t know what to do or say to really help. They need to be a part of this process and they need to learn a new language that helps to support and encourage you.
Let your partner know what you want to hear or see in action. For example, do you want to hear that you are still gorgeous and sexy in your partners eyes, or that it’s amazing what your body has achieved to birth your baby, or that you are strong and powerful? Or do you simply want a hug? Whatever it is, help them to help you!
Once you feel reassured, another conversation could focus on how your partner can support you by staying with your baby while you go for a walk or go to the gym, so that you can feel better about your body and yourself. Your priority is to look after yourself, NOT to be a pin up model.
Build your village of like minded body positive people
There is no greater need for a village than when you become a mother. Surround yourself with REAL and positive people who will be honest and open and support you when needed, so that you can be honest and open from the start as well.
To find your tribe, you may need to do some shopping around. You may not click with your first allocated mothers group and that’s ok! This might require that you move outside your usual neighbourhood and your comfort zone, but it will be well worth it once you find your people. Take advantage of both face to face as well as virtual groups on various social media platforms – there is nothing quite like the support of fellow mums online when you are feeding at 2am.
Just as you build your tribe, you may need to shed yourself of unhealthy connections. Distance yourself or set clear boundaries with those around you who make you feel ‘less than.’ Do a social media cleanse – unfollow any accounts that don’t make you feel empowered about yourself and your body. And stop comparing yourself to others – comparison is the death of happiness! You never know what is going on beneath the surface.
At the end of the day, self love begins at home. Hopefully these suggestions will help you create meaningful and positive ways to revere and respect your body in motherhood because your body is a genuinely amazing.
And if you would like some additional support to help you improve your body image, to connect with like minded mums, or to process any related birth trauma, you can connect with Kirsty or Lana at The Parents Village in Sydney.