I’m proud to share this guest post from a fellow mom who is so articulate and strong, her words need to be shared far and wide. Enjoy. ~ Darla
Prior to becoming pregnant, I had put a lot of time and energy into myself, especially my body. I did yoga daily, was on a diet that I was eating primarily vegetables, went for runs, and spent a lot of time being concerned with how I looked. Were my muscles showing? How did these clothes fit? What size could I fit into? As I look back on old pictures and try and fit into old jeans, I can only see in hindsight just how tiny I was. I can remember having tricked myself into thinking that I was finally confident in my skin, but would then be so self-critical every time I stepped in front of the mirror. I was strong and healthy, but I wasn’t comfortable and I wasn’t happy.
During my pregnancy, maintaining that active lifestyle became too much to handle. Physical activity gave me anxiety and I worried that I would hurt the baby. Eating felt good so I caved into every craving that I had. I kept telling myself that I was young and would want my old routine back once I had my baby and would “bounce back”. The result? I gained 90 pounds in 9 months.
Once Neera was born, I quickly realized that falling back into my old workout routine wasn’t going to be an option. I needed to recover from my delivery. I was exhausted and sleeping whenever she was. Breastfeeding tired me out. Breastfeeding also made me want to eat everything in sight. Sure, breastfeeding helped in shedding some of the weight I had gained, but not all of it, and it didn’t “fall off” like articles I had read said it would. Instead, it stuck. It stuck to my hips and my thighs and my belly and my love handles.
The only part of my old routine that I maintained was the self-critical stares in the mirror.
When would I “lose the baby weight”? Would the stretch marks ever fade? Would my body ever look like it used to? When would I get to reclaim the body that my baby had taken over for nine months?
Pretty sad thoughts to be having.
What I should have been asking myself is, “When will my perspective change? When can I learn to love myself?” I don’t know what sparked it, but eventually I looked in the mirror and decided that I was going to love that reflection. I decided that I was going to focus all of my attention on being a good person and a good mom, not a “good” body – because every body is a good body! I decided I was going to celebrate my body for bringing the greatest thing that ever happened to me into this world. And I decided I wanted to talk about why I felt any of this in the first place, and why many mommas do.
All too often, on top of all of the other new pressures and expectations when you become a momma, there is an unfair focus put on your body. What was my body before? What is it now? What did it go through? Will it ever be the same?
When I search #postpartumbody on any social media platform, the majority of photos are regarding what it took to “loose the baby weight” or tips to get fit quick.
I’m sorry, but this just isn’t real for me. It is hard enough for me to find time to make a healthy meal, let alone get to the gym multiple times a week. And you know what? We shouldn’t feel like we have to do any of that!
Don’t get me wrong, I still strive to be a strong and healthy momma, but I think it is well past time time that we start to shift the conversation about what that looks like, sounds like, and feels like. The size of clothes that fit you does not mean strong and healthy. The number on the scale does not mean strong and healthy. Limiting your diet so you feel guilty every time you want a cheeseburger does not mean strong and healthy. “Losing the baby weight” does not mean strong and healthy. To me, strong and healthy means balance: fuelling your body with good food but not feeling bad about the wine and chocolate – trying to get outside for walks but not feeling bad about binge watching Netflix while you cuddle your baby – having goals for living more actively but not being self-loathing about where you’re at. Be a rebel and love yourself, as you are, where you are, for all the glorious things you are!
I “lost the baby weight” the moment that Neera entered the world. I love my body, as it is, for being capable of such an indescribable, miraculous feat: creating a human life. The extra skin, the push and pull, the scars; they all serve as reminders of what my body is capable of and the space that it gave me to grow a new life. My focus, now, is on the love and connection I have with my child. My focus is on the light and love I see in her eyes every time she looks at me, and how much easier it is to manifest that love for myself than it ever was before.
I think one of my friend’s kiddos said it best. Every time she is in her bathing suit her son points to her tummy and asks, “Did I do that, Mommy?” And she responds, “You sure did buddy.” Then he smiles at her like he created the most beautiful piece of forever artwork. And you know what? He did. They do.
I hope that one day, all of us can look at ourselves the way that children do. I hope that one day we can search #postpartumbody and see mommas who are celebrating their bodies as they are and not attempting to live up to some ridiculous body ideal that the rest of the world has. I hope that mommas can be the ones to shake the way we see one another in the world, because body positivity doesn’t just affect mommas; body positivity affects us all.
So here is me and my daughter, stripped down and as real and raw and honest as we can be. This, to me, is what really matters. Let’s start filling our social media feeds with photos like this; with photos of reality and of love.
**these wonderful photos were done by molly.jeanine.photo – check out her amazing work on Instagram**
This post originally appeared on The Momma Moments blog, and it was shared with permission. Read more about Jess here: she is a mom, daughter, partner, sister, teacher, writer, yoga enthusiast who uses her talents to help break down the stigma around mental health. She is part of a revolution to normalize talking about our struggles as moms. You can find more of her work on the Mothers Empowering Mothers Blog.
If you haven’t already heard, I will be facilitating a support group for moms on select Tuesdays out of Warman Physiotherapy & Wellness. Our first meeting is this week, so I thought it would be timely to give a real-life example of what a difference a little bit of support can make.
Imagine you are a mom whose toddler has built a beautiful wall of blocks at an indoor playground, but when he comes back from a snack, another child has dismantled it. He’s upset, and you empathize: he worked so hard on that, and it’s a big deal to him. Perhaps you’ve even been in this exact situation!
No amount of empathy or “can I help you build it again?”or distraction or leaving him alone helps: he cries and cries and cries and cries. Real tears, at times screaming. To the point that you now have tears in your eyes and take a break to cry in the bathroom, because you have no idea how to make it better and you were already having a tough day. A couple moms give you empathetic smiles, one mom asks your toddler if he’d like to join them on the slide. Such little gestures that make you want to cry more, but in a good way: because these moms get it. They understand how it feels, and they want to help you.
This is exactly why mom support groups are powerful: they build us up, let us know we aren’t alone. At times we definitely FEEL like we are alone, or like we are the only person who has ever been in a particular situation, but I assure you, you are not. Somewhere, and some point, another mom has been there, and she gets it. She will cry alongside you and laugh with you at the situation once enough time has passed.
And so I hope you will join us for the Warman Moms Support Group. Motherhood can be hard, but you aren’t alone, and you were never meant to do it alone. See you Tuesday.
Did you know that oxytocin plays a role in motherhood, not just in birth? And that if you increase your oxytocin, you will feel better, happier, and more loved? We all know that if we take care of ourselves, we have more to give our babies and partners.
Specifically, if you raise your oxytocin, you will be more relaxed, contemplative, and companionable; you will be more tolerant of monotony and boredom (which can come in handy as you experience long days of doing the same thing over and over with your new baby!); your digestion and appetite will be better; you will have lower blood pressure; wounds will heal quickly; it helps with letdown if you are breastfeeding; and best of all…it is contagious! So if you have high oxytocin, it will flow over to your partner, children, other family.
Sometimes a steaming cup of tea is all you need to boost your oxytocin.
Here are some examples of what can raise and lower your oxytocin:
|Things that raise oxytocin
||Things that lower oxytocin
Eating comfort food
Meditation, Yoga, Exercise
Touch, including skin-to-skin
Anything you love!
A crying baby
Books and experts
Social isolation or too many visitors (you need the right kind of visitors! This video talks about that.)
With new moms, it’s important to try and avoid anything that can lower oxytocin because once a mom becomes stressed, it’s a lot harder to care for a newborn, which while a lovely job, can be a demanding and tiring one. (Just as an example: if you’re breastfeeding and stressed, it’s that much harder to get the baby to latch on. Then the baby is crying. Then you are crying. It’s a vicious cycle. In this case, you need to stop and breathe, think of something that brings you joy, and try again.)
This is where her village of friends, family, postpartum doula comes in. It’s time to call on all those people who said, “Let me know how I can help when the baby comes!” A mom experiencing stress or worry over any of the above oxytocin killers might need someone to hold the crying baby to give her a break, or someone to do the laundry or cook a meal. She needs to be given the confidence to know that the answers to her baby lie within her, that she is the expert, not the author who has never met her baby.
This mom also needs help boosting her oxytocin! And there is a simple way to do that: by making and following your own self-care plan. It’s actually pretty simple:
- make a list of all the things that bring you joy
- pick 2 or 3 and determine how you will do them and when
- write down your intentions and put the reminder somewhere you will see it regularly
- try these for 6 weeks and see how you feel!
Here are a few examples:
- When my partner is home from work, I’m going to garden outside for an hour by myself twice a week.
- After my baby goes to bed, I’m going to read a chapter in my book before I go to bed each night.
- Every day I’m going to take the baby and I for a walk, even if it’s just down the street.
- My baby and I will bathe together, since I don’t have much time to myself, and we will do it when baby is happiest, so mid-morning.
Not everyone has a village or support: if you are a single parent or solo parenting with a spouse who has to work away a lot, there are still ways to take care of yourself. This post explains one such example.
The video below will walk you through how to create your own self-care plan and give you more examples of oxytocin boosters!
I would love to help you boost your oxytocin or hear what are your favourite oxytocin boosters! Shoot me an email below and I will hook you up with your own self-care plan template and follow up with you in 6 weeks so you don’t have to add that to your to-do list (thus, lowering your oxytocin!).
[contact-form to=”firstname.lastname@example.org”][contact-field label=”Name” type=”name” required=”1″ /][contact-field label=”Email” type=”email” required=”1″ /][contact-field label=”Yes, I’d like the oxytocin boosting self-care plan!” type=”textarea” required=”1″ /][/contact-form]
Moms are often anxious when their maternity leave is nearing its end whether they are breastfeeding or not. If they are breastfeeding, it adds another layer of concern: what will happen to our nursing relationship? Do I need to pump? How will my baby respond to me not being there to nurse? Will my baby willingly take pumped milk from a cup? Will they eat enough solids? These are just some of the questions moms ask themselves and worry about when they are preparing to return to work outside the home.
The early days of breastfeeding. My son is 2 months old here and I was already back to work because I am self-employed. Working from home and having flexible hours definitely helped continue breastfeeding but it is still possible if you are returning to work outside the home.
A good resource for moms facing this scenario is the La Leche League: it’s reassuring to speak to other moms who have been there (and as you’ll read below, it was a resource one mom tapped into). With that in mind, I’ve asked two moms what their experience was. One mom returned to work when her little one was a few month old, and the other returned to work outside the home after a year. Their experiences provide some insight on how to make your breastfeeding relationship continue to work even if you aren’t with your little all the time.
I went back to work part-time when my little was 7 months old, opening my own business. Before this I was working from home seeing clients and taking my babe with me (starting at about 6 weeks postpartum, very part time). At 7 months I had arranged for my little to be watched by her grandparents Monday afternoons, her daddy Wednesday afternoons, and her Aunty Friday afternoons anticipating working from 2-6. Being she was a little older I wasn’t too worried about pumping for a 2-6 time frame but before I knew it I was booking clients from 11-6 or earlier and I was taking my pump to work. I was able to keep up pumping 2-4 times a day from 7.5/8 months to 1 year with no leaking. My little was fine with other people taking breastmilk from a cup and eating some solid foods. We started daycare full time when she was 9.5 months old and she did so great. Having her be able to play with other kids was awesome for her and for me. I continued to nurse her in the morning before work and when I came home. I also decided to continue co-sleeping so we could all get better rest and she could nurse through the night without much disturbance. My girl is now 2.5 and we have continued nursing until the past week or two – being pregnant has lead to some serious nursing aversion for me and my daughter still asks on occasion but we decide to snuggle instead so mommy can work on growing a healthy baby.
A lot of the time I found people would tell me ‘you’re back at work so you’re not nursing anymore then right?’. Well no actually, I don’t see any reason to stop nursing (unless you want to) when returning to work because your supply is determined by demand by this point anyways. If you don’t nurse as much your body quickly responds and there is less chance of leaking (unlike earlier when it’s hormonally driven and you just leak everywhere all the time). If cows can be milked twice a day, why can’t I decide to nurse twice a day on work days and more frequently on weekends? It worked for us; now it won’t work for everyone, and that’s ok. But there’s no reason to stop nursing just because you are going back to work.
I also believe that my identity, although I am now a mother, is also very firmly planted in who I am as a working individual and business owner as well. Does this mean this is right for everyone? No. But I also don’t think that going back to work makes me less of or a bad mother, in fact it makes me a better mother because I am doing something I love (which I am also very fortunate I get to do). I know staying home with my daughter would not be beneficial for our relationship at this point. I need something outside the home and sometimes people try to make me feel guilty about that. Is my house clean? Yup. When the house keeper comes once every two weeks (I can’t believe I waited almost 2.5 years to get this going for my family!). Is the laundry always done? At some point yes – is it put away? Not necessarily but it does get put away by the next time I do laundry. Do I make homemade pizza and pasta weekly? Nope. But we do make pancakes for supper because my little loves helping make pancakes. Going back to work away from my home was important to me, and we made it happen in a way that worked for our family. I kept nursing, we still did cloth diapers, and both baby and momma were/are happy. It makes me a better individual, mother and wife.
I recall feeling so stressed about going back to work, especially when my little was 10 months old and still not filling up on solids (and refusing bottles of pumped milk). But I went to a LLL meeting and they reassured me that our relationship would stay strong, that he wouldn’t starve and that we could keep breastfeeding.
Some things I did:
- got organized with meal planning and freezer meals;
- matched nap and lunch times up to the daycare’s schedule;
- started using the same blankie at every nap to establish a comfort object for use at daycare;
- got his father to hold/rock him to sleep so he was used to someone else. (This usually happened when I was out of the house.);
- had a conversation about household chores with my partner since I’d no longer be home to do the lion’s share;
- made a transition plan with my daycare to ease my little in by increasing length of his visits over two weeks;
- prepared and resigned myself to the possibility of reverse cycling (baby nursing lots at night to make up for missing mom all day);
- planned to be connected as possible when reunited with my little (focused play, babywearing if I needed to cook, lots of snuggles and nursing);
- I nurse him the moment we are reunited when I pick him up from daycare.
The first few weeks I hand expressed a few times during the day and saved the milk in the work fridge. I was sending it to daycare in sippy cups but he was refusing to drink it. So instead I froze and donated it. After a month my supply regulated and I no longer needed to express.
As you can see from above, there are many ways you can keep your nursing relationship strong if you so choose. For more on breastfeeding and returning to work, watch my Facebook Live weekly mom chat on the topic:
I’d love to hear about your experience: what impact did returning to work have on your breastfeeding relationship? Comment below or on my Facebook page.
It’s easy to feel touched out and like you have no time for yourself when you a new mom (or a mom at any time!). You have this new little being who needs you almost constantly. It can be difficult to find time to pamper yourself, even though you know it’s important to take care of you. Maybe it’s hard to find a massage therapist who is comfortable with having an infant at the appointment. Maybe you don’t want to or can’t leave the house. All of these are valid!
Have you ever considered self-massage as a solution? It’s win-win. You as a new mom get some pampering and self love, plus you get to do it on your own terms in your own home. Baby welcomed. Baby might even enjoy a massage as well (stay tuned for a post on baby massage) or a bath with you after. Our baby was the most content when he bathed with me rather than on his own. Or maybe you do it while baby is napping (though you should be, too, if you can!). Self-massage is a self-care tool I wish I had thought of sooner.
Here’s what you need: the 5 “warms”
- Warm oil (I use organic coconut oil, but your options are vast, so use what works for you!)
- Warm room
- Warm bath
- Warm hands
- Warm heart
I run my tub first and start massaging on a towel beside the tub. There is no right way to do self-massage! I do a bit of massage while the tub runs and I finish my massage in the tub.
Here is a guide to get you started:
Experiment to find what works best for you and your family. Maybe evening doesn’t work because your baby is cranky. Who says you can’t do this in the morning or before an afternoon nap? Maybe you do it right when your partner gets home for the day.
So massage away and bask in the love hormone of oxytocin. The more loved mama feels, the more love everyone feels: oxytocin is contagious! Let me know how it goes for you.