An Open Letter to a New Mum Who is Learning to Love Her Body
Dear New Mum,
First and foremost, congratulations on the new title! Being a mum is the most amazing gift you can ever receive. It’s the kind of gift that keeps surprising you every step of the way and the kind you never want to return to the store.
You probably don’t feel the joy of motherhood, yet, do you? While you may love the bundle of joy curling up his or her toes and fingers next to you, you’re probably spending more time in the shower. You can’t get over the fact that your waistline is gone, the skin around your stomach is wrinkled, and you still look 2 months pregnant.
Deep down you know you’re supposed to love your body no matter what. But somehow, every time you look at yourself in the mirror, you can’t seem to find a single bout of love. All you can do is obsess over what your body has become – a spectacle of what it used to be.
Some of the other new mums in your WhatsApp and Facebook support groups seem to have it all together and that makes you stress even more about it. They’re rocking bandage dresses with no care in the world, and you’re reduced to sweatpants and sweatshirts. Most of the clothes you used to wear no longer fit and the ones that do aren’t breastfeeding-friendly.
The truth is, it’s easy to fall apart when you’re learning to love your body as a new mum. And it’s even easier to slide into postpartum depression because of it. That’s why I’m penning this open letter to you. I’m hoping it’ll act as a reminder that you’re not alone and become the resource you go to whenever you feel like you’re losing the battle.
So, to the new mum learning to love her body, here’s what I’d like you to know:
It’s Totally Okay Not to Recognize Yourself
Your stomach isn’t supposed to look like anything you remember. Unless you’re a second-time mum, in which case, you’ve been here before. So start by accepting that this is totally normal.
The wrinkles, stretch marks, excess skin, and bigger boobs are all part of the journey, so is the weight you’ve added recently. It doesn’t mean that you’re not taking care of yourself, or that you’re being lazy. On the contrary, it’s called being a mum.
You Need to Give Yourself More Time
In case you’ve forgotten, you just had a baby. Walk towards your baby’s crib and see the lovely being you brought into this world and then think hard about the short timelines you’re giving yourself.
It’s understandable that you want to get back into shape. Back into your pre-baby body. But that’s not going to happen overnight. It’ll take time. The time that you necessarily don’t have because being a mum is a full-time job.
By the way, the waist trainers you’ve been looking at don’t work the same way for all body types. Each person experiences different results. So don’t compare yourself to the Instagram mums sharing positive progress and understand that your body, with time, will get to where you want it to be.
If that’s hard to run with, always remember that you carried your baby for nine months. As the saying goes, it’s only fair that you also give your body nine months to heal.
You Need to Stop Counting the Inches
Admittedly, it’s easy to get fixated on your waistline. Our society has conditioned us to believe that beauty has a specific shape. For African beauty, the standard has been the hourglass figure.
Then there are the person-specific standards. The kind that makes us go on a diet and spend time researching post-baby bodies, workouts, and celebrity comebacks. Whichever you’re stuck on right now, I’d like you to remember this quote by Maya Angelou; “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”
Take a moment and look at what you don’t like. Is it the extra skin? Most of this will fall off in due time. Is it the visible stretch marks? You can use products like Bio-Oil to lessen their appearance. Or is it the scar from your unexpected caesarean section? This will fade away in time, with the help of certain ointments.
However, you don’t need to do any of this. You can always choose to change your attitude. Instead of seeing your marks as something unwanted you can choose to see them as something beautiful and this brings me to my next point.
A Self Care Routine Works Wonders
The best way to love your post-baby body is to practise self-care. This means taking care of your mind, body and soul. By doing this, you unlock a kind of positivity and love you never knew existed within you.
To start you off, consider journaling, joining a group of mums like yourself (online or offline), meditating/praying, eating healthy, physical exercise or even treating yourself to a spa once in awhile. The key here is to focus on yourself and learning to love your body all over again.
In Conclusion – Embrace the New You
Being a mum is hard. There are days you’ll wake up, look at yourself in the mirror, and spend the day feeling bad about your body. To be honest, most of your days as a new mum may look like this.
Then there are the days when you’ll look at your husband and hate him. Especially if he still has a nightlife and you can barely keep your blouse free of milk stains. Days like these will be super hard but in the end, it’ll all be worth it and you won’t be alone.
Your baby will be with you every step of the way, smiling at you in appreciation for choosing to love them the way you do. So love your body for this reality: that everything will work out in the end. Understand that your new body is a true representation of what becoming a mum looks like and that your scars and stretch marks are just a part of this beautiful package.
Choose to love yourself every day at a time and embrace the person you’ve become – an amazing mother. Because frankly, that’s who you are, even though it doesn’t feel like it at the moment.
Written to you with love,
A Former New Mum