The second Saturday of each month is the Outside The Mom Box support group for new moms. Each session starts out with introductions and then goes in our main topic. We leave about 30 minutes for Q&A, then close. Our topic this month was "body image. Here are a few noteworthy snippets from that conversation:
We started by talking about where we get our ideas about body come from: media, tv and film, celebrities, internet including social media, friends, family and also "hidden" places like healthcare providers. Everyone agreed that after a celebrity's body looked exactly the same as it did before she had the baby and how totally unrealistic that was. Since we don't live on an island, these influences are around all of us constantly which make them harder to ignore.
One of the moms shared her thoughts on how breast-feeding changes our perspective on body image. On one hand we're feeding a baby so breasts are bigger and on the other hand, our breasts are bigger because we are feeding a baby. Sooo, does that make them / us more or less sexy? And it can be equally befuddling to our partners when our magnificent breasts are so functional instead of just "sexy", as we know they "should" be.
Feeling sexy is harder now, most moms agreed. We have stretch marks, stitches or scars from a csection, wrinkles, leftover weight, even milk spraying breasts occasionally. And with all of that goes the usual baby accompaniments, which can mean nursing bras or camis constantly. Also Lilly Padz, more comfy clothes, middle of the night feedings, etc.
The moms who come to these groups always offer the most insightful comments, one of which I thought was right on: for her, being a new mom is harder on the body than being pregnant. I completely agree with this and others did too. And this makes perfect sense doesn't it? Even aside from the physical exertions that your body goes through everyday with your baby (I remember my wrists bent at a brutal right angle when I held my daughter in the early days. That pain alone was something I wasn't prepared for!), there are also so many social pressures for new moms. Let's make a list of some of those:
- "to be Facebook ready two days after labor,"
- Lose that baby weight as quickly as Jessica Alba did (no corsets, please!);
- Be in love with your baby, even though you might not be;
- Or maybe just be grateful that you have a health baby...no matter if your labor and delivery was traumatic.
There are also subliminal social pressures that affect our perspective on our own body image too; to not only breastfeed but make it look as easy, beautiful and "natural" as Olivia Wilde does for example.
Don't get me wrong: there are absolutely physical and social pressures on pregnant women (to not gain too much weight, not to drink or indulge in a Pumpkin Spice Latte, etc.) but I believe that physical and social pressures related to new moms and body image are longer lasting and, because of that they can penetrate our thoughts and self-esteem in more damaging ways.
So many factors influence how body image for new moms. Here are a couple of ways that we can fight those destructive message and keep our body image as heathy as possible:
- Be realistic. Set yourself up for small success, like daily walks instead of huge goals like joining a gym when both time and money can be factors. Move yourself to activity when you're ready to not because you're supposed to or you feel pressured but because it's good for your mental health, in addition to physical health.
- Be with people in person, more than online. Face to face connection is essential for our good health, yes, but face to face, like this free monthly group, is also a reality check. Not all new moms look like (insert your favorite celebrity new mom here!).
- Practice Gratitude. Your body may not look like it did before you were pregnant but your body is where your baby feels safest and most loved. Your body may also be feeding another little being too. Not too shabby!
- Remind yourself that You are Enough. Just as you are. And if you forget? Don't look any further than your baby. The way s/he looks at you may be just the reminder you need.
For Durham area new moms, our next gathering is October 11, 2-4 pm. Once again, we will be at my office at 1200 Broad Street, Suite 104, in Durham. RSVPs are not required! Have a suggestion for our October topic, leave me a comment below. Thanks for reading.