I wrote this piece a few weeks ago, and have since gone back over it more times than I should. It's a delicate matter, and the last thing I want to do is offend anyone. I'm just defending myself, and my many clients, who are the women being "post-baby body-shamed".
Let me explain what post-baby body-shaming is. It's usually aimed at celebrities who “showcase their post-baby bodies” on mundane tasks like going to the shop to get milk. Or “pour their curves” into outfits just three weeks after giving birth! Then you see all these comments - “she must not be looking after her baby”, “she only cares about her body”, “she has two nannies so she can exercise”, “she's being a selfish, bad mother”, or the ABSOLUTE WORST - “real women don't look like that three weeks after having a baby”.
Sorry, but is this celebrity a fake woman? Because she dresses in clothes that flatter her three weeks after having a baby? Or maybe she didn't over-eat and was active when she was pregnant, and now is reaping the benefits of that? Does that not make her a real woman? Does she not have real ovaries and a real womb that produced and carried that real baby?
Then it moved onto the trend of people showing off their post-baby body (let's call it PBB for the rest of this post) on social media. And yes, I have “showcased” my own PBB on social media. It is my job to encourage pregnant women and new mothers to exercise and be healthy, and I do practice what I preach. And I do showcase some of my clients BPPs. Not without their permission, of course, but these women have worked hard at getting their 'pre- baby body' back and they want to show it off, and they should be proud of themselves.
Recently, there has been some backlash, giving out about these women who apparently snap back into shape. This is along the vein of the type of comments above, but it goes beyond at times. I have read lots of articles, and many of them say that new mothers shouldn't be pressured into feeling they need to get their pre-baby bodies back, or they should have a flat stomach. Ok, I agree with this. I have had two kids, and yes, I did feel a bit of pressure to get my body back, but that's because it's my JOB, and I put that pressure on myself. But that's just me. There are enough things going on in your life, and I'm sure most new mothers don't think about having a flat stomach in the days after giving birth.
BUT, why can't some mothers think of these things? Why can't they think of being healthy and eating well, and think of themselves? Why should they be shamed and called a fake woman? I'm speaking from my own personal experience, here. The day after my son was born, I was home from hospital, and my partner asked what I would like for dinner. Immediately I thought, I want something healthy. Not because I was thinking, 'I need to get rid of this flabby tummy', but because I didn't want to have something fatty and unhealthy, just because society says now is the time that I can! Why would I overindulge just for the sake of it? When you eat well, you generally feel better.
Lots of the mothers who attend Baby Body Fit's postnatal fitness classes get fit and lose any unwanted weight quickly after joining. (For the record, they can't join until six weeks after a normal delivery, or 10 weeks after a section, so, no, there's no pressure). These women get their babies and themselves out of the house in the mornings, some of them with toddlers, and twins, and get to a fitness class because they want to. They don't want to be at home all day, and they want to look good and feel good about their bodies. Should they be shamed for this? No. They should be congratulated for getting up and making themselves go do a workout, even when they have only had a few hours' sleep. It's not easy to lose weight, especially when you're surviving on less sleep than normal. It's up to each individual to decide if, and when, they want to start working out, and nobody should be made to feel in any way guilty for what decisions they make.
In the weeks after my son was born, I found myself feeling very down. Like lots of women, I had baby blues, but this didn't go after a few days. My dad had suddenly died of a heart attack the week before I gave birth to my son, and obviously I was devastated. For about six weeks, I was in the depths of despair, which is the only way I can describe it. I didn't want to leave the house, but I didn't want to stay in. I grieved and cried all day long, and I felt lost, like there was a huge weight on my shoulders. I could separate the grief from the absolute despair I felt, and it was a horrible, horrible feeling. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. Unlike lots of other women who suffer with PND for months, I was fortunate when these feelings “lifted” at about Week 5, and I began to feel like myself again.
One of the only things that made me feel ok during those few weeks of being down, was being able to control my body - what activity I did, and what food I ate. I wasn't in control of how I was feeling, or my never-ending tears, and I didn't care that the house was a total mess, but looking after my physical being helped me take control of some aspect of me. When I went for walks and did some very light exercise at home, I felt a little better, and I felt I could get through the next couple of hours until my partner came home, and I wasn't alone anymore.
Watching what I was eating was a big thing for me. I didn't make an absolute pig of myself when I was pregnant (well, most of the time), so I definitely didn't want to do it afterwards, even though I was breastfeeding a very hungry baby and I was starving all the time! There is no need to over-eat and have loads of junk food, just because you can.
The bottom line is, the majority of women have some excess weight after they give birth, but this can be lost over time. Some women lose it fast - that's just the way their body works. Others have to work to lose it, through healthy eating and exercise, and that's normal too. But nobody should be shamed by others if they want to lose weight after having a baby. And nobody should be shamed by others if they don't lose weight for years after having a baby.
You never know what is going on in someone's life, so please, don't shame them for wanting to lose weight or have a flat stomach quickly. Nobody should be judged for their bodies, whether they've had a baby or not. I watched my weight through healthy-eating and exercise from the day the baby was born, because it was the only thing I could control at that time. And yes, I was back at my pre-baby body weight at 16 weeks, but I did it the right way. I did eat desserts and chocolate, and drink wine over Christmas, but I didn't go mad, and I'm glad that I didn't. It's a great feeling to be happy and proud of your body, for something that you have achieved, so why put shame on that?
That's just my opinion on the whole thing. I know I will probably face some backlash for my views, but you can't please everyone, and I'm sure (I hope) there are others who agree with me.