It’s everywhere: the dreaded ‘body after baby’ stories, breakthroughs, ideas on how a woman’s body should perform after having a baby (or babies), opinions on how we should look. We’re constantly bombarded with the “should’s” aren’t we? Our body should be this size, our bellies should be flat, our legs should have a space between them at all times, our arms should be tanned and toned, our collarbones should stick out – but not too much because you don’t want to look TOO skinny. And all no later than 3 weeks postpartum.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the should’s.
I’ll admit there is some vanity at play in my own postpartum journey. While my ultimate goal is strength – to live life well, to chase after my kids. to have energy for my husband – there’s also a part that just wants to look good. That’s not a bad thing; every woman wants to feel they look good, that they meet a certain standard that makes them feel beautiful. For me? I don’t need makeup to feel lovely, I don’t have to have my hair perfectly done. I don’t always desire the most fashionable clothes, and I don’t care if I’m perfectly accessorized. All of those things are nice, yes, but that’s not what I have to have to feel beautiful. At the root of it all, beyond the times that I fall into the trappings of this world, I feel beautiful when I praise God. Isn’t that so wonderfully cliche of me? That’s the truth though, and one that I’ll gladly accept these days. Sure, I’d love to have a perfectly toned body, but at the end of the day it’s just a vessel for my true purpose here on this earth. It’s my job to take care of it, not worship it.
More than once a day I fall into the trap of looking at myself in the mirror, checking out my body’s profile and seeing if I can see any weight lost or definition gained from my hard work. And every single time it has never stacked up to the image that I hoped to see. This past week I got fed up with it though – tired of the constant disappointment and comparison to my 16-year-old self. It’s not fair to compare ourselves to anything other than the person God has created, and that includes our past bodies as well. 16-year-old Heather was a sad, lost girl who put her faith in appearances, clothes, sports performance and grades. She looked great on the outside, but was all messed up on the inside. She didn’t know who she was or whose she was, despite her claims otherwise. She had never really faced adversity of any kind, and she had no idea what kind of work it would take to move forward in life. She was (and still is) desperately loved by her family, but beyond that was never truly known.
But today? 31-year-old Heather has pushed her body to new limits. She is desperately loved by her family, and even more so by her husband and children. And even more than that? She’s irrationally and unconditionally loved by God, the creator of the universe, the one to whom she belongs. She has been pregnant 3 times and has two precious boys (and one baby in Heaven). Her body bears marks of her children being created inside of her, being fearfully and wonderfully made. She has pushed her body to limits she never thought possible, has faced adversity in almost every area of her life, has felt sorrow and pain, and has embraced triumph. And through it all that body was with her, breathing in and out, creating and sustaining and nourishing life for others, loving with everything she has.
Out of those two I’ll take the squishier, heavier, more marked-up version of myself every time.
So when I see the body after baby stuff online and in the check-out line at the grocery store? I have to remember this: body after baby = body. Not one that meets all the ”should’s,” but the one that rebels against them. My body after baby has stretch marks and extra fat, but it also has legs (that touch together by the way) that are strong enough to walk and run and squat for hours with my kids. It has arms that can hold a baby for crazy long periods of time without tiring. It has muscles that have been cut open to deliver one baby and healed together well enough to push the second one out. And after I remember all of those things, I literally thank the Lord, out loud, for loving me enough to send his Son to die on the cross for my body and soul to experience true life in him.
I cherish this body after baby.
This past week’s eating was kind of a doozy; I started off with the best-laid plans that were quickly squashed by my inability to get to a grocery store by myself to shop for food. Honestly it’s a crapshoot every week on whether I can get most of the week’s groceries in one trip or not. When I can we end up eating better every time because we have no excuse to go out or run through a drive-thru. But on the weeks that I can’t? It’s just so much easier to do anything but cook.
Last night I hit up the grocery store super late at night so that I could get all of the stuff for this week’s menu. As I was making out my list I was shocked at how many items from the produce aisle I was signing up to get, but as we near the start of our Whole30 challenge I want to stock our house with as many approved foods as possible. I figure this is a practice run, so I’ll be sure to keep y’all posted on how it goes! All I know is that our fridge is packed to the brim with food; our job is to make sure it all gets eaten.
This week’s menu is:
Monday – roast chicken with garlicky yellow squash
Tuesday – broiled tilapia with charred green beans
Wednesday – crockpot chili and baked sweet potatoes
Thursday – chicken (leftover from Monday), mashed cauliflower, roasted Yukon gold potatoes
Friday – leftover chili (from Wednesday), baked sweet potatoes
Saturday – TexMex casserole and a salad
Sunday – grilled pork chops and stir-fried veggies
I’m particularly excited to have given up on eating all the unapproved things in our house, mainly because we did that last week. I’m all for healthy eating but I’m also not about to throw away perfectly good food either. So we’re officially moving into re-stocking our pantry and freezer with foods that we can eat as we roll on into August in a few short days!
Another thing I’m looking forward to with Whole30 is getting past the fact that I eat sugar all of the stinking time. I never used to have a sweet tooth until after I got pregnant with Wes, and it has stuck around for over 4 years now. Not good. I’m sure I’ll be all kinds of cranky and going through withdrawals, but am looking forward to freedom from that stimulant at the end of it all.
Workouts were good this week! I’m doing Fitness Blender’s 8 Week Fat Loss Program to Lose Weight, Build Lean Muscle & Tone Up. I’m really loving the at-home workouts and that it’s only about 30 minutes per day, with the option to do more. It’s just the right length of time to do a really good naptime workout before one (or both) of the boys wakes up. While I do wish that I could get outside and walk or jog, it’s just plain too hot right now and I figure it’ll make it so much sweeter when the weather finally changes.
I’ve already noticed a significant change in my leg strength and the tone in my thighs, which is great. My core strength is returning, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how much more efficient my workouts become as I start eating a cleaner diet. While it’s not about achieving a certain look, I do like that this is a comprehensive workout program that hits a lot of different areas of fitness. Plus I honestly don’t think I will ever go to a gym again. I loved hitting the gym when I was younger, but it is just SO MUCH more convenient to do workouts at home.
Just to round this post out I think the biggest things I learned this week were how to combat the negative self-talk (the enemy) when I’m feeling down about how I look and that eating well makes all the difference in how I look and feel. After a solid week of eating well two weeks ago to not doing so great the past 4 days or so – well, let’s just say I can feel a big difference. I’m ready to create a better example for our boys and to fight for health.
What resistance are you facing in your postpartum journey?