As your baby slowly grew, you adapted to carrying them in your body; from something noone else would notice to a pronounced bump that the general public might have commented on or even touched (without asking?! hands off thank you very much!). After birth, the shift is not so obviously gradual and sometimes there's an expectation to 'snap back' into your former self or shape.
For most women, this is not what happens.
What is normal?
It can be totally normal to look a bit pregnant for a while afterward, with a bit of a bump still there. In those first 6 weeks your uterus will gradually shrink from being about 1kg to just 50g.
As time passes there will be changes - most noticeably in your breasts if you're breast feeding as your milk will come in at around day 3, along with a flood of hormones, making them *mahoosive*. Again, as feeding settles so will your boobs.
Your pelvic floor may be bruised or need to heal from tears or an episiotomy. You'll bleed postnatally however you delivered, as long as it's getting progressively less and stays a darker colour, that's fine.
It can be normal to have night sweats, loose some of the extra luscious hair you grew in pregnancy and to feel, well - different.
How do you feel?
60% of women will have diastasis recti (abdominal sepatation) this means the layers of the abdomen haven't come all the way back together. You may feel like you don't have the strength there you used to, there could be pain in your lower back, you might experience doming in your belly. If you feel weak in your back and core it's best to get help from a qualified fitness professional who's experiences with core issues (and possibly pelvic floor stuff too, they often go together). You might have a gap and feel strong and fine and have no pelvic floor issues, in which case that's fine.
'Nine months in - Nine months out.'
- What do you think of that saying as an idea for 'getting back to normal'?
Some women find the differences hard to navigate and want to feel their bodies in the way they used to. Some people feel like they want to go for a run or hit the gym, but that may not be a good idea in the early weeks. The NHS recommends a minimum of 6 weeks before higher impact exercises and possibly longer if things aren't yet comfortable. Some people find postnatally that it takes quite a bit longer than 6 weeks, so go gently.
Impact exercises can put additional pressure on your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles and although it may feel familiar it may not be the best option in the longer term.
HOW CAN YOU RECONNECT?
Take some time for yourself.
❤ REST ❤
Ask your partner, family, doula or a friend to have baby for a while so you can have a bath or spend time in a restful pose and reconnect with your body.
❤ MASSAGE ❤
Gently massaging your belly, arms and hands can feel good - or placing hands on your abdomen to tune into your breath and body can offer you feedback and warmth. You can do something simple like this for a few minutes every day, or book yourself in for a postnatal massage.
❤ MOVEMENT ❤
Movement can help you feel more connected in your body and releases feel-good hormones. Take things in your own pace - walking in the park or doing some gentle yoga, pilates or dance can all be great. Whatever you choose, move with care and awareness. Feel into it rather than 'work out'. You may find that doing your everyday activities but with more of a focus can help reconnect and decide what your body needs most.
This can also be emotional, so be kind to yourself.
❤ FUEL ❤
As well as drinking water plentifully and eating a healthy mix of foods (and I do mean across the range so yes please - cake, but maybe not for breakfast every day) think about what fuels your soul. What music makes you smile, bounce, soar? What cafe lifts you? Which friends do that? Watch a favourite feel-good movie, chat about stuff you love. Connecting out as well as in is important. Also, sometimes it's like a holiday to not talk baby stuff for a bit!
"Learning to love yourself is like learning to walk—essential, life-changing, and the only way to stand tall."
– Vironika Tugaleva
Feelings that can come up: loss, tenderness, confusion, pressure to go back to normal, frustration.
As long as you and your baby are safe it's OK to feel these things.
It can also be normal to feel powerful, sexy and strong too. Hooray for those days! ♡
Sometimes you get all the emotions all at once - bonus!
There's support out there is things feel too much or too difficult.
Check out PANDAS for support or if you're local, Frome Birth Talk.
Ask for help, there are people ready to listen to you.