When does postpartum end?

This question has been playing on my mind a lot lately. Does it end when we have our 6 week check? When baby has been out longer than they were in? Or does it never end?

Of course, I don’t have a scientific answer to this – is there even a scientific answer? But I think it’s an important question that acts as part of a wider discussion around motherhood.

A lot of people (including healthcare professionals) talk about feeling ‘normal’ again after having a baby. What an annoyingly awkward phrase. Just think, right now, about how you would define ‘normal’. You can’t can you?

I remember sitting with my health visitor (who is a LOVELY lady – those people do an incredible job) and her saying ‘You’ll probably begin to feel normal around 9 months after having the baby’. I just sat there and thought…but I feel normal now? Right now is MY normal. For me, this kind of ‘talk’ just highlights the bounce back culture we live in. Comparing how we feel ‘now’ to how we felt ‘then’ and how we will feel ‘soon’.

As a society we need to focus more on being present, on embracing the ‘now’ and taking that as our current ‘normal’. If we are constantly comparing how we feel or look to how we used to feel/look, we are stealing the joy of the current moment without even realising it.

Postpartum essentially means ‘after baby’. So in my opinion postpartum doesn’t end, but evolves. I will always be living ‘after’ I gave birth to Arlo (unless someone invents a time machine…which would be quite exciting). I am constantly changing, healing, growing but I am always postpartum.

Along with how we ‘feel’ as mothers, comes an important discussion around how we ‘look’ as mothers. With the phrase ‘your tummy will shrink back to its normal size’ or ‘your stretch marks will fade and begin to look like normal skin soon’ being thrown around all too regularly, women are experiencing a tidal wave of emotion around what ‘normal’ really means.

Let me set this straight. You were normal two months ago, you are normal right now and you will be normal in two months time. Your postpartum tummy was normal 2 minuets after birth, it is normal right now and it will be normal in two months time. Growing your confidence is about defining your own ‘normal’ and living by it.

Postpartum isn’t a mere fleeting 6 week time period, it is a completely new chapter that is now your own individual ‘normal’.

Georgia X

Has motherhood changed me?

Before I fell pregnant I was, I would say, a fairly average teenage girl. I was unsure in myself and in what I wanted to do with my life, I struggled with my body image and confidence and was just starting the path to really learning about myself.

I had a place at University to study Medical Biochemistry. A subject I had chosen (after lots of discussions with different people) due to being convinced that it would be a waste of my intelligence to study anything that wasn’t highly academic with professional, well paid job prospects.

I placed a lot of emphasis on valuing myself based on other peoples standards, I would put what other people thought of me above what I thought of myself.

I was allowing difficult relationships to take up space in my life, which consequently were affecting my mental health. This was also something that heavily affected me during pregnancy.

And then I gave birth to my son.

I’ve heard the phrase ‘with Birth, the woman is born too’ a few times, and I very much believe that holds a lot of truth. Becoming a mother has changed me in so many ways.

I have completely disregarded anyone else’s opinion on what route I should take my life down and as a result am now holding a place to study Sport and Exercise Science. My true passion. Becoming a mother has given me unrecognisable confidence in myself to do what I want to do, this is my life and my life only.

I now only place value in my own opinion of myself. Being a young mother you have to face a lot of negativity; people thinking you are less capable than someone older or people thinking you’ve somehow messed up your life. I am incredibly proud of myself, of what I have done and what I am doing. Me, and my family, have an amazing life ahead of us.

Arlo clearly wasn’t happy about this…

Becoming a mother has given me clarity in what I want to do and who I want to be. It has given me the space to flourish as a woman and grow confidence I never thought I could have. I have gained unconditional love and respect for my body, something I had been working very hard on for the last few years.

A lot of people want to tell you all the negative sides to becoming a parent, about how you’ll loose your own identity and it will test your relationship. Something that is emphasised when you’re younger, as you can add ruining your career prospects etc into the mix. But personally, I have found non of those things to be true. Mindset makes a lot of difference to your experiences in my opinion.

Alfresco dining

Arlo has taught me so much, bringing so much love and happiness with him. He has brought me and Kieran so much closer and not only helped us grow in ourselves but as a couple. Seeing Kieran be a better Dad than I could ever have asked for will always make me happy.

Georgia X

Managing expectations postpartum

This is something that has been on my mind a lot lately. As with all aspects of life, the postpartum period holds so many different expectations. Expectations on how to parent your child, how your body should ‘bounce back’, how your relationship with your partner (if you have one) should be flourishing etc etc etc. As mothers, how should we managed these? How can we not fall into the traps of comparison? And as members of society, how can we support our pregnant + postpartum women better?

I am extremely into my fitness, and while I was pregnant I was able to maintain a fairly intense training program. Throughout my pregnancy I received the comment ‘oh but you’re fit and young, your body will bounce back’ more times than I could even count. The irony being that I didn’t keep up my training in an attempt to ensure I got my pre-baby body back postpartum, I kept it up because I love it.

There are so many things wrong with this comment, and it’s been bugging me because no one ever talks about why we shouldn’t be saying such things to pregnant (or postpartum) women. Without talking about these things, we can not expect to change them.

When someone said something like that to me, it didn’t fill me with optimism and confidence, in fact quite the opposite. It piled on the pressure for me to go back to looking how I did before I got pregnant as quickly as I could after giving birth. It made me feel as though my identity as a powerlifter relied on how I looked after giving birth. This filled me with anxiety during pregnancy, I felt like who I was was hanging in the balance, waiting to see how my body would look and perform 2,4,8 weeks postpartum.

Why are we doing this!?

Our bodies are fluid, constantly changing, adapting, improving. And when a woman grows, carries and births a baby her body unsurprisingly changes too. I haven’t ‘bounced back’, I haven’t lost all the weight I put on during pregnancy, I haven’t started exceeding the fitness levels I had before pregnancy. BUT, I most certainly haven’t lost my body, instead I’ve transitioned into a new one.

So how about instead of denying women the right to embrace the changes we experience during pregnancy and birth by enforcing this ludicrous idea of ‘bouncing back’, we support them to see life (and our bodies!) as an ever evolving journey? Stop placing such unobtainable expectations on our women, and let them experience the changes; the softness of motherhood, the vulnerability of those early postpartum weeks, the intricate and unique nature of the transformation our bodies and minds undertake.

In addition, if one more person comments on how I look like I’ve ‘shifted all the baby weight’, or ‘gone back to how I used to look’ I might just explode. Have you seen me naked recently? I didn’t think so…so how the hell would you know the ins and outs of how my body has changed?. Yes I am training incredibly hard in the gym, day in day out, but that is purely because it is what lights my fire. I don’t want my ‘old’ body back, I want all things that represent my journey to stay – stop telling our women they should think otherwise!

As a society we have dug our women such a big hole that it’s so hard not to fall into it. I suspect many postpartum women find themselves comparing themselves to pictures of other women at the same stage as them (I know I have been guilty of this). ‘oh but she hasn’t got any stretch marks anymore’, ‘she got her abs back 10 days after giving birth’….I could go on. Almost like it’s one big competition. We must start supporting women in their own postpartum periods by applauding and validating them as individuals, as every woman will have a wildly different experience.

As for expectations on how to parent your child…well they can take a running jump. Motherhood seems to have become this huge commercial, opinionated, debatable subject. Erm…why? It’s the most instinctive, natural process there is. YOU know how to parent YOUR child. Mamma, stop second guessing yourself. When I was pregnant, I made the conscious effort not to read a single book about parenting and still vow never to do so. Society is teaching our women to suppress their instinct, and replace it with advertised products or methods etc….oh look it comes back to the big commercial giants making money. We need to be giving our women confidence in their choices. Want to bottle feed? Great. Want to go back to work 4 weeks after birth? Great. Want to be a stay at home mum until they leave school? Fab. Want to co sleep? Fantastic.

Please, lets stop comparing ourselves. Lets start supporting the beautiful, chaotic journey that pregnancy and motherhood is. We must stop forcing expectations on our women and start giving them the tools to embrace their own unique experiences.

I hope this isn’t just a ramble and actually gets my point across. I am so passionate about changing how we are valuing our women and helping them through what is possibly one of the most vulnerable stages of life.

Georgia X

Body Image and confidence

It takes a long time to truly find ways that make you feel confident in yourself, and even when you get to a point where you feel great there is always further to go. Finding your confidence and having a good relationship with your body is a continually evolving journey.

Now this may just be the sociologist in me, but personally I think the most important thing is to know why and how we are all conditioned to have poor body image. After all, knowledge is power right?

Corporate businesses sell us all an idealised version of ourselves, be it beauty products or underwear adverts showing body types that are genetically unobtainable for 95% of the population. They do this because by selling you a way of ‘reaching’ those unobtainable standards, you buy into their products and they make money. In short, rich people are thriving off societies ingrained self hatred. Alongside this, women are continually objectified and degraded to be nothing but items of beauty. Something that happens right from birth, girls are continually referred to as being ‘pretty’ or ‘kind’ etc while boys are ‘strong’, ‘funny’, ‘clever’ – notice how boys are valued for things completely unrelated to their appearance? As a result, women relate their confidence to how they look, not what they’re doing.

When I first began to understand all of these things (Thank you A-level sociology) the first thing I did was clear out my social media. EVERYONE should do this. Unfollow all those accounts who’s pictures make you feel awful about yourself, block all those people you don’t want in your life anymore and fill your feed with things that inspire you. Social media is your tool, to use how you wish, and that can either be extremely detrimental or extremely beneficial – you decide.

Deadlifting with a tiny baby bump

I slowly began to focus on what my body could DO, not what it LOOKED like. Here’s where Powerlifting completely changed my life – suddenly all I cared about was my performance in the gym, and it was achieving goals within that that gave me confidence – not having abs or fitting into a certain size of clothes. (I urge everyone to invest in their personal fitness or take up a sport)

When I fell pregnant, all the confidence and positive image I had built was really challenged. Your body changes so quickly and beyond your control. It is one of the only times in life that you have to just step back and let it happen, and that is hard. My advice to get through this, would be to have trust in your body that it is doing exactly what it needs to do – even if you do gain more than the ‘recommended’ weight (we all know those numbers are bollocks anyway) or you get more stretch marks than the ‘average’ woman (trust me there’s no such thing as average). Your body was build to do this and it knows exactly how to do it without any input from you, so don’t waste your money or time on stretch mark creams or any other item sold to reduce the effects of pregnancy on your physical appearance.

Now, postpartum is a whole other ball game – just when your getting used to your pregnancy body, you give birth and your left in a strange in-between stage. You’re no longer growing life, but you don’t look or feel anything like the you before pregnancy.

Number one, don’t jump straight back to trying to put on your old clothes – they most likely wont fit. Number two, give your body and mind time. The most important thing in those first weeks is looking after you and your baby, focus as much as you can on soaking up all those first moments. Also try not to place to much importance on that stupid ‘6 week’ mark. Women are continually sold this idea that everything will go back to ‘ normal’ at six weeks – you resume your sex life, start exercising and supposedly look like how you did before pregnancy. All complete lies given how different we all are. For me, I had sex at 4 weeks, began working out at 3 weeks and am never going to look how I used to.

As a young mother, there’s increased pressure to ‘get my body back’ (a ridiculous phrase). As an 18 year old I’m supposedly meant to be wearing tiny clothes, showing off my flat stomach and going clubbing. For one, I wear nothing but sports clothes (you’ll catch me in heels and a tiny dress when i’m dead) and for two i hate the idea of clubbing and is most likely something I will never want to do. I’ll do me, you do you and we’re all happy right?

Here’s to building each other up, raising confident women, and placing our self worth in the things we are achieving.

Georgia X