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

Is the ‘instant bond’ with your baby real?

Lots of women talk about feeling that ‘instant bond’ to their baby right from when those two pink lines appear on the pregnancy test. About how they feel this unconditional and fierce love for their unborn child, and the moment that baby is placed on their chest they feel eternally bonded. For some, this may be very true. But are some of us saying this in fear of judgement for not ‘instantly’ loving and bonding to our babies?

With the rise of social media, we are all constantly comparing ourselves in all aspects of life…and that definitely does not exclude motherhood. Mum shaming is everywhere…and with that comes guilt for our personal choices and emotions in parenting.

I most certainly did not feel that instant bond when I found out I was pregnant…nor did I strongly feel it during pregnancy…or when I first met my baby. Does that make me a bad mother? Absolutely not. Am I ashamed to say that? Not in the slightest.

I am a very logical person, and very scientifically minded. A ‘see it to believe it’ kind of person. I found pregnancy hard to comprehend. The idea that this growing bump and the fluttering kicks were from an actual human being that we had created was foreign. Don’t get me wrong, I felt fiercely protective and definitely had very strong maternal instincts but I just couldn’t ‘love’ someone that I didn’t know.

All in all, I didn’t feel hugely connected to my baby or the experience of pregnancy. This, I think, was mostly down to it being unexpected and me and Kieran not having our own house and stability. The difficult relationships I have with my family didn’t help either – just goes to show that the external circumstances hugely affect how we feel about our experiences. Now that I have my boy with me, I can look back on my pregnancy very differently. Knowing that it was Arlo kicking around inside me, makes it feel all the more magical. That’s what makes me feel eternally bonded to my baby, knowing that for 9 months my body sustained his life.

I feel that a lot of mothers are being denied the space to feel this way about pregnancy…as it’s considered ‘wrong’ to voice anything but overwhelming love for your child…born or not.

After an intense and physically draining labour (what labour isn’t!), a baby was placed on my chest. I can say that at this moment I felt a strong responsibility for the safety and welfare of him, but I didn’t ‘know’ him like I know all the other people that I love. I think that as a society we need to be allowing mothers to freely express how they feel without fear of judgement. After all, how can we support each other if we don’t feel able to talk openly?

Here I am, 10 weeks in to having Arlo with me and getting to know him, and I love him more than I ever thought was possible. It feels as though each day my love for him grows, and I am loving being his mamma more than anything.

As i learn more about Arlo and he learns more about me, our bond strengthens. I definitely have that ‘I miss him when he’s asleep’ kind of feeling now.

The way i feel about my pregnancy and birth has also changed with getting to know my little boy. All the kicks, scans, contractions – all suddenly have meaning. My respect for my body and the process of creating life has grown exponentially, with that comes the beginnings of unconditional love for my body and my experiences.

Not feeling instantly bonded with your baby does not make you any less of a mother, and not having the ‘magical’ pregnancy experience doesn’t either. Perspective changes with time.

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

Unplanned pregnancy + mental health

Every woman can relate to the struggle of trying to not get pregnant. Balancing having a great sex life with the fear of becoming pregnant when you don’t want to be is difficult. And I’m sure 90% of women have had that ‘shit… am I?’ moment when they’re a few days ‘late’.

Personally I have always made the choice not to use artificial/hormonal birth control (and continue not to), having only in the last couple years managed to regulate my cycle and being an athlete – I try not to interfere with my body as much as possible. So I’m a natural methods kinda gal…if you know what I mean. (until we decide to try for another little squish hehe)

But no matter how safe you think you’re being…it can always fail you. Being in a long term relationship…this is a scenario me and Kieran and discussed and ‘thought’ we had prepared for if it were to arise.

When I took the test, even though i was a few days late, i was sure it wasn’t going to be something that would happen to me. In hindsight….that was pretty naive. I specifically remember seeing the two lines and feeling like everything had just gone blank, like I had just received a bit of information that my brain couldn’t process. I was three days away from my 18th birthday and two weeks away from my A-level exams…boy I felt like I’d messed up (which I hadn’t…it wasn’t anyone’s fault, just a fact of life that happens more than you would think)

In the weeks following this…I went through all the motions to get a termination, because this is what society made me feel like I had to do. I spent my 18th birthday on the phone to The Marie Stopes Foundation doing an assessment. I went to a clinic in Maidstone in the middle of my exams for a second assessment. I even travelled to Kings College Hospital London for a third assessment (The termination system in this country is a complete mess, every woman has the right to a termination and I really feel we are failing our women with the way it’s set up…but that’s a discussion for another time)

This was by far, the darkest time in my life, I couldn’t sleep – the only thing ever on my mind was the thought of being put to sleep in the operating theatre, and waking up without my baby. Our society continually tells us that teenage pregnancy is one of the biggest failures you can make. That it’s something that should be hidden, with young girls dragging themselves to termination clinics to ‘get rid’ of the problem. Yet it is something that happens ALL THE TIME. Our society makes young women like me feel isolated, pushing us to have a termination when its often not what we want. This has to change, what young women need is support and compassion – and most importantly to know we have OPTIONS.

I knew I didn’t want a termination right from the start, but had been made to feel like I didn’t have a choice because if I didn’t, my life was over there and then apparently. It took me right until I was outside the doors of the hospital on the day of my termination to stand up and say ‘actually, I want this, I can do it, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks about it’.

And here I am, doing it. I haven’t failed, I have the brightest future ahead of me, I have a wonderful little family. I am a teenage mother, and no less of a mother because of it.

Becoming pregnant when you didn’t plan it has a huge effect on your mental health, no matter your age. But as a society, we need to stop stigmatising young girls who choose to have their babies – because they made that choice and they are entitled to it. We need to love and support them and show them that they are still capable of anything they want to achieve.

And to all the people asking me if I’m ‘managing ok’ in that slightly sheepish tone of voice. I am bloody great – I absolutely love my life, I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved and what I have ahead of me. So please don’t go asking me questions that you wouldn’t ask a mother who is 10 years older than me.

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

Pregnant powerlifting

Pregnant powerlifting

Before I found out I was pregnant, I had been training as a powerlifter since I was around 16. I started by using my dads home weights set up, then I got a commercial gym membership before finally joining a real powerlifting/bodybuilding gym.

Squatting during comp prep

I competed in March 2018 at the South East winter divisional. After the competition I decided to prep for another max test around the end of May…I then found out I was pregnant on the 27.05.18. Little did i know i had actually maxed out all my lifts at 4 weeks pregnant…Oops. (safe to say I didn’t get the numbers I had hoped for…I was rather confused at the time as to why my strength wasn’t where it should be)

As soon as I found out I was pregnant I knew my training was something I was going to continue right to the end. Not only because I NEED to throw some iron around for my mental sanity, but because I knew it was best for my body and my health.

Unsurprisingly, everyone had something to say about this. As soon as people find out you’re pregnant it’s like everything you do is suddenly up for debate. (A note to anyone passing judgement on a pregnant woman; it’s their body, their baby and their choices.) I did my research, I spoke to people and I listened to my body. I switched up my training to a more bodybuilding style format, while ensuring to start with one of the main lifts (squat, bench, deadlift) each session. This way I was creating greater hypertrophy while maintaining my strength and technique in powerlifting.

Deadlifting 75% of my comp max at 35 weeks

Here’s the shocker…I actually made strength GAINS in pregnancy. My strength on the main lifts dropped slightly, but in all other movements it either increased or stayed the same. Alongside this I also took cardio more seriously in pregnancy (everyone knows powerlifters are pretty lazy really) and I greatly improved my cardiovascular fitness.

Something else I decided to work on was unilateral strength, to help with balance and overall function. So I added in things like weighted step ups, single arm dumbbell press and pistol squats. Along side this I worked on my pelvic floor and did movements to engage my deep core muscles to help with diastasis recti. (I am by no means a health professional or PT, so I simply did what worked for me and what I thought was best given my research)

All in all I stuck to weight training 4 times a week, walking a 4 mile round trip to the gym and adding cardio into my sessions right until the end of my pregnancy. I had a completely natural birth, which was very fast (24 hours from the very first twinge to holding my baby), and made an 8Ib4oz baby boy (trust me that’s a fairly big baby).

The key to training in pregnancy is to adapt, yes some things you wont be able to do for a while but that doesn’t mean you have to stop. Trust your instincts, your body will tell you if you shouldn’t do a particular movement.

I am beyond excited to be starting training postpartum and working my way back to the platform, I have so many fitness goals for the next few years so watch this space. Postpartum fitness blog post coming soon…

Georgia X