“How serious are you about getting in the best shape of your life?” I had just made the effort to sign up for a gym membership and now it seemed they wanted even more from me. “The New Year is the time to get your pre-baby body back!” pushed the gym’s trainer, in an effort to sell his free personal training services. I made some excuse to decline the extra attention, and left in a little bit of disgust. Across the next few days, I thought long and hard about why his approach had bothered me. And three months later, I think I know.
Having gone through the experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and nursing, it just seems like the prospect of going back to my “pre baby body” is impossible. That option isn’t even on the table anymore. No matter how well I ate, how much I exercised, or how hard I worked, that body is gone. I don’t just mean that I have a new pocket or two of cellulite, or that my fitted waist dresses aren’t as flattering anymore. The personal trainer was tapping into an insecurity that so many new moms have, that something is wrong with their new body simply because it’s not the body they had.
But my new physique isn’t bad, it’s just different and the way I view my body is different too. For example, when I do go to the gym, Instead of focusing fitness efforts on weight loss or ideal muscle tone, I work out in order to be strong and healthy. I push myself a bit harder on the treadmill or the yoga mat because my body has been pushed to the breaking point by childbearing, child nursing, and child carrying. I am not afraid to test my limits because I know I won’t break. How empowering is that?
The physical changes of the past two years have also changed the way I relate to my husband. And it has been complicated and scary at times, but largely these changes have been for the better. I understand now that my body is valuable not just because of how toned or slender it is, but because of its miraculous ability to nourish and bring forth human life. That makes me feel confident and attractive around my husband in a new way. And furthermore, I feel a whole new sense of security in our relationship being able to point to our living, thriving toddler son and say “Hey! We made that together!” It is truly a miracle.
I should also note that being intimate with my husband is a very different experience. Now that our sexual relationship has come full circle by conceiving and bearing a child together, it feels like the mature sexual relationship that a husband and wife should have. It’s not just about mutual physical pleasure anymore. Now sex is a very real reminder of that miraculous life we have created together, and hope to create again in the future. It’s true that we felt very awkward trying to be romantic for a few months after our son was born. Most women are cleared for sex at six weeks postpartum, but trust me – many women need a few weeks or months more to feel comfortable having sex. And I was one of those women. But once we got back into a groove, our romantic relationship has a feeling of security and stability to it that is very sexy at its core. Don’t get me wrong – we are a pretty boring couple of most of the time. After all, sleep is precious to us as it is to most new parents. But we now value quality over quantity when it comes to sex and having a new appreciation for our physical relationship and what it means has really enhanced our experience.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes feel insecure about what my figure looks like after having a baby. I do sometimes look in my closet and realize that there are some beautiful pieces of clothing I will never wear again. After all, I can lose more weight but I can’t make my hips go back to where they were before I gave birth. And I do sometimes look in the mirror and just see a frumpy woman. But I am writing this to encourage myself, and all the new moms out there, not to buy into the hype that you have to “snap back” to your “pre baby body”. Having a baby changes you and that’s not a bad thing, embrace your new curves and find the attractiveness and sexiness in the new you.