I grew up in an environment that did not put a big value on self image. I thought that having a good self image was being vain, selfish, or narcissistic. I thought I was supposed to put others above myself ALWAYS and that self sacrifice was a wonderful thing (and in can be, so long as it doesn't make you a fatigued, depressed, miserable individual).
Over the past few years I've been learning to take care of myself and to love myself. Not in a "I'm better than everyone" sort of way, but in a "I like myself just the way I am" and reaching an attitude of self acceptance. Ironic because I remember learning we should accept our "unchangables" but I never learned to love and appreciate myself and my body.
WHY do I think it's important to love and appreciate oneself? It makes you a better person. A better parent. A better spouse. A better employee. Just- better. If you really want to be able to give all you can to those around you (or if you don't!) either way- being in a good place YOURSELF is the first step.
Having a baby is a pretty traumatic thing for your body and your self image. Your body goes through so many changes- some of which are permanent and not exactly pretty. I am fortunate to have a good metabolism and to enjoy exercise and being active. But that doesn't make me invincible to all the changes pregnancy causes! So here's the truth- here's me baring it all (nearly).
Recovery from a pregnancy takes a while! Probably one of the most noticeable postpartum ailments is the stretched out puffy tummy.
Here's pics of me the day before I went into labor with my 2nd child, 36 hours after and 1 week after:
This is withOUT exercise (only walking). One of the benefits of breast feeding is that it caused the uterus to cramp down and return to it's normal size much quicker that not breast feeding. So I attribute this change to breast feeding :-) I do look at the 36 hours after picture and think WOW I was still so big! But after being pregnant I felt so skinny! Perspective changes everything!
Unfortunately I haven't been able to exercise a whole lot yet, but I have a little. I've also been using coconut oil to help reduce the appearance of my stretch marks (perhaps a placebo, but who cares!):
This is the day after he was born- they really aren't that bad and are already small and white. My belly button was still an outie for about 3 weeks after giving birth. Most of these (perhaps all?) were from my 1st pregnancy.
The skin over my stomach is still loose and a bit puffy. Nothing some looser/gathered clothing can't hide for the time being. I definitely recommend buying new clothes after having a baby. Even if you get back to a good weight right away, give yourself time and realize maybe you WON'T fit back in your regular clothes- oh well. Just an excuse to buy more! Stick with looser tops and go up a few sizes from what you regularly wear. If you try to shove yourself into pre-pregnancy clothes or shop for your pre-pregnancy size you will only make yourself feel bad, so don't even bother. Enjoy being able to wear styles that perhaps weren't flattering on you before, but now are. Be creative! Try on something you might never have considered before! have fun!
I would probably look even better if I had time to exercise more, but I'm not going to be upset over it. I'm doing what I can and that's what matters. I'm thankful that I missed out on the last 3-5 weeks of pregnancy and only gained 22 lbs the entire time. A higher weight gain (I gained 35 lbs with my 1st) takes a bit longer to recover from and also causes more skin stretching. I'm lucky that both my children were early and healthy and that my weight gain was healthy and very minimal!
My advice to all pregnant/postpartum mothers:
Your body may never be the same, but be patient. Enjoy your baby and know that gradually you will recover. Even a small amount of activity is enough to make a difference- just walking 15 minutes a day can help a lot. Experiment with different lotions and skin treatments and find one that makes you feel good and works for you. Even if it's only a placebo affect, it's worth it!
When I had my first child I was in so much shock over my new body that I found myself pretty depressed and sad. 4 years later the "scars" of my pregnancy and faded quite drastically (Thanks to my youth, exercise, and my metabolism). Knowing this, it was easier this time to accept and love my body during and after pregnancy. Have faith that you are beautiful- even with the permanent "scars". Do what you can to make yourself feel good during and after pregnancy. Remember that every little bit counts! You will be a better, happier person- and mother for it.