Your Body after Your Baby: Reclaiming your post-pregnancy self

Getting back into shape after the baby.

Getting back into shape after the baby.  (Katie Collins/PA Wire/Press Association via AP Images)

Does anyone else out there roll your eyes when you hear the expression “body back after baby”?

My third child arrived eight months ago, and it’s clear nothing is going back to where it was in my pre-kid era.

My once-flat stomach bulges, and I’m not sure if I want to see what happens to my skin if I ever lose my pouch. My behind was once round — now it’s flat. I have no idea how having kids did that, but an informal survey of fellow moms tells me I’m not alone.

All is not lost, though. Jennifer Lungren will tell you that you may not be able to get your body back exactly how it was before baby. You can, however, change your body composition with good nutrition and exercise.

She should know. She is a mother of four and owner of Fit4Mom Alexandria-Arlington, a fitness program that not only helps new moms work out with their children, but also connects them with each other.

Don’t expect those changes to happen over night, though. The “how long” depends on determination and genetics.

Certified nurse-midwife Patricia Gould is one of those women who confesses to being too lazy to work out, yet she snapped back into shape much like her own mother did.

Gould says six months is a reasonable amount of time for new moms to get back into shape. But it depends on how fit you were before and how much weight you gained while you were pregnant. She’s noticed that older moms and women who have babies back-to-back without losing all of the original baby weight have a harder time getting it off.

In Gould’s 19 years as a midwife, she’s noticed a shift in how moms treat themselves.

“Remember that women used to be allowed to smoke and drink alcohol during their pregnancies, and they delivered earlier and had smaller babies,” Gould said. “They looked fabulous a month after they delivered, but they were not living a healthy lifestyle.”

She reminds us, of course, that they were also cooking meals at home rather than supersizing at the drive-thru.

While the midwife says there’s no magic bullet for that extra “pudge” in the belly, the fitness instructor begs to differ.

“It is totally possible to not only get back into shape, but to get even more fit,” Lungren said. “I have seen it happen, and moms tell me all the time they are in the best shape of their lives.”

Lungren is even more forgiving when it comes to allowing time to find your new normal. She points out that a woman’s body goes through more changes in nine months than a man does in his entire lifetime. She stands by the nine-months on, nine-months off philosophy. Perhaps most importantly, she wants moms to be kind to themselves.

“Our changes should be worn with pride, not shame,” she said.

It took me three children to embrace my new body, and how I treated myself postpartum was drastically different with each child.

My first-born was in the NICU his first few weeks of life. As my stress piled on, my weight fell off. I had to force myself to eat. Getting my “body back” was the least of my worries.

After my second, I decided to sign up for a 10-mile race that would happen five months after he was born. I ended up exhausted, sick, frustrated, and dealt with several cases of the painful breast condition known as mastitis. But I finished that race!

With my third baby, I realized this is the last time I get to enjoy a tiny baby. Instead of sneaking out at 5 a.m. for a run, I snuggle with her for as long as I can. The races I’ve done since she arrived included many walk breaks.

It took me three kids to truly understand that it’s about the journey, not the destination.

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