Self-love after baby

by Kathy Hardess

You have read every book on what you should do or eat during pregnancy. The chances are that you’ve endured endless and often unasked advice from people claiming to know it all and know it better than you. It’s an already challenging time with the changes your body goes through, made harder by the fact that quite a few people around you are essentially trying to control you. How many times have you heard “You should do this” or “Shouldn’t you be doing that?” or “Are you sure doing that is OK?”

However, you have made through the frustrations and achieved a miracle. The problem is that most don’t read about what happens to us after giving birth. We know what our baby will eat, when, for how long, and how they will change through time. What we skip over is how we, ourselves, will change. And for the most part, we ignore it. Why? Because we have an amazing baby to focus our attention. As the months go by, though, we look down, and we fully grasp how our bodies have changed and the fact that it’s middle of the day and we’re still wearing pajamas.

Once the baby is born, all our attention pours into nurturing and protecting this perfect little being. It becomes our top priority, and it’s easily the most rewarding of them all. However, taking care of ourselves is equally important. I would wake up trying to remember the last time I brushed my hair and come up blank. Half an hour of being alone and free to do whatever I wanted was a distant memory. Someone mentions taking a day off to do nothing but watch TV and I couldn’t help but laugh.

The lack of time and focus, along with the changes that our bodies go through, can have a heavy impact. Our confidence takes the brunt of that damage. But, you know what? It doesn’t have to. You are still yourself! You are the same spectacular person you have always been and you need to remember how to love yourself again.

Along the way, I discovered some things that really helped me regain my confidence:

Realized I Needed to Give Myself a Break

Let’s face it. We have a habit of tearing ourselves apart and being our own worst critic. Why do we do this? The media has a definite influence, but it’s ultimately up to us on how we let it affect us. After giving birth, more than half of us feel self-conscious in front of our partner. We are not getting enough sleep, our bodies are different But that’s okay. No one expects you to be perfect, so why are you putting that pressure on yourself?

Your partner will definitely offer support, so don’t feel bad that you are not back to the size you’re used to four days after giving birth. It took me a while to realize that my body wasn’t going to go back to how it was before. For a little while, I’ll admit, that was a little horrifying. Now I understand how much pressure I placed on myself. You shouldn’t do it, either.

Took Care of Myself, Inside and Out

Your self-esteem has taken a hit, and that’s OK. You can recover it. Many feel absolutely terrified by how their bodies have changed. Your body is different and you are too exhausted to do anything other than collapse onto the bed. Don’t be afraid to do anything that will help. Pamper yourself and dress up, even if you’re just sitting around the house. Take the time to do it. It doesn’t have to be every day for every chore, but do it. It will boost your confidence.

Do that photoshoot with your family in the park you kept putting off. Take care of your health, your body, your skin and you as a person. A spa day, exercise, sex — all these things can help you get your confidence back. It took nine whole months to give birth, so don’t expect that you will be your spectacular self again overnight. And even if you don’t go back, every bit of you should cherish the changes because they are marks of your child and a reminder of a love that will never die. They can stay with you forever, just like you would stay with them.

Related: #MoreThanMom

Don’t let your self-esteem take a permanent hit, no matter what has changed. I did all of these and then some.

Had Adult Conversations

As parents, our daily habits change and most of our conversations surround baby diet, baby weight, baby concerns and everything else concerning our little miracle. That draws us away from who we are as a person. I found myself  short of subjects that weren’t related to my baby. What did I even talk about before giving birth? If you’re asking yourself the same thing, make a change. You are not just a parent. You’re a person, an adult and you can be all of those and a kick-ass parent at the same time. After giving birth you may have to compromise a lot, but you should not compromise who you are.

Have adult conversations and revisit your old interests. You haven’t lost who you were — and you loved that person, remember? Bring them back, along with their interests and everything else that made you the amazing human being you’ve always been. Be it with your partner or friends, find topics to talk about that has nothing to do with your baby.

Remembered My Hobbies

You may have perked an eyebrow or even chuckled at this one. A hobby? Ha! Getting some me-time is Mission Impossible, only harder. That’s mostly because we become too busy to actually pamper ourselves and some apparently feel guilty if we do. Please, stop. Stick with me here. You have done something incredible and your life has changed forever. You deserve some time alone. Indulging in a hobby or two is perfect.

Related: Dear Virgie: I Need Self-Care on a Budget

After months, I actually found a book I never finished. And, hear this, it was miraculously not related to pregnancy! It was tough to remember when I even bought it, but that tiny little bookmark told me something. It said that I was once immersed in another world and I absolutely loved it. It was a nice wake-up call. Do something that you used to love, such as reading or going to the movies. You need this in order to rediscover yourself and love that person.

I know — all these are easier said than done. You just have to give it a chance. Every now and then, get out of the house, take a breath of fresh air, hand your baby to your parents or a sitter for a night and go out with your partner. If you want, take your baby with you for a stroll during the day, walk around the neighborhood or even to the grocery store. Soak up that Vitamin D from the sun and enjoy a day out. A happy parent equals a happier baby!

You haven’t lost yourself. You’ve just added one more amazing thing you’ve done in life, and you should never lose sight of that.

Kathy Hardess is a mother of two. When she’s not busy running after her sons, she loves reading, listening to music and writing about home remedies. Find her on Twitter @kathy_hardess.

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