Mom Body? No Shame! Reclaim Your Body After Babies

 

Yes, there may always be some battle wounds left behind on your body to show your motherhood journey. Some things we can’t physically change without plastic surgery. However, some things we do have control over. And for some of our changes we just need to accept and embrace that we are different now that we are mothers. Yes, easier said than done! But I’m going to help you feel empowered and confident in your own skin. 

Coach Your Way to Acceptance

After having 3 children (including twins!), I have had to come to terms with my body never being as it once was. My body is forever changed, just as I am. I have gone through a beautiful transformation from the young, fit woman I was into a strong, nurturing mother in every ounce of my being. It is a part of my identity now.

 

And my body has the battle wounds to show this transformation! I have stretch marks of the many months of love and growing that my body took on to care for my developing babies. I have loose skin and surgery marks that are all just a small part of what I have been through in my motherhood journey. I have spent countless hours nourishing my babies that my chest will never look the same.

 

But I also have more strength physically and emotionally than I ever had before. My arms have lifted my children repeatedly and 2 at a time plus all the diaper bags and backpacks.

 

I show my strength. My legs have chased and followed toddlers repeatedly day in and day out. My back has withstood the burden of rocking my babies to sleep, carrying groceries for a family of 5, and picking up my preschooler when he is hurt. I am a mother. My strength is apparent. 

Now it’s your turn! Here are some ways to shift how you see yourself and your mom-body so that you can feel STRONG and CONFIDENT in being you.

 

Look in the mirror and coach yourself: that your stomach expanded to bring you those precious little ones, that the skin stretched to make space not just in your body but in your heart, that any scarring is a motherhood battle wound that will forever mark the special moments of bringing your sweet children into the world and all of the love and growth you've done for them, the sacrifice you've made in your life and your body to care for them and give them all that they needed. You embody love

 

Your children love you and all that you've done for them (although of course they don't appreciate it or understand it until they someday become parents). Your partner loves you and all that you've given for your family. 

Now it's time for you to love yourself.

 

Take Charge of What is in Your Control

Whether you know it or not, you might have Diastasis recti (or DR), which makes you continue to look pregnant with a belly pooch long after you've given birth. 

All is not lost though! DR can be treated and you can get your stomach to stop appearing pregnant.

Let’s get some answers from an expert. Here I’ve interviewed Lisa Cheek, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA. She is a pelvic floor physical therapist with N2 Physical Therapy in Denver, Colorado. She specializes in prenatal and postpartum care, bladder and bowel dysfunction, pelvic pain, sexual health, and cancer rehabilitation.

 

Why is it common for women to continue looking pregnant long after they've had their babies? 

Lisa: One of the most common complaints I hear from my patients in the postpartum period is the persistence of the "mom pooch". Many women notice a bulging in the abdomen that may stick around for months after delivery. I think it is so amazing that our bodies are so beautifully designed to accommodate the growing uterus! Part of this design involves the six-pack muscle. This muscle has two halves that are held together by a sheet of connective tissue called the linea alba. The linea alba is designed to widen and stretch as the baby grows. This is totally normal...and completely unavoidable! At the end of pregnancy, almost everyone will have a widening of the linea alba, known as diastasis recti or DR. This is just one of the many ways that our body makes room for our little one to grow. 

Some women will see their DR heal with absolutely no help within about 6-8 weeks. Other women will have a split that does not get better, or may even worsen. Hormones will influence the healing time of the DR to some degree. While nursing (and many months after) you will have the hormone relaxin circulating. This hormone softens all of your body's connective tissues, including the linea alba. 

Sometimes there just isn't any rhyme or reason as to why one woman's DR goes away while another woman's hangs around. The good news, though, is that with the correct exercise and movement there is potential for the DR to shrink or close completely!

 

What is your #1 tip for moms with D.R.?

Lisa: Don't panic! Remember that DR is normal. Your body is designed to allow the rectus abdominis to widen in the later stages of pregnancy. Just because you see a split in the first couple of months post-partum does not mean that split will be there forever. And even if the split never closes completely, you can still have a strong, healthy, and functional abdominal wall. 

 

Are there activities moms should avoid doing to help with the DR belly? 

Lisa: It might sound a little off the wall, but the number one thing I tell all new mamas is to avoid straining when having a bowel movement. This puts a ton of pressure on the DR (and on the pelvic floor muscles), and can really hinder postpartum recovery. Make sure you are well hydrated and getting plenty of fiber in your diet, and consider using a Squatty Potty to minimize the need to strain.  

The other activity that gets people into trouble is lifting and twisting, especially when lifting our babies in and out of the crib, car seat, etc. The twisting motion actually pulls on the linea alba and can make it much harder for it to heal. Always practice good lifting mechanics and try to keep your torso straight when lifting.

It's not about what you are doing but how you are doing it. I train patients to use their abdominals in the correct way to promote healing of the DR and keep it from getting worse. If you can use your abdominals correctly, there's no limit to what you can do in the long run.  

How can someone find out if they have Diastasis Recti?

Lisa: A quick way to check for diastasis is to lay down on your back with knees bent. Place three fingers in your belly button, then tuck your chin and lift your head and shoulders off the floor. If your fingers sink into your belly button, you might have a diastasis. Some OBGYNs will check for DR at the 6 week postpartum checkup. My advice is to have it checked by a physical therapist (PT) who has experience working with postpartum patients. The PT will be able to identify exactly where the split has occurred at what movements you do that might be making it worse. Additionally, a trained post-partum PT can help you find the right exercise program to promote healing of the DR and get you back to the activities that you love! -Lisa Cheek, PT, DPT, CLT-LANA

 

While you’re working on reclaiming your body, there are ways you can dress to feel more confident and comfortable too. Twin mom tip: high waisted, control top pants with a loose or flowy top can help you feel good about how you look.

 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to take action for the things you CAN control and to embrace the changes and see your self-worth. It's not about having a flat stomach and perky breasts. There is so much more to you than how you look. 

 

Let your strength show with your motherhood journey and all the battle wounds you have gathered over the years. You can feel GOOD about yourself, mom-body and all. Get help where you need it and stop feeling embarrassed about how you look. 

 

You are one badass momma and should stand tall with confidence and pride over all that you have accomplished!

 

Brought to you by fellow twin mom & maternal mental health specialist Lindsey Lowrance at Exploring Inner Peace. Lindsey is passionate about helping twin moms Go from Drained & Distracted to Powerful & Fulfilled! For more information & resources on surviving & thriving the twin life go to: www.lindseycounseling.com  or www.facebook.com/twinmompower Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  Phone: 720-243-3993