It all started innocently enough. One day, not long after giving birth to my now-11-month-old son, I received a strange message in my inbox promising that I could "burn inches off my waist" if I just bought a waist shaper (aka corset of doom). I never signed up for these emails, but I expect they got my address somewhere along the way during my pregnancy and assume I was sleep deprived, covered in spit-up, and obsessing about how to get my body back. I deleted the email and didn't think much of it, but I started to notice the message that I needed to "get my body back" was everywhere.
When I log on to Pinterest, I see pins telling me what to eat, what not to eat, and how often to work out so I can "lose my baby belly" and "get a flat tummy after a C-section." A quick Instagram search of #bodyafterbaby or #fitmom turns up posts of women with toned, flat stomachs telling me that "my baby isn't an excuse" and I "owe it to my family to take care of myself."
Then there are the before and after transformation photos in my Facebook feed where the women claim that "you can bounce back and regain your prebaby body. Your best days don't have to be behind you!" In most of these posts, the before photo was typically taken just days after giving birth, they are sucking in for dear life in the after photo, and they are usually trying to sell something.
It's not only on social media, either. Some new mums can't even walk through Target without being told they need to change the way they look.
We are getting hit with these messages from every angle and I have something to say to the women putting these messages out there: stop telling me that I need to get my body back!
New mums shouldn't worry about trying to look like they never had a baby while also learning to keep said baby clean, fed, and happy. I'm not saying that women shouldn't be focused on their health after giving birth, but this guilt-inducing, looks-driven messaging needs to go. Instead of the focus being on a new mom's appearance, it should be on how she can best care for her own health and the health of her baby.
We shouldn't be told that we have to go all #norestdays and get up at 4:30 a.m. to find time for a workout. We shouldn't be told that the only right way to look is slim and toned. We shouldn't be told to tough it out and deprive ourselves so we can squeeze back into our prebaby wardrobe.
We should be told that all bodies are beautiful. We should be told that it's OK to skip a workout if your baby is sick or wants to be cuddled all day. It's OK to have a snack in the middle of the night if you are ravenous from breastfeeding a hungry newborn.
It's OK to spend the entire day on the couch getting to know your new baby. It's OK to join team "leggings as pants" while your body heals.
We need to see these messages more often because it is so easy to get sucked in to the "body back" mentality when we are bombarded with it day after day. I have fallen victim to this mentality myself, putting too much importance on the number on the scale after giving birth to my two sons. But the more women who put positive, graceful, and caring messages out there, the more new mums will see them and put less pressure on themselves.
We may not have any control over the messaging that is being put out into the universe, but we can control the messaging we choose to let into our lives.
You can start by unfollowing anyone in your social media feed (or in real life) who isn't sharing this supportive message or who makes you feel bad about your body. Instead, seek out women who celebrate the beauty that comes along with being a mother (thanks, Hilary Duff!) and women who show us how to be strong and healthy in order to care for our new babies.
New mums are under enough pressure raising little ones without worrying about "getting their body back."