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Bodies That Have Birthed Babies: Loving, Healing, and Accepting Them

As a mom, do you ever just sit back and marvel at the power of your body?  Think about it: for nine months your body nurtured, fed, and grew a baby. Then, after all of that, it birthed a baby. What an amazing and significant thing that is!

Is it just me or is there pressure as moms in our country to get back to our pre-baby size and shape in record time?  If we do not get back to our pre-baby size, we get those looks and the dreaded question from strangers, like, “When are you due?!?” As a mom, those comments always made me feel bad about myself. It takes time to work off that excess weight and I feel that the perception from people who aren’t parents or who have much older kids is that your body bounces back immediately. Maybe for some people that is true, but I would venture to guess that is not the normal for most.  

I have talked to a lot of mom friends about this, and even those moms who leave the hospital without looking pregnant would say that while they may not look pregnant, their bodies are not what they once were. Things have shifted and changed and even though the tummy is not there, there is still a change and things feel different. 

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I am a mom of three kids.  I stand at about 5’3. Before kids I was a runner and was in fairly decent shape.  All three of my babies were 8+ pound babies. For a smaller sized person, I did not have anywhere for my babies to go except out. After having kids I had excessive loose skin in my abdominal area where I once carried my babies. I also had a c-section and a slight case of a diastasis recti with my middle child, and so my abs did not have a chance to go back to where they once were. Even though I was able to lose the weight from carrying them, my tummy has never recovered.  

I got to thinking: what options are out there for moms who have been affected by all different types of conditions during pregnancy and beyond?


Exercise

It is important to exercise. What I have found in my research is that it is important to work the transverse abdominals or the abdominals that are the deepest.  There are a variety of ways to accomplish this task. You want to find a workout routine that incorporates cardio, core training, and strength training. Some people feel better about using home based workout programs. Others find it more effective to go to a gym to get these results.

You need to do whichever method works best for you. Do not be intimidated by people who workout differently than you do. You need to do whichever type of program is going to get you to your goal, whatever that may look like.


Physical Therapy

If you have had cases of diastasis recti, consult or get a referral to a physical therapist.  They can recommend specific exercises that target your abdominals and ones that will not exacerbate your condition further.  To flatten the area, women have to get those abdominal muscles to realign. And that is where the exercises come into play.  Some exercises, such as crunches, can make your condition worse.

I talked to a friend who is a physical therapist and she shared a mini crunch with me. In a mini crunch, you lie on your back, knees up, feet on the floor, and crunch upwards just enough that your stomach tightens, but that your shoulders don’t come up off the floor. You complete 10 reps, 2-3 times per day.

She also shared the importance of meeting with a physical therapist who specializes or has a knowledge of women’s health. These therapists can help moms deal with diastasis recti as well as pelvic and other issues that come up postpartum.


Diet

Diet is a challenging one. There are so many different diet programs out there.  How do you even begin to know where to begin?

Make a Plan

It may be a matter of trying something and seeing how it works for you and then modifying or changing it as necessary. What I have found to be most effective for me is one that I can do and incorporate into a lifestyle change. Many gyms will have information on effective nutrition plans. In addition, many home-based workout programs will also give you nutrition help. What has been effective for me is a program that consists of high protein, low carb. There are a multitude of different programs out there.  Talk to others who have tried various things and see what advice they can offer you.

Spousal Support

It is also helpful if your spouse or significant other is on the same page with their eating habits. It can be very difficult if you are trying to eat in a healthy manner and they are eating junk food.  

Water

In addition it is very important that you are drinking plenty of water. A rule of thumb is to take your weight and divide it in half. That tells you have many ounces of water it is suggested that you have in a day. A breastfeeding mom should probably have close to a gallon of water a day to produce an adequate amount of milk for baby. In general, the more water you consume, the better off you are.


Surgery

For some moms surgery may be the best and most reasonable option for them. I was curious what goes into a “tummy tuck” or other surgical procedures. The best candidates for abdominoplasty (tummy tuck)  are women who are in relatively good shape but are bothered by a large fat deposit or loose abdominal skin that won’t respond to diet or exercise. The surgery is particularly helpful to women who, through multiple pregnancies, have stretched their abdominal muscles and skin beyond the point where they can return to normal.  

Abdominoplasty

According to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, most commonly, the surgeon will make a long incision from hip bone to hip bone, just above the pubic area. A second incision is made to free the navel from surrounding tissue. Next, the surgeon separates the skin from the abdominal wall all the way up to your ribs and lifts a large skin flap to reveal the vertical muscles in your abdomen. These muscles are tightened by pulling them close together and stitching them into their new position. This provides a firmer abdominal wall and narrows the waistline. The skin flap is then stretched down and the extra skin is removed. A new hole is cut for your navel, which is then stitched in place. Finally, the incisions will be stitched, dressings will be applied, and a temporary tube may be inserted to drain excess fluid from the surgical site.  

Partial Abdominoplasty

The incision is much shorter and the navel may not be moved, although it may be pulled into an unnatural shape as the skin is tightened and stitched. The skin is separated only between the incision line and the navel. This skin flap is stretched down, the excess is removed, and the flap is stitched back into place. The average cost of this surgery is around $5,798. Because this is considered cosmetic surgery, it is many times not covered by insurance.


Acceptance

Accept the fact that your body is amazing and did the most beautiful job on the planet.  Be kind to yourself and allow yourself the time to heal and feel good and “normal” again. There is no magic timeline for this to happen.  Also know that for some people their body may never be back to where it once was. Becoming a mom brings a lot of changes to us–emotionally, spiritually, and physically.  Let’s not focus only on the physical changes that our body goes through.

Embrace the fact that your body is amazing and has served a purpose that brings life and light to the world.  

There is no one to compare yourself to, even though at times we feel like there is. People will judge you because that is how our society is. Do what is best for you and your family. Doing that requires courage and strength. In those moments when you think you don’t have those qualities, remember you are a mom and you absolutely have both.


 

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