I teach prenatal and postnatal yoga. When I ask the students why they’ve come to class, there are many reasons, but one of the most common is, “I want my pre-pregnancy body back.” Sometimes women are thinking this before they’ve even give birth. The basic truth is… it’s not possible to have our bodies back. Just like we don’t get our prepubescent bodies back either. I know this after having had two kids. Being pregnant and giving birth changes us forever. There’s very little shrinking and a whole lot of growing.
It’s not to say we cannot look and feel like we did before pregnancy (and in many cases, myself included, even better!) but it is not the same body. We are not really even the same person. Pregnancy and motherhood changes not just our bodies, but the other things we talk about in yoga – mind and spirit.
When we’re pregnant, our bodies change before our eyes. We put on weight. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. The legs, feet and hands can become swollen. Many women have nausea, heartburn and digestive issues. The skin often darkens, stretch marks might appear. Our bones and organs shift and compress to make space. Our hearts literally grow. And let’s not forget the other body changes!
Once the baby is born, we will naturally lose weight, fast or slower, depending on the individual woman. Our bodies continue to provide nourishment to our babies, as we nurse them and they’ll change again when our child weans. We regain strength of our core slowly but surely.
Like everything in life, the way our bodies look is not permanent. How much does a baby’s body change in his first 12 months?
I guess I always felt okay about my body. Perhaps in high school I felt a little short, thighs a little too muscular. A little masculine. I can tell you that after giving birth to two children and nursing for almost five years straight, I’ve never felt more feminine. And I don’t even have long hair anymore. I’ve never felt better in my skin. Most of this has to do with my yoga practice. I practice a lot. I try to do yoga all day long. Yoga got me through pregnancy, labour and continues to get me through the challenging job of being a mom to two wild kids.
It’s okay that our bodies will never be the same after pregnancy. In fact, it’s a good thing. Like we do in our yoga postures, observe, breathe, notice the differences. Be curious about your new body, and let everything else go.