Body ImageJessica PizzoNew MomsParents

Adjusting to Changes After Motherhood: Body Image

self image after birth

Jumping up and down in the mirror, you are trying to squeeze on your favorite pair of jeans that fit you just one short year ago. Today, one year seems like a lifetime ago. Everything has changed since then. Your life and your body feel both foreign and your own in ways they never have before. When you are pregnant, it feels so easy to show off your growing bump to the world. The growing belly is something that you are proud of and admire. However, as soon as your baby comes into the world, your feelings towards your belly change. You place high expectations on your body to get back to where it was before you got pregnant. Nothing is the same any more. You have stretch marks, scars, leaking breasts, and a belly that just doesn’t seem to shrink. 

It can be hard to not get down on yourself as a new mother, surrounded by images on social media of postpartum models back in their size 2 jeans just a month after giving birth. Time goes by and you have your doctor’s approval to exercise again, but you are left wondering how you will ever have the time again. You have heard again and again that self-care is important for moms, but a minute of quiet feels more achievable than going to the gym. It is important to keep your own health a priority during motherhood, and at the same time it can feel like a great challenge. You may also be experiencing changes to your body that a healthy diet and exercise will not improve such as stretch marks, leaving you feeling defeated. 

If you are struggling with the changes to your body after motherhood, it may be helpful to establish a frequent mindfulness practice.  Focus on appreciating all that your body has done for you and focus on loving your body again. Below I have shared a simple mindful meditation that takes only minutes to do which can help improve your mood, body image, and self-love!  

A short mindful meditation with a focus on loving your body: 

Sit upright in a chair. Feel your feet planted firmly on the floor. Allow your arms to rest at your sides, and take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth, feeling your arms rest deeper into the sides of the chair.  Close your eyes. 

Tune your focus into your stomach. Breathe in through your nose, followed by a long exhale out through your mouth. Picture your stomach rising and falling with each breath. Imagine a white light radiating from your stomach. This light takes place in your womb. The womb that brought life into this world. Your stomach looks and feels differently after this life was born. This stomach may be bigger, it may have stretch marks or scars. As you continue to breathe in and out, picturing your stomach rising and falling with a bright light illuminating. Begin to focus on your love for your stomach, your love for your womb. Rather than focus on the changes, focus on the love that this body has brought you. This womb that grew and protected you child before your could hold them in your arms.  

Now imagine that white light shifting and moving upwards. Continue to breathe in and out, and begin to focus on your breasts. Breasts that have changed as well. Breasts that bring comfort and warmth. 

Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth with a large exhale imagine the white light moving outwards and upwards to your arms. Arms that hold your child. Arms that work tirelessly to provide safety and comfort to your child. Thank your arms for all that they do. Imagine wrapping your arms around yourself and giving yourself a hug. Tell your body that you love it and appreciate it for all that it has done. All of its hard work creating and birthing life, providing your child with the greatest comfort of all. With that hug and one final deep breath in and out, open your eyes. 

 

How did it feel to practice this meditation? Perhaps it felt strange and odd, and brought up feelings of uncomfortability. However, with practice this exercise can help bring about feelings of comfort in your own skin, and appreciation for this body that brought life into the world. Whether a healthy diet and exercise seem like achievable goals to you at this time, or you are struggling with how you feel about scars or stretch marks on your body, showing your body love will do your body good! Still feeling skeptical? Many new studies are showing scientific evidence that increased mindfulness activity will improve body satisfaction! (Read: Mindfulness as a protective factor against body dissatisfaction: mechanism of action: Jessica Barrington, 2017) 

As a new mother overwhelmed with many different life changes, focusing on the way you feel about your own body may feel like bottom of the priority list. However, spending just a minute or two each day practicing mindfulness around your body image can greatly improve your mood and satisfaction with yourself allowing you to be a happier and more present mother. Your body may have changed, but it has brought you the greatest gift. And for that, I say thank you to my body each and every day. 

 

 

 

postpartum therapist njJessica is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping those struggling with postpartum depression and birth trauma. She creates a safe place for her clients to share their stories and develop the necessary skills to thrive. Jessica specializes in treatment for children, families, and mothers.