LOVE YOUR MOM BOD

Preg­nancy and child­birth change ev­ery­thing - not least our physique. These three new moth­ers are learn­ing how to ap­pre­ci­ate their post-birth bod­ies

Your Baby & Toddler - - Just for You - BY TRACEY HAWTHORNE

For the last nine months, your body has been stretch­ing and ad­just­ing to ac­com­mo­date the growth of an en­tire new hu­man be­ing. Now that that long-awaited ad­di­tion to your fam­ily is fi­nally here, you’re prob­a­bly im­pa­tient to get back to what you looked like be­fore it all be­gan. The re­al­ity is that you may never get back your prepreg­nancy body – but the new shape you get in its place should be ap­pre­ci­ated ev­ery bit as much. Why? Be­cause lov­ing your body puts less pres­sure on you, and al­lows you to chan­nel pos­i­tive en­ergy into nur­tur­ing your new baby in­stead.

IS­ABELLA BRIS­TOW 25, BOOK­KEEPER, CAPE TOWN SIN­GLE, ONE DAUGH­TER AGED 2 YEARS

“Be­fore I got preg­nant, I had a pretty neg­a­tive body im­age,” Is­abella ad­mits. “I tried var­i­ous di­ets and ex­er­cise but I never had the mo­ti­va­tion or the drive to re­ally make a change.”

A “rel­a­tively dif­fi­cult preg­nancy” that was “all about KFC and heart­burn” saw Is­abella bal­loon to over 100kg. “I felt amazed that I was grow­ing another ac­tual hu­man be­ing, but also frus­trated at how big and slow I had be­come,” she re­calls.

The prob­lem-free nat­u­ral birth of her daugh­ter changed Is­abella’s re­la­tion­ship with her body. “I’m much more for­giv­ing now,” she says. “I used to spend too much time wor­ry­ing about what I look like, and now my fo­cus is on my daugh­ter and other more im­por­tant as­pects of my life, like my ca­reer and liv­ing a healthy life.”

Two years on, Is­abella says that she ac­knowl­edges the stretch­marks and changed shape that her preg­nancy left her with, but that they don’t bother her at all. “Teach­ing my daugh­ter to be healthy and al­ways love her­self, no mat­ter what shape she may fill out as, are my pri­or­i­ties as her mother.”

DINAH SIALA 25, STAY-AT-HOME MOM, KEMP­TON PARK, MAR­RIED, ONE DAUGH­TER AGED THREE MONTHS

Dinah’s body im­age prepreg­nancy was a good one: “I ab­so­lutely loved my body,” she says of her trim size-30 fig­ure. “My se­cret to stay­ing fit and in shape was to sim­ply stick to eating healthy meals in mod­er­ate por­tions and do­ing sit-ups at home to keep those abs toned.”

Dinah packed 17kg onto her small frame dur­ing her preg­nancy. “For some­one who had no hips be­fore, I was volup­tuous in that de­part­ment,” she laughs. But her main con­cern was the growth of her nose! “It looked like a bus on my face,” she says of this fairly com­mon side-ef­fect of preg­nancy (which is sim­ply swelling caused by the body pro­duc­ing about 50 per­cent more blood and bod­ily flu­ids to meet the needs of the de­vel­op­ing baby). Dinah loved her baby bump – “I was over­whelmed by the mir­a­cle that another hu­man be­ing was grow­ing and de­vel­op­ing in­side me. It was com­pletely mag­i­cal.” Although she’d hoped for a nor­mal birth, she had to have an emer­gency C-sec­tion.

Three months on and back at her pre-preg­nancy size, Dinah loves the sub­tle changes in her body. “I have a moth­erly look and a dif­fer­ent glow; I’ve be­come slightly curvier than be­fore and my breasts are rounder. I wake up each day and look at my lovely daugh­ter’s smile, and this helps me not to re­gret any new bump or mark on my body be­cause I re­mind my­self how much it was all for a good cause!” But be­ing a mom has changed her in more ways than just the phys­i­cal, she says. “It’s given me more pur­pose of be­ing and has made me dis­cover so much in my­self that I never thought I could be or do.”

NONTSIKELE­LO MT­SHALI 27, SER­VICE CON­SUL­TANT, JO­HAN­NES­BURG MAR­RIED, ONE DAUGH­TER AGED EIGHT WEEKS

Nt­siki’s very pos­i­tive prepreg­nancy body im­age con­trib­uted to her very healthy preg­nancy. “I was quite slim be­fore and my diet didn’t change much, so I didn’t gain any ex­tra weight – my weight was nor­mal for my preg­nancy,” she says.

Af­ter an easy nat­u­ral birth, Nt­siki be­gan gain­ing some weight. “At first I felt a bit un­com­fort­able about the weight gain but I’ve learned to ac­cept it be­cause I un­der­stand why I’m gain­ing weight – I’m breast­feed­ing my daugh­ter. I see it as a sac­ri­fice for the well­be­ing of my pre­cious princess. So I’m still com­fort­able in my skin… for now!”

WHAT THE EX­PERT SAYS

“The abil­ity to give birth to chil­dren is one of the things that only a woman can do,” says clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Than­dazile Mtetwa, who prac­tises at Ngezwi Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ser­vices in Gaut­eng. “Bear that in mind if you’re feel­ing un­easy about your post-birth body.”

Con­tin­u­ing to love your phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance even with the neg­a­tive changes preg­nancy brings is im­por­tant not only for your own emo­tional well­be­ing but also for that of your baby, she says. “When the mother is too con­cerned about her own body fol­low­ing birth, she may

I USED TO SPEND TOO MUCH TIME WOR­RY­ING ABOUT WHAT I LOOK LIKE, NOW MY FO­CUS IS ON MY DAUGH­TER

find her­self hav­ing feel­ings of re­gret and even re­sent­ment to­wards the child.”

GIVE IT TIME

A few moms jump back into their prepreg­nancy jeans within weeks of de­liv­ery, but that’s rare. Don’t com­pare your­self to those moms, and es­pe­cially not if they’re “celebrity moms” who have lots of help, both with the baby and to get back into shape phys­i­cally. Your body un­der­went some dras­tic changes over the nine months it took to grow your baby. Give it at least another nine months to get back to nor­mal – and keep in mind that your shape isn’t go­ing to be ex­actly the same as it was be­fore.

Your age, fit­ness level, num­ber of previous preg­nan­cies and genes all play a part in how quickly you re­cover phys­i­cally from a preg­nancy.

“Un­der nor­mal cir­cum­stances, things that women do not like about their bod­ies fol­low­ing birth can be dealt with through mod­er­ate ex­er­cise and healthy eating habits,” says Than­dazile. “If a mother feels that she’s re­ally strug­gling with med­i­cal and pos­si­bly psy­cho­log­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties, she needs to seek help from a pro­fes­sional.”

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