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
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.”