After my baby it was tough, but we getting there..
One thing that people don’t tend to talk about about are the challenges you face with your body after having a baby. I did not like the way I looked, the way I felt and this all made me lose confidence in myself. Learning to accept the stretch marks and the saggy boobs was a lot harder than I thought it would be. My emotions where honestly everywhere and I cried so damn much it shocked me. Mentally I struggled and part of it was to do with the fact that all I ever heard was people talking about the ‘snap back’ and seeing celeb moms looking all put together and happy 2 weeks after having a baby like really mam, really. So when that didn't happen for me, I struggled. I forgot that actually they have nanny's, a personal trainer, a ton of money and a ton of help at hand.. I don't.
Straight after giving birth to Ivy my emotions were everywhere which was to be expected but what you learn in theory and what happens in reality can be so different and let me tell you, I was not ready! I felt so damn low and felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. My mothers were with us for the first two weeks then my mother-in-law would come and check in on me regularly after that and my mother would call every other day. After those initial two weeks when my mothers left I remember crying a lot because it was just me and this baby now, my husband was back in work and I was home alone with her. I felt like I needed to be a good wife, figure out how to be a mom and still look good. I lost so much of the confidence I had before getting pregnant and even when I was pregnant.
Postpartum depression. It's real, it happens and yes it can happen to black people too! There seems to be this misconception in our older generation that us black people, especially black women, don't suffer from mental health issues and that can be deadly if you pay attention to that and don't check the signs. I had to learn to take care of myself mentally because as someone who has suffered from depression before, I was not about to stay there. I had another human being that was depending on me for their own survival so not taking care of myself mentally could have meant death for her, that's how I saw it.
It took around 3 weeks for my belly to go down and for me to just look bloated and not pregnant. At my daughter's naming ceremony I still had the belly, even with the tricks of sucking in and wrapping it up, it was still there. When I was breastfeeding my boobs still looked cute, so it didn't really cross my mind that when I do stop and there's no more milk, those babies would drop. When it happened, I remember looking at myself in the mirror and thinking to myself "your body is horrible bro". The stretch marks, those hit me hard. I had thick dark stretch marks on the sides of my hips which have slowly faded but are still very visible nearly 2 years on. When I stopped breastfeeding around 10 months, my body did not look the way I want and I struggled with looking at myself in the mirror. Something had to be done because things were getting worse and I did not even want to get changed in front of my husband for fear he may think of me what I was thinking of myself. He never did though, I just told myself that.
Self affirmations and being kind to myself became something I had to do for me. Telling myself I was beautiful when I believed I looked horrible and questioned if my husband would still be attracted to me, was something I had to do. I started taking care of myself more, eating a bit better taking care of my skin which was really bad at the time and just treating myself to some clothes, a pair of shoes every other month or even taking myself out for food or to the cinema (pre-Covid). I also started reading more/listening to more audio books on self development. All this helped me a little and although I'm still very much on that journey to looking the way I want to look, I can now tell myself I am beautiful and believe it.
I will be honest in saying that my husband really did help me. He recognised the loss in confidence and spoke to me to find out what was going on. After that I would get " you look beautiful today" , "I love ... about you today" , "you're doing a great job taking care of us" every other day. Whilst in the beginning I struggled to believe his words, constantly hearing that from him did help me!
"Things go back to the way they were before right?"
I have been asked this question a crazy amount of times and each time I just laugh.
More women need to hear the truth about getting your body "back" after baby... It doesn't happen! Here is why I say this... As soon as you get pregnant your body changes and you cannot undo what has happened. Your body has learnt all that and it will not unlearn it. You cannot go back to what your body was after you have just spent 10 months growing life inside you and then having to bring that life into this earth. In the same way that you cannot go back to being 16 years old, your body cannot go back to the time before pregnancy. This is why I dislike the term 'snap back' so much because it implies going back to what you were when it's actually not possible.
Can you have your slim figure and pre-baby weight back again, of course you can. Most women have to work for it but it's not impossible.
"How long did it take you to go back to how you looked?"
I'm still on that journey! I don't work out, I've never really enjoyed it if I'm being honest but I do need to start. People look at me and think 'yes I can be like Tanaka, she looks the same as she did before she had her daughter'. Please understand that I DO NOT! While I may be a similar weight to what I was my belly is not the same, my boobs are not the same and booty has a little more jiggle to it than I would like but I'm okay with that for now.
My piece of advice to ladies would be to take it easy! Please focus less on how your body looks externally straight after having a baby and understand that you really do need to focus on the internal initially. Rest, eat well and pace yourself. If you are breastfeeding this is even more important! The body takes about 4-6 weeks to recover from a non-complicated vaginal birth (meaning for the cervix itself to heal). If you have had surgery, if there were complications etc, this can be even longer. Your body would have gone through 10 months (yes 10 not 9, I'm sticking to it) of extreme change, you cannot expect to 'snap back' in 3 weeks. That 4-6 weeks is just for the internal and not necessarily external change mind you! So be kind to yourself and let your body take the time it needs. The length of time needed will always be different for everybody.