I had planned a photo shoot two days after the birth. My house was literally in ruins. We had just moved in, the master bedroom was still under construction and we all lived in the guest room. I was up Bed rest for my two consecutive pregnancies. I hadn’t exercised in nearly two years and if you’ve ever been on bed rest you just know it how fast you lose muscle mass.
Still, I was so proud of the fact that, despite all odds, I had created healthy babies. I remember thinking I didn’t care what my body looked like. I would keep it real and thank my body for all the work it had done.
Fast forward a few weeks. I received the photos and I want to tell you that I was too vain to post even a few of the pictures which felt far from flattering.
I spent more hours dealing with these feelings than I’d like to admit, and finally decided to cut my upper body out of the pictures. So much for my unconditional self-love. But what does it really mean to practice radical self-love? Not to mention how do we find our way back to ourselves after giving birth when the truth is that most of us feel anything but sexy after giving birth?
What is radical self-love?
Radical self-love is a relatively new term. It’s very different from the bounce-back era when women felt they needed to get back to their pre-baby bodies as soon as possible. Not to mention juggling all of the daily chores that a newborn baby entails. ON 2014 review of body image and pregnancy found that despite the immense pressure women feel to get back on their feet after pregnancy, there is little support and even less research examining the scientific effects of pregnancy on body image. The review ultimately found that body dissatisfaction during pregnancy is often associated with “bad mood, perceived socio-cultural pressures, breastfeeding intent and reluctance to eat”.
Enter radical self-love. Radical self-love is defined as our inherent state of being worthy and enough. It is free access to our highest selves. During this time, women have tried a much healthier approach to loving their new post-baby body. Women like Ashley Graham and Amy Schumer have even started sharing the unapologetically real images of their postpartum bodies in order to normalize them.
OK I know. Easier said than done, right ?! Start your thinking and let’s move on from there. Here are a few steps to get you started on radical self-love and your sexy self.
* Aside: This is the photo! * Photo by Zachary Gray
5 steps to radical self-love after childbirth:
- Check in with your body.
Are you really asking yourself, “How am I feeling?” and what you may need to make yourself feel better is so crucial. Most of the time, this is just time. Birth is a big deal and incredibly hard on the body. Did you know that when you’ve expelled the placenta, there is one? a wound the size of a dinner plate on your uterus ?! Make sure to listen to your doctors, doulas, and midwives about proper postpartum care and recovery.
- Ask for assistance.
If something is wrong with your body or your mental state, ask for help. Self-love means being vulnerable enough to get the help you need. Whether it’s a nap or a Pelvic floor specialist Make sure you stand up for your needs. MyNestwell is a wonderful resource for postpartum practitioners. It’s like they say, “It takes a village to raise a mother.”
- Practice gratitude and loving self-talk.
Powerful thoughts and words give powerful love. Rick Hanson, Ph.D.is a psychologist, senior fellow of the Larger Good Science Center at UC Berkeleyand New York Times best-selling author. He speaks and teaches extensively about neuroscience and contemplative practice and the power of positive thinking.
- Take the time to find the new version of yourself once you’re out of the weeds.
Reconnect with your passions. Make a list of the experiences that you miss most in your pre-baby routine. Then think about how you can realistically incorporate a customized version of it into your life today:
- What useful activities (such as a haircut or a healthy meal) have you stopped?
- Which friends did you stop seeing?
- How did you bond with your partner?
- How did you set your daily routine or set goals at work?
- What seemingly minor rituals (like watching your favorite TV show) helped you decompress?
- Consider intuitive eating.
That mindful approach to eating can help Postpartum women with healthy weight management. Finding an exercise that works for you is also important. Remember, it’s not always about losing weight. It’s about building those endorphins and taking time for your mental and physical self. Psychology Today published a study about the antidepressant power of aerobic exercise which I found really interesting.
- Do what makes you sexy, not what others tell you is sexy.
It’s up to you to define sexy. I know I feel the sexiest when I feel mentally and physically safe. Sometimes I feel sexiest when I hit a goal. Lately, the only time I feel sexy is when I’ve showered and slept well. Sexy feels different to everyone and you can’t be sexy to someone else if you don’t feel sexy. (Can I get an amen up here ?!)
I often wonder what we would go through if this meant our children were going to experience the same things. In reality, we model our children’s behavior by putting ourselves last, ignoring our passions, talking to ourselves and our bodies. The normalization of healthy radical self-love behavior ultimately promotes it.
If we choose to do radical self-love modeling and practice these steps, we normalize self-love.