It’s that time of year. Articles are everywhere on how to lose weight in the new year. Add to that the issue of baby weight, and it’s almost impossible to escape the pressure to lose weight instantly and appear healthy and perfect after pregnancy
It’s not enough to have built a tiny human (or two) for the duration of your pregnancy, to birth them, or to raise them responsibly and lovingly. You must do so while looking fantastic as quickly as possible. Websites like New York Daily News, Parade Magazine, and Parents.com all have articles promising to deliver the secrets of how celebrities successfully “bounce back” to their pre-baby weight.
But, you don’t need to troll through endless websites to learn the secrets of a great post baby beach body. Here are my four foolproof steps to getting a great bikini body post pregnancy:
- Buy a bikini in your size (because you and your size are fucking amazing).
- Put on the bikini.
- Slather sunscreen on you and your baby (or use a baby rash guard and hat).
- Take your happy ass to the beach, and go for a swim with your beautiful baby.
- (*if you have a chance to go skinny dipping, skip steps 1 and 2. If you have a chance to go skinny dipping at night, preferably under the stars, also skip step 3)
Having a problem with step one?
Is it because you don’t think you’ll find a bikini or suit your size? Nowadays, there are great bikinis in ALL sizes. Don’t believe me? Google “plus size bikini” and the search will return pages of designers and companies looking to sell you something awesome to put on your amazing post baby body. Real women rock equally kick ass bikinis at the militant baker‘s beach bikini photo shoot and at the nearsighted owl.
Is it because you are ashamed to wear a bikini in your new size? I dwell on this. I look in the mirror and see the body I have now: dark rings under my eyes from sleeplessness, permanent bedhead, soft rolling tummy flab, and post-breastfeeding boobs. Add to that weighing my highest pregnancy weight, and it’s a little jarring.
But here’s the thing: my body may not be the little cuteness it was in college, but my body is fucking amazing. I can pick up two 18 lb kids without effort and carry them along with their bottles and blankets. I have strength of character and reserves I never knew were there. I survive on little bites of sleep caught here and there, and can discern my kid’s cry over another’s through walls. I created life, and when that life popped out of me I nurtured it to greater independence and my body leapt into its new role as provider of nourishment, comfort and love.
I say again. My body is fucking amazing. So is every parent’s, whether their kids joined their family weeks or years ago. No amount of will or desire is going to make me look the way I did in a bikini in college–and that’s ok because I don’t want to be the person who was in that body. Even though I loved college, and I love the woman I was then, I am different now, so of course my body is different, and it’s important that I love this body too.
Let’s be honest, given the sheer number of articles and well-meaning people encouraging me to “bounce back” or to “get back to my old self.” it’s no wonder that getting over my skewed sense of self is a challenge.
Those two phrases imply that your pregnancy was sort of a nine month detour on the trip of your life, and as soon as the kid popped out, the detour ends and you make your way back to your original route.
As any parent can attest, that’s just not true. Having a child is transformative. It is the equivalent of yanking the steering wheel of a car as you hurtle down the road. It pulls you quickly and instantly onto a different road heading in a different direction. That change in direction has a ripple effect on everything: your career, your home life, your sleep, your sex life, your priorities, and your finances. So, why do we act like it shouldn’t have an effect on your body?
Equally unrealistic are the assertions that parents are “making excuses” (as in “stop making excuses! Lose weight now!”). I’m not making excuses; I’m making priorities and right now my tiny humans are my first priority. This is not because I subscribe to a 1950’s idea of womanhood and parenting, but because I have a basic understanding of evolution and child development. Why do we as a culture assume that parents operating within this reality are somehow giving up on themselves?
Further, why is it that “getting back to your old self” has to be all about appearance? It reflects poorly on us as a society that we judge women so much by their appearance that a major change in that appearance is synonymous with losing their identity. The implication that appearance/weight is the entirety of a woman’s being is offensive and dismissive of us as a gender. The fact that women are among the ones doing this is insane. In buying into the idea that we must be thin and beautiful to be wholly ourselves and happy, we are holding ourselves back.
The idea that I should’ve lost my baby weight by now in order to be myself is one I reject entirely. During the first 6 months of my twins’ lives I was exhausted and preoccupied with them and their needs. During the next 6 months, I slowly emerged from that focus as they grew more independent, slept longer stretches, and got healthier. As a result, I have had more time to widen my focus to include things that I value.
While I am not “returning to my old self,” I am doing more of the things that help me be the version of my current self that I enjoy most. It turns out that losing weight and looking a certain way is not a top priority in my efforts to gain a sense of self.
First up was writing whenever I could because it helped me pin my thoughts and feelings down and put my head in some semblance of order. Writing is not a hobby so much as a sanity-keeping tool. Next came reconnecting with friends and family, and enjoying them for who they were while I worked out how our relationships had changed. After that was work, which was always good for my brain.
Only now, as the twins hit 14 months and I have my writing and friends back, do I have time to remember how much I love running (especially at night or in the rain), and start to think about how to get that back too. My own weight loss and diet have taken a backseat to my mental and psychological health, because I define who I am by those things first.
None of this is to say that parents shouldn’t take care of themselves. There are a myriad of positive effects of a healthy diet and exercise program. I know I need to exercise and eat right so I can be healthy and happy as I age with my children.
I just don’t understand this need we have as a society to pressure people into looking the way they did before having children–it’s almost impossible to do; impractical if you don’t have a nanny, trainer, or nutritionist; and strikes me as fatshaming those who don’t “bounce back” into svelte figures almost instantly.
I have friends who were physically active soon after their babies were born, but this is because they considered physical activity an essential part of their sense of self in the same way I see writing as an essential part of my sense of self. This is vastly different than focusing on weight loss to meet a timetable presented by advertisers, culture and media.
So, I reject fat-shaming. I reject magazine tips and tricks. And, I reject well-meaning advice that buys into a limiting sense of what/who I am as a person. And come summer, no matter what shape my body is in, I will rock it on the beach with my kids because I am fucking awesome, and so is my body.