For nine months, you nurtured a child with your body, providing her the nutrients she needs and a safe place to do the important business of growing fingernails, kidneys, neurons and so forth. In the meantime, that growing baby might only permit you to eat salted watermelon, or insist on chocolate glazed donuts and mac and cheese at all hours. Then, you’re weighed at every appointment by a nurse who makes a note in your file with a (did you imagine that?) disapproving frown, and your obstetrician has some stern words about gaining too little or gaining too much, and here is a pamphlet on gestational diabetes, and that’s all before the baby arrives!

Then you’re sent home with a body that’s locked into milk-creating mode (whether you end up using it for that purpose or not) and trying to recover from a pretty traumatic event, only to be bombarded by images on your Facebook feed or in the supermarket aisle magazine covers (good job getting out of the house, by the way) of celebrities and friends who “got their bodies back” within days or weeks. Your friend Sam boasts about how breastfeeding just made the baby weight melt off, and your friend Emma works out for two hours a day and does yoga with baby in tow, so what’s your excuse?

It’s a lot. Dads are allowed to rock a “Dad bod” but acceptance of women’s varied bodies has a way to go. Pregnancy and childbirth might alter your body permanently— and that’s ok! Giving birth vaginally may widen your hips — you’re not imagining it. Your breasts will probably change whether or not you breastfeed — bigger, smaller, less full, more full, deflated, saggy. Evolution (or God if you prefer) didn’t have bikini season but babies’ stomachs in mind when designing the breast. You might have stretch marks or new moles or suddenly sparse hair. You might even have a condition called “diastasis recti,” a separation of the abdominal muscles, that can lead to that favorite topic of bloggers, the “mom pooch.”

Above all, be kind to yourself. Your body has done an amazing thing. Your children will prefer snuggling against your body to most other things on the planet, no matter what shape it is. If it’s important to you to return to your pre-pregnancy weight and clothes, get the help you need to do so, be it getting out of the house to exercise, talking to a nutritionist, finding a walking trail or an accountability buddy. The Fayetteville Doulas has an abundance of resources available to include an at-home exercise program, referrals to yoga and pilates studios, and group exercise programs, as well as postpartum doula services and postpartum belly binding

But remember to give yourself time. Remember the celebrities in the magazines likely have personal trainers, nannies, and Photoshop, the friends in your feed probably don’t post the photos they don’t like, and your body is precious to the ones who love you!

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