Beka Clayton is a Florida based mom of three boys, two on earth and one in heaven. She is never afraid to share the not-so-shareable parts of life including a panoramic view of mothering through grief.
Here, she shares why new moms should abandon the idea of 'bouncing back.'
You’ve heard that old compliment, right? But why is that a compliment? Maybe what they mean is that you aren’t carrying extra belly weight or that you’ve lost your waddle. Maybe you don’t have spit up on your shirt or cavernous dark circles under your eyes. What they mean is, "you look good," but what they say is you look like you before your baby.
Why is looking like our children don’t exist, and like our bodies didn’t just create life for ten months, something we feel the need to strive for? Why do we have this societal pressure to bounce back and should we listen to it?
After I had my first baby, I was determined to bounce back. I wanted to be thin again. I wanted to fit into my pre-pregnancy jeans as soon as possible. I wanted to return to working out at six weeks postpartum.
I thought I was expected to get my body back quickly as I was young and it was only my first baby. I promised myself I would and I did and I was miserable. My mental health suffered tremendously. I was running on no sleep, and very little food as most new moms do. Instead of prioritizing rest and slowing down, I was going for a run during nap time and squeezing in a HIIT workout anytime the baby wasn’t crying.
Between breastfeeding sessions I was doing crunches and counting my calories. I thought that if I could just get my body back to a state that I appreciated, to something I recognized as mine, that I would be happier. I thought that if I could get my life and myself to resemble what it once was, that I would feel like myself again. I believed I needed to bounce back.
I didn’t know it at the time, but I was going through undiagnosed postpartum depression. No amount of physical change was going to heal the emotional turmoil raging inside of me. I believe that this PPD came on because I was fighting nature. I was trying to go back– but back wasn’t possible.
It wasn’t until my third pregnancy and second live birth that I realized bouncing back was the biggest lie I had ever allowed myself to believe. We are not meant to bounce back emotionally or mentally.
And especially not physically. We were meant to move slowly forward into our new selves.
When a baby is born, a mother is also born.
She is a new creature whether she just had her first baby or her third. Her brain and her body are forever altered by that baby. It is not her job to go back to who she once was anymore that it is the baby’s job to go back into the uterus. She and the baby must now get to know each other and their new selves.
This third postpartum period, I focused on rest and healing. I read books written by mothers for mothers about the importance of this critical Fourth Trimester. I allowed myself to believe that this time was not just about a new baby but also about a new woman.
Having been through postpartum without a living baby, I knew all too well how precious and fleeting these moments were. I finally understood the phrase, “the house can wait.” because it can. It will always be there. Your baby will not always be there as a newborn.
Your body will feel like home to you again. Your routine will become comfortable. Sleep will return. But none of those things can be forced and trying to bounce back more quickly than your body and soul are able will always create turmoil.
The extra weight your body now carries is not by accident and it is not just left over. It is there to sustain you when sleep is scarce. It is there to fuel your body when you forget to eat. It is there to continue to nourish your baby through your milk.
The aches and pains in your joints are not just from weakness and lack of movement, they are to remind you to slow down and to force you to rest. Through rest comes healing.
Even your baby who wants to be held constantly knows that you being still with them is better for you than returning to the laundry, the dishes, the cooking and the gym. Those things feel pressing, I know they do. They loom and they call to you. They entice you to return to who you were.
But they are not worth sacrificing your mental health or your physical healing. The Fourth Trimester is often overlooked but it is not just a myth. It is as necessary as the first three trimesters and must be respected.
Don’t fight to bounce back. Become comfortable moving forward.
Beka typically hangs out on Instagram @beka.xo.co and she shares her heart at www.bekaxo.com