Articles Tagged with: body image
GUEST BLOG by Shelly: Hey Mama! It’s Time to Focus on Bouncing Back Into Life After Baby, Not Just Your Body

Bearing life comes at a cost – sadly that cost is usually burdened by the Mother.  For years, the pain that women go through to bring a child into the world has been a silent process.  We have only recently begun to open up and talk about the bowtie pain effect that comes with having a child:

  • The Want and Hardships of actually getting pregnant 
  • The Birth
  • and lastly The Child and You phase

Each of these bullet points warrants its own Lord of the Rings trilogy both in running time and intensity.   However I want to focus on YOU for a minute.  

We women often fade to the background when a child arrives just as we are about to enter one of the hardest times of our lives.  We are not only adjusting to a new life, new routines…we are also adjusting to a new version of ourselves, one that seems to be in a perpetual state of transformation.  With so much change, it is no wonder that we are yearning to bounce back to life as we knew it before baby.  

For years, the notion that you had to “bounce back to your old body” post pregnancy was a goal most mothers strived for postpartum.  As a clinical therapist working in mental health for over a decade, you can imagine my thoughts about how toxic this thinking is to our health.  However, it was only after having a baby myself in 2018, that I truly understood what women face post baby and just how difficult it is to resist societal pressures to erase any signs of the incredible process me as a mother had just gone through.  

As I navigated bleary eyed through the early days of my maternity leave, I was shocked to see how many people would comment about my body.  Whether I was seen as having bounced back to normal or now possessed a “mom body” that I had to accept, the message I received as a result of my body being a focus of scrutiny was that no matter what I looked like, I was being judged.  

There were times I wondered, “Am I doing this right? Why haven’t I truly bounced back? Is something wrong with me? Do people think I am unhealthy?” And then I stopped in my tracks. I remember sitting down with my baby in the park and thinking that I was falling victim to the Bounce Back Epidemic (The BBE) and if I continued, it was going to make me sick.  That’s when I found my resolve, my determination to reclaim the experience of motherhood for myself so I did not miss out on another second of it by worrying about somehow not meeting society’s standards of being good enough.

The skills that helped me get through The BBE were the very skills I teach my clients to help them be PRESENT in their experience, no matter what it is, without judgement.  These were the lessons embedded in the meditation practice I have followed and taught for years.  Motherhood was the ultimate testing ground that challenged me to truly embody my practice in my daily life.  

As I adopted this mindset, I began to notice the critical thoughts that swam through my own mind as just that…thoughts.    I wanted more than anything to be PRESENT with my baby and not to be bombarded with critical and toxic thoughts. But sometimes they happened.  Being present in my experience allowed me to recognize that I could choose to give these negative thoughts energy or I could just let them pass and wait for other more helpful ones to show up. 

Weening off of social media was also critical.  Expectation can be a troll and reducing exposure to media that plays on our inherent tendency to compare ourselves, was one of the most important things I did to attain inner peace.  My goal was to accept all the moments and focus on what I could control.  I set attainable goals that made sense based on where I was at (not where someone else thought I should be) and worked towards those realistic outcomes.  I decided that I would no longer allow someone else’s ideals deter me or push me off my own centre of balance.

So with that mindset, a lot of practice, and support from some like-minded moms, I bounced back to life.  I worked to connect with my baby, my husband and loved ones.  I bounced back to self care.  The result…more bounce in my step. 

Having navigated this journey, I am now even more confident in my ability to help other mothers fight the BBE and apply the teachings of mindful practice in their daily lives.  We work on building a new life, and accepting our new identity while not losing sight of who we were before baby.  It all hinges on having the intention of being present in our lives, and appreciating the journey first and foremost for ourselves.  

Interested in learning more about Shelly and how she helps women Design Their Lives? Click here to learn more and to book your free consult today.

 


Divine Mothering: The antidote to being Pinterest Perfect

 

About a month ago, I was contacted by Simone Olivero, Assignment Editor at Yahoo! Canada for my expert opinion about a disturbing trend: websites like #thighgap, and #collarbonechallenge that make being thin a competitive sport.  I was horrified to know that websites that encourage eating disordered behaviour like this would even be allowed to exist.

You can read the article here:   What’s really happening when body shaming on… – Fashion and lifestyle News – Yahoo Style Canada

The timing of Simone’s request was interesting as I had recently been thinking about how the media routinely sets women up to feel inadequate at all stages of life.

When I was a teenager, me and my friends spent hours pouring over fashion magazines, debating which of the super models was the most beautiful and trying our best to emulate their looks.  Needless to say, as a slightly overweight girl of colour, seeing beauty consistently depicted as thin, typically blond and white did not do much for my self-esteem.

I have to imagine that the internet’s ability to expose us to a gazillion images of perfection can only serve to cause many of us to feel like we are just not measuring up.  Of course, celebrities are not exactly “normal” people.  It’s their job to look perfect.  But we nevertheless can’t seem to help but compare ourselves when one of them is featured in a magazine looking as thin as ever just after giving birth…to twins!

In addition to the constant barrage of celebrity “news”, social media provides a venue where many of us “normal folks” can post pictures of our best moments and pretend that it is an actual day in the life.  So much for reality! Social media has essentially taken the pursuit of “keeping up with the Joneses” to a new level.

My friend and colleague Nikki Bergen (http://www.nikkibergen.com/)  recently introduced me to a term that eloquently sums up much of the content on social media:  “Pinterest Perfect”.   I loved the term so much that we decided to use it in the title of a workshop we are presenting this September on postpartum recovery.  It’s called, Modern Motherhood:  NOT Pinterest Perfect.

One of the topics we plan to discuss is the influence of social media on the development of unrealistic standards for postnatal recovery and the negative impact this has on body image and self-esteem. 

And then I came across this site:  http://divine-mothering.com/

What a welcome breath of fresh air to see these postpartum women with their babies looking absolutely radiant and comfortable in their own skin.    Bravo Liliana Toboas for conceiving of this project and for your celebration of moms and their inspiring stories.  We finally have a bit of balance to the conversation.

Check out my EVENTS page at http://www.drstacythomas.com/events/ for more information about my workshop with Nikki Bergen, founder of the Bump Method, on September 20, 2015.  We look forward to hearing more stories from real women about the realities of motherhood as well as sharing concrete strategies for getting back to feeling good again, both emotionally and physically.

It is sure to be a spirited discussion.

Hope to see you there.

Dr. Stacy