Grieving the Loss of the Pre-Baby Body

“I love this baby and I love being a mom but I just want to look and feel as good as I did before.”

Whether a woman says this aloud or keeps this belief quietly to herself, this sentiment is both common and expected during the Motherhood Transition. This shared belief is not inherently bad. It’s not a reason to feel shame for not being good enough or grateful enough but a beautiful opportunity for growth.

Appreciating Your Postpartum Body

While I love the term “Motherhood Transition,” I often think the most appropriate phrase is “Motherhood Transformation.” There is an incredible, physical shift in both the mother and her baby. It’s a season of the most rapid growth and development we ever experience as humans. Two cells transform into 8 lbs of squishy, gorgeous baby. The maiden physically supports the transformation with her own physical transformation as she nourishes, protects, and sustains this new life. The maiden made all of this possible. Of course it’s not easy to leave her behind.

The new matron must grieve the loss of her maiden. This is hard. On a very primitive level, most of us unknowingly believe that if we feel as sad, or as angry, or as scared as we truly feel, we won’t come out on the other side. On a very primitive level, we believe it might kill us, so we resist. We approach these feelings (or they approach us) and we back away in the name of safety. The difficult feelings persist.

Loving Your Postpartum Body

Here’s a strategy to overcome the tendency to overlook the feelings of grief surrounding your pre-baby body and come to truly embody your postpartum self in a way that is whole and genuine:

  1. Find a quiet, safe place. Maybe it’s your car in the back of a parking lot, a locked bedroom, or a closet.
  2. Give yourself permission to feel. Say this out loud: “I give myself permission to feel as ______ as I feel right now.” With this cue, you are literally communicating to the primitive part of your brain that you are safe to go into this emotion and come out the other side.
  3. Breathe. Become aware of the space within your body where you are holding this emotion. Maybe it’s your jaw, your neck, your heart, or the pit of your stomach. Breathe into that space and be fully present with the emotion as it is. Don’t try to change it. You might cry, you might yell. Let it be as ugly and messy as it needs to be. You are safe.
  4. Disappear and repeat. What you might find in this exercise is the sensation starts to dissipate. Or it may shift into a completely new sensation and take up residence in a different part of your body. If this is the case, return to step 2 and repeat. Repeat as many times as needed. You may need to break it up into multiple sessions. You may need a nap or a good night’s sleep afterward.

In a state of grief and loss, we tend to argue with reality that time marches on. We just want it to stop or go backwards. The newly postpartum woman needs to spend time grieving the loss of her maiden to fully transcend and include her in this next chapter of life. Once we spend the time fully processing the fear and sadness around her loss, we can truly be grateful for her gifts and lessons and bravely step forward in the full power of our matron.

Melissa Hemphill

BIRTHFIT Coach Seminar Director

@birthfitcoach @melissahemphill
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