When I was pregnant with my first son in 2009 I gained a lot of weight (around 60 lbs) and had a big baby (he was 10 lbs).  I remember going home after he was born feeling shocked that I still looked six months pregnant!  I remember crying at three months postpartum, looking at a saggy tummy in the mirror and feeling hopeless because I didn’t think I would ever feel comfortable in my own skin again.  And, I remember how I would feel jealous of other girls who talked about how the weight just melted off them with breastfeeding (I nursed for almost 20 months and never felt like my weight was just ‘melting off’).

One of my goals with this pregnancy has been to share with people what is a normal transition after pregnancy with your body.  But, let me also preface this post by saying that each of our bodies are very different and will respond differently to pregnancy.  Some of us will get stretch marks, some will get none.  Some will gain a lot of weight during pregnancy, some will gain very little.  Some will find it a challenge to lose the weight, some will lose it fairly easily.  It is one of the hardest pieces of advice to follow, but the best piece of advice I can give you, is not to compare your progress or your body to anyone else.  I have found that it never makes me feel better about myself when I compare myself to other people, because I always end up just finding my areas that I think are flawed.  The thing that always helps me the most is to compare myself against myself.  Cliche I know, but it is true.  Progress photos can help a lot.  Even now when I feel discouraged because I am still in that ‘in between’ phase where my pre-pregnancy clothes don’t fit but maternity clothes don’t fit either, it helps a lot to look at progress photos and realize that I have made a lot of good progress in two months.

I think with my first pregnancy if I would have known that most women still look pregnant after they have a baby maybe I wouldn’t have felt so bad about myself.  I wonder sometimes if I would have had a more realistic timeframe for what it would take to lose the weight, maybe my ‘self talk’ would have been a little more loving in that first year after my son was born.  With this pregnancy (my 2nd child), I hope I can be an example that eating clean and weight training can get you back in shape, but one thing I really want to emphasize is that it takes time.  Our bodies go through something pretty incredible and it takes 9 months to form a beautiful baby.  For me, I don’t expect to feel totally back to normal for 9-12 months and even the skin on my stomach may never be quite the same and might be a little softer.  I also gain a lot of weight in my legs and butt when I get pregnant, and unfortunately for me, that is always the last place my body loses weight.

The thing I keep trying to remind myself is that it’s not a race.  With exercise and sound nutrition the weight will eventually come off, I know that.  Of course no one ever wants to have a lot of extra weight on them (I still have about 20 lbs to lose to get to pre-pregnancy weight), but this time around I am so much less stressed about the weight than before and I am a lot more loving and forgiving towards myself.  In my last blog post (HERE) I talk about my top five tips for losing that stubborn belly fat.  These are all things I am focusing on right now while trying to slowly lose this extra pregnancy weight.

Natalie Hodson showing how her stomach has changed after having a baby www.nataliehodson.comNatalie Hodson showing how her stomach has changed after having a baby www.nataliehodson.com

I almost didn’t post this picture because I literally look like a crazy homeless person in that first pic.  At first I thought to myself, “What was I thinking taking a picture with my hair looking like that, big bags under my eyes, and no makeup?!” But, then I remembered I had just had a nearly 10-lb baby two days earlier, I don’t think I had really slept yet, and I couldn’t even tell you if my hair had been washed since I had the baby.  But then I figured, oh well, let’s hope other moms will understand because they’ve been there before.  Just being real – no one looks pretty after they’ve had a baby.  And if you do, we can’t ever be friends.  Ever.  😉  But, as you can see in these pictures my stomach was really big still a couple days after my daughter was born, and instead of being hard like it was during pregnancy it was soft and squishy.  Two weeks postpartum the swelling in my stomach had gone down a lot, but my stomach got stretched really big and it takes a while for your stomach, your skin, etc to adjust to not having a baby in there.  Two months postpartum I am finally starting to see some progress.  I am starting to see a peek of ab muscles under that nice little layer of extra fat on my tummy.  I have been taking weekly photos and once I do get back in my pre-pregnancy shape I will probably do a photo collage to try to share with you guys what a realistic timeframe for losing the weight might be.

The main point I want to get across here is that pregnancy definitely puts a toll on our bodies.  Your stomach gets stretched, you gain weight in places you may have never gained before, and you probably got some new stretch marks on your belly.  But, it doesn’t have to mean that your body is ruined and it’s really important not to hate yourself and how you look in the process.  You can get an awesome body again, but you need to be patient with yourself and know that it is going to take time and dedication to a healthy diet and exercise.  I think how we see ourselves in the mirror plays a big role in our success or failure.  I know that the days I look in the mirror and start to pick apart the things I don’t like are usually the days I feel worse about myself and end up making poor food choices and having the, “it doesn’t matter anyways” mentality.  Be proud of yourself for each healthy decision you make each day, it’s the combination of all the small decisions that makes a big impact at the end.

Your friend,