Incubating another human is a big deal. So why do we expect our bodies to bounce back like nothing has changed? It seems like you birth the placenta and suddenly there's an immediate and incessant message: “get your body back”.
And it's entirely tone-deaf.
Watch: Why you need to embrace your post-baby body. Post continues below.
A quick Google search of the term “lose baby weight” returns more than 100 million results in less than a second.
So this International No Diet Day, I'm actively encouraging you to cut yourself some slack. I'm paying forward my no bullsh*t reality of what to expect from each of your post-baby bodies – the day after, the week after, six weeks after, four months after and counting.
The day after.
It's one day in and motherhood is taking a physical and emotional toll.
One of the most astounding things about the human body is its ability to change and transform – which I remind myself as I sit with frozen nappies on my chest, to calm the hot rocks I once called boobs.
I’m sleeping in 90-minute blocks to feed and pump for my jaundiced baby.
My legs are swollen, as is the surfboard-sized maxi pad in my undies filling with blood, even though I had an emergency C-section – the fresh 10cm wound only visible in the reflection of the mirror as my crumply still-pregnant stomach means I can’t see down there.
Yes, whether you had a vaginal or caesarean delivery, you will look pregnant for at least the first few days if not weeks as the uterine contractions do their thing to return your uterus to its regular size.
The week after.
When I posted a photo of my post-baby body on Instagram, someone commented saying "Your body is ruined. This is exactly why I don't want to have children."
Geez, thanks troll.
Last time I checked, my body was the least impressive thing about me. It’s not an ornament. It was built to do powerful things – not look pretty for other people.
But lucky I didn’t receive that message on day three after birth, otherwise I’d be a blubbering mess.
Instead, I’m feeling proud of what my friend calls her panna cotta belly and new ‘birthmark’ courtesy of his sunroof delivery.
The blood’s still happening, the boobs are still massive, the incision feels weird to touch and moving about is different to what it was before. Plus, thanks to all the post c-section pain meds, my toilet situation is less than frequent.
Six weeks after.
Everyone said I would bounce back after birth. They lied. Everything has just flopped forward. Let’s be clear: A flat tummy by six weeks postpartum is not normal.
What is normal is this: Once you get the all clear to resume exercise, you'll be starting from scratch. Instead of abdominal muscles, you now have a deflated, limp balloon.
My fitness plan? Do exercise I enjoy. Listen to my body. Be patient. Oh, and my linea nigra (that brown line down my stomach) is still there, yet fading slowly.
Side note: I love the visitors who compliment my new mum awesomeness, not my body. Those who fist pump with me over tangible successes, like the shower I took or the fact I actually managed to eat a warm meal today – even if it was peanut butter wholemeal toast. All the new mum anxiety and obsessing over sleep though is exhausting, and now the newborn 'bubble' is starting to pop.
Four months after and counting.
Postpartum bodies are as diverse as they were prior to pregnancy. I’ve got new stretch marks, still pink because they're so fresh. My stomach is soft and squishy.
This awesome body grew a baby and there will be no bouncing back. I’m bouncing forward.
In reality, it takes about a year to recover physically and emotionally from birth — at least according to a prominent 2012 study. For me, there is no timeline about when I want to get back into my pre-baby clothing.
All my old clothes are packed up in boxes, ready to be worn again when the time is right. I don't need a reminder of them in my cupboard every morning, making it harder to get dressed than it needs to be.
In the meantime, I've bought new clothes in a larger size so that I can feel good about getting dressed. The last thing I need right now is any added pressure.
Other things in my body are slowly returning. My old complexion is showing through with my pigmentation starting to fade, I've had sex again and thanks to post-natal Pilates my muscles are getting stronger. But I know it'll never be the same body it was before.
I have more respect for my body than ever.
Respect aside, the lack of sleep though is making me look like I’ve aged more in the past four months than my whole life. I also think my belly will always pop out where my uterus is. I might be a one-piece person now, but I reckon my son Leo will give me a lot more joy than walking around in a swimsuit ever did.
Dietitian and best-selling author Lyndi Cohen would rather count happy memories than almonds. As the founder of the Back to Basics App and Keep It Real, an online program for ending binge and emotional eating, Lyndi offers serviceable expert advice without the wellness wankery.
She also has a loyal Instagram following @nude_nutritionist where she regularly serves up Photoshop-free body love, recipes, health tips and more.
Feature image: Supplied
Do you have a post-baby body story you'd like to share? Pop it in the comment section below.