Warning: this post gets real, fast. If you don't want to know about my body part image issues, read no farther! Disclaimer #2-- I actually wrote this before the Christmas season and only just now got around to publishing it. So a lot of what I had begun to do has fallen to the wayside. I consider this my much-needed reminder to get back on track!
***** I have this internal struggle. It's one of many, honestly, but it seems to be at the forefront of my mind a lot these days. Here's the dichotomy:
1. My post-baby body is beautiful because it grew, sustained, and birthed an amazing, delightful human being.
2. My post-baby body stinks because I don't have a waist and my closet full of really cute clothes don't fit.
Things like the Fourth-Trimester Bodies Project (check it out here) are amazing, but make me feel ashamed for even thinking any negative thoughts about my new body. I think it's okay for new moms to be a little upset about the changes. After all, I had lived 29 years in my body before Isabel inhabited it. I was used to how I looked and I had made an art of dressing it well. And when everything else in a new mom's life is upside-down, she'd like something comfortable and familiar. Even her own skin is unfamiliar. So I really do think it's okay to not like your new body... for a time. And for me, the time has come to stop frowning into the mirror and instead do something about it. I understand that my body will never be the same, and that's okay. But I would like to at least get out of my maternity pants before I get in them for baby #2 (whenever that is). Few of us start out in perfect bodies anyway, so getting back to normal is even harder. I am 30 and started at a size 12, so clearly my body wasn't going to bounce back like a rubber band. So here's my plan, and maybe it will help other new moms (or those who will soon be new moms):

Accept the things I cannot change:
1. The stretch marks don't bother me. Maybe it's because I never showed my stomach in public, so this doesn't change much. In the privacy of my home, when I see them, they almost evoke pride in what my body accomplished, and thankfulness for God's faithfulness.
2. I'm not upset over saggy-ness, either. When you develop in the 6th grade and could never pass the pencil test (Ladies, you know what I'm talking about, right?!), those things aren't really perky anymore at 30 anyway. 
3. What I need to accept is that my normal spare tire is now a spare tire for a semi truck. And it has sagged. So pants just fit weird in the belly now. I need to be okay with this. Maybe over time it will get better, but maybe it won't.
4. If it is even possible, my rear got even flatter. Oh come on. I grew another butt onto my front and lost what little I had to begin with? *shakes fist in the air* So I need to be okay with this too. No matter how many squats I do, I might always be "flat in da back," as a darling middle school boy once wrote on a note I about me that I had confiscated. He was mortified, by the way. In case you were wondering.

Understand what is and isn't true for me:
No, I don't mean this in a post-modern worldview kind of way. I mean this in an "everyone says this, but it didn't work for me" kind of way.
1. Breastfeeding DOES NOT melt the pounds off. I mean, for some it does. They're usually the very thin anyway, or have a personal trainer. I think all it really accomplishes is shrinking your uterus back down to size. It uses a lot of calories, but it doesn't shave off the fat like I had expected.
2. I don't need that many extra calories. You'll be tempted to eat more than when you were pregnant because you are ravenous all the time and you know you're burning more calories. And the truth is, you do need to eat more and shouldn't diet because your milk supply will really suffer if you don't. The thing is, those calories should be protein... not ice cream and hamburgers. 
3. The cravings don't stop when you're pregnant. Personally, I've had more cravings as a nursing mom than when pregnant. So I have to try to curb those cravings into something remotely healthy.

Be proactive:
1. I'm trying to take every opportunity to get some exercise in. I live in Florida, and it's basically the jungles of Cambodia outside for 9 months out of the year. So walking in the mall with the geriatric crowd is actually awesome. Except I need to wear blinders, because it can be less-than-awesome on the wallet. Have you seen the sales at Gymboree?!
2. I have seen lots of great pins on Pinterest about "How to dress your bump." Where are all the pins about "How to dress your postpartum blob?" Seriously. I'd like to see that. Because while some can fit into their regular clothes fairly soon, most of us find we are still wearing maternity pants 4+ months later because even our fat clothes that we held onto for some reason are too small. So I recognize now that I won't be fitting into my closetful of beautiful clothes. I know now to keep an eye out for what fits me now, because if I wear my maternity yoga pants and giant Bucs t-shirt one more time, I might scream. I have to build a whole wardrobe for my postpartum body. With that said, can I give one of the best pieces of advice I got from Isabel's pediatrician? Buy an enormous men's button down shirt (or two). They will by far be the most comfortable thing you'll wear (with leggings, for me), and easy to unbutton to nurse. I just can't wear those out and about, so I needed a new wardrobe. I don't have a lot of money, so I use $10 promotional mailers from Kohl's, as well as ThredUp (my new favorite thing ever! Use the link on my Facebook and I get free $ and you do too!) to build that wardrobe on the cheap. I can't look at sizes, because it depresses me. I look for what looks good and feels good. That means I'm in the XL-XXL category with tops. That's depressing to a girl who lost 30 pounds in the past and got down to a M. But I must dress the body I have now.
3. I'm also trying to be very aware of what I'm eating. I've already fallen off the wagon a few times because, let's be real, PIZZA. But apples, whole wheat anything, peanut butter, Greek yogurt, and carrot sticks have been some of my staples to try to keep me full and nourish my body, while shedding some pounds. 

I don't want to teach Isabel to have a negative body image. I want her to understand that she is fearfully and wonderfully made, and that as long as we are good stewards of our bodies, we should be content with who we are and look like, because it was lovingly designed by our Creator. Furthermore, our worth does not come from what we look like. God looks at the heart, and that is where our value lies. So as her mom, I'm trying really hard to remember those things and find a way to be content with this 4th trimester body of mine. I'll get there, but can we just recognize that it is not as easy as saying, "look-- my body made a life, so it's beautiful!" There is a real struggle for many new moms, and this is mine.

Fourth trimester body: learning to love it
xoxo, A