Avoiding the “Bounce- Back” Mindset Postpartum

Here’s a cultural bias that gets to me:

The pressure and expectation on mothers to “bounce back” postpartum.

There are all kinds of “Mommy Bounce Back” programs out there. Mostly with good intentions to help mothers heal and restore postpartum. But, that very nomenclature forgets to acknowledge the very thing that made you a mother:

Your body.

Your body changed gradually but drastically for 9 months. It will continue to do so for about a year postpartum (depending on if you’re breastfeeding or not).

  • Your organs re-find their place
  • Tissues heal
  • Scars form
  • Hormones change
  • Your fascia shifts

The Parenthood Double Standard 

And then there's the double standard. There are no “Daddy bounce back” programs out there (at least, to my knowledge).  But haven’t their lives changed, too? Granted, not in the same physical ways. But surely in emotional ways. 

I think it’s important not to glaze over the fact that becoming a parent changes your soul forever. Bringing a child into the world is not like spraining an ankle. Life is not a basketball game you are returning to after a season of being benched.

That being said, I do love to encourage parents to do some deep soul searching. Figure out where you are emotionally and physically. Find your place amidst their support system, shifting responsibilities and priorities. It’s a continual process. I’m learning. I'm constantly re-evaluating the juggle between roles of daughter, sister, friend, coworker, partner, and now-mother, too.

Ain’t Nothin But Mammals

I recently opened my son’s National Geographic for Kids Magazine to a page about marsupials. It was a page filled with cute wombats, kangaroos, and koala mothers, each with their baby in their pouch. I hadn’t thought much about this animal class until seeing these pictures with fresh eyes. Mother’s eyes.

Essentially, marsupials don’t have the placenta we do. So their babies are born about a month after conception (so, um, really conveniently tiny). Then the baby nurses for nutrition after that. My point here is that we are all mammals. We all have this ability and natural drive to keep our babies safe and protected and close. The pressure to be Barbie right after having your little one is in direct conflict with nature.

There’s a lot of well-intended but somewhat guilt-tripping language out there. People (usually ones who are pretty far removed from the daily tasks of parenting... and are more on the nostalgic side) say things like “enjoy every minute--It goes fast!”.

I’m not reputing that time does indeed fly. However, if you take that advice, almost as a command (as I did) it can be really hard to take 20 minutes to go for a walk.

Rather than stressing about losing the baby weight, why not re-frame the focus?

Self-Care = Good Parenting

Or Healthy = Beautiful

Strength = Confidence and Capability

You Time = Good Time.

Sometimes parents feel a desire for things to feel “normal” or “predictable” in ways they did pre-parenthood. Those desires can crop up in ways that also make it easy to package those feelings into a “bouncing back” mindset.

I like to encourage new parents to embrace the change of pace. While also prioritizing some semblance of self-care time. It might not happen when you planned, or for as long as you’d like, but it CAN happen. Babies bring joy. They allow a wider circle of loved ones to offer support. Asking for helo so I could get some fresh air was a lesson that didn’t come easily to me. Asking for help is hard

Here Are Some Suggestions:

  1. Walk (solo, with baby in a stroller, or with a partner). The fresh air is nice. The change of scenery is nice. The gentle boost to your cardiovascular system is nice. The easy access is nice. The range of where you can go or the comfort of a familiar route is nice. The ability to be spontaneous with it is a jewel.
  2. Stillness is challenging, especially for Americans. We're trained to go-go-go all the time. Rather than letting stillness be a source of frustration with a newborn, I thought of it as a challenge. (Yes, still a very American reaction, I know).
  3. Motherhood is a good practice in being present. Enjoying and connecting with what’s around me. Now, as my son is now a toddler, we are up and about constantly. I think newborns demand so much of mothers, in part, to save us from ourselves. If we over-do it too fast too soon then our body doesn’t heal as optimally as it if we respect it.
  4. Focus on nutrition, not weight loss. Your body needs tremendous energy postpartum. You’re doubling what you watch out for (yourself + your baby), who you feed, clothe, bathe, and interact with. Having healthy whole foods on hand like almonds, tuna, fruits, and veggies goes a long way.
  5. Listen to your body. If something feels “off”—it might be. Don’t hesitate to have your healthcare providers double-check for prolapse, incomplete healing, etc.

So much of our culture pins success on individual achievements and effort. I think the postpartum period is a great time to start building a tribe if you don’t already. It's important to not feel alone during this time. Having people you can laugh about the unexpected things in this life about is so valuable. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be other mothers. I found that as much as I tried, getting together with mothers who also had little ones was nearly impossible. Our baby’s schedules were always off. It was nice was to befriend women who had been there... but weren’t there. Women who had kids in high school or older. Or, even people from a completely different walk of life for fresh perspectives. 

Need a listening ear? Always feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]. I’m in your corner. 

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