Help Your Daughter Get Her Prepubescent Body Back (An Essay on the Post-Pregnancy Body)
By: Sara Kupfer
Help Your Daughter Get Her Prepubescent Body Back??
I know what you’re thinking:
“Are you for real!? That’s beyond the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! Not only should a teenager never try to get her prepubescent body back… she shouldn’t even want to! How could you be encouraging this type of thought?”
To which I will respond:
I agree with you. This is pretty ludicrous and I would never recommend that you even entertain this idea.
But if we’re being honest, this is not an unheard of sentiment.
As girls hit puberty in their preteen years, biological shifts begin to take place in their bodies and things no longer seem to be the way they were before. Figure changes, weight gain and/or loss, body odor, acne, underarm and pubic hair, breast growth, periods…
It’s like a full on makeover – hormonal and physical.
It’s totally normal for girls at this age to feel uncomfortable in their changing bodies and to express that in some form or another. Some of your daughters have the emotional fortitude to share these feelings verbally with you and some don’t. Some will act out in school, and for some, behavior patterns will deviate from their regular routine.
Many, if not most, girls will experience feelings of discomfort as they awkwardly work their way through this stage of puberty.
But there’s no way we’d ever suggest that this is not a path worth embarking on. Developmental changes during this time are a part of growing up and that’s not something we’d ever want to suppress.
So What Does This Have to Do with Pregnancy?
As a fitness coach, I work primarily with orthodox women in the 20-40 age range. Needless to say, this is prime time for childbearing, and with that, come changes that most don’t anticipate.
Well, of course there are the usual changes that women have come to expect during pregnancy; belly growth, discomfort, breast swelling and tenderness, weight gain, swollen feet, and mood swings are just some of them.
And then postpartum, things feel so different.
Yes, there’s more of the usual: incoming milk, belly pooch, recovery pain and more mood swings.
But there’s one thing that I hear consistently over and over again that seems to surprise every woman who experiences this feeling.
“I feel like I’m in a foreign body.”
“I just want my old body back.”
“This doesn’t feel like me. It’s like I’m living in someone else’s body.”
There are two parts to these statements and I want to separate them.
The first is the idea that you might feel like your body isn’t your own. Like a stranger took over your body, changed it up a bit (or more) and is now leaving you to deal with those changes.
The second is the idea that you want your old body back. Like this discomfort is something that you can just get rid of by aspiring to modify the current changes that have recently taken place.
Sentiment number one is common and normal.
Sentiment number two is common but not normal.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of why this is, I want to acknowledge that while motherhood is beautiful and rewarding, it’s also incredibly challenging and emotionally and physically draining. You are no longer the independent you, with no one relying on you for their every need.
The transition from single girl, sister, daughter, wife and career woman to mother is a significant one. Suddenly your body is literally shared – both during pregnancy and after, as you leverage it to keep your child alive and growing. So while we discuss the importance of moving past the “I want my old body back” emotion, I want you to know that I understand where that feeling stems from.
Just like with puberty, the process of pregnancy and childbirth actually changes the physical and physiological makeup of your body.
[Quick explanation – physical refers to the actual body, and physiological refers to the functions of your body.]
The reason that it feels so different than your “old body” is because it IS different.
Your body had to adapt to the changes taking place inside, making room for the fetus, as well as giving it everything it needed to survive and thrive. Once your baby was born, your body continued to revamp its systems to ensure that your little boy or girl has everything he or she needs to grow in a healthy manner.
All those visible and systematic adaptations have an effect on your body.
Some of those changes return to their original state, but many of them don’t.
Consider this for a second: Have you ever baked a cake with your kid? Enjoyed the process of adding the different ingredients, flour flying all over the room, oil splashing against the backboard as the mixer runs on high speed? Let your child lick the batter off the spatula and maybe even help wash the measuring cups? Baked those brownies and served them with a scoop of ice cream at a Shabbos lunch?
Parts of that activity could be reverted to their original state – like the cleanliness of your kitchen and your child’s appetite returning. But parts of that could never revert back because the form of the item itself changed – like cookie dough turning into cookies, and cake batter turning into brownies.
The process of baking changed how those baked goods look and feel.
Am I comparing your son or daughter to a chocolate chip cookie? I guess so.
Hmmm… maybe this is where the term “bun in the oven” comes from.
On a serious note though, some things can’t be undone. And that’s not a bad thing.
Change isn’t something to fear or run from. It’s something to embrace with open arms because like it or not, it happens and the best we can do is learn to gracefully accept that.
Many of the numerous changes that took place in your body throughout the duration of your pregnancy and postpartum period significantly impacted the way your body looks and feels so as to best set itself up for your baby.
Your body is an incredible miracle that created and gave birth to another incredible miracle. It deserves to be respected, celebrated and treated with utmost care.
The best way that you can do this is by recognizing how amazingly wonderful your body is – as is – and work towards appreciating that.
I am not saying that you should love everything about your body in its present-day form. But I am saying that you should definitely work towards that.
Give yourself permission to get to know the new you. Rather than trying (and failing) to “get your old body back”, take the time to learn what your current body is all about.
I believe that exercise is a great way to do this.
Participate in a physical activity that you enjoy, be it yoga, weightlifting, pilates, aerobic or swimming, and feel how every part of you feels when you do the movement.
Observe what you can do now rather than focusing on what you used to be able to do. Be aware of your current strength and energy, instead of reflecting on how you anticipated it would be.
If you want to implement healthful habit changes so that you can regain physical strength and emotional stability, and have the confidence that you deserve, I one hundred percent support that decision. Just so long as it’s not about losing weight or trying to get back the old you.
Because you’re not the old you.
You’re the new you.
founder of Fit Jewess, is a fitness coach with the mission of empowering Jewish women worldwide through movement and fostering a community united through body positive and weight neutral fitness. She is a CrossFit L1 trainer and HAES advocate, and coaches girls and women in person and online.