I've been thinking a lot lately about the triple goddess - maiden, mother, and crone. These seem to represent the major phases of a woman's life: the onset of menses as a maiden, the birth of a child which makes you a mother, and the transition into menopause, which signals the beginning of the crone era. Each has its blessings and challenges.
Since the birth of my baby, I'm solidly in the Mother phase. It's funny: in my first pregnancy, I worried a lot about what my body would be like afterwards. I spent a lot of time in 2013 and 2014 thinking about my body. First, with a bunch of yo-yo dieting and exercise addiction, and then the recovery from all of that. I was really concerned that pregnancy would make my body something to be ashamed of again -- that the weight gain, stretch marks, changes to breasts and hips and thighs would be awful and a backwards regression from everything I'd worked on for so long.
And to some extent, I was right. I have hella stretch marks going on right now. I have a "mummy tummy" of skin that hasn't quite adjusted all the way back, and extra fat my body is storing for breastfeeding. My boobs are totally awesome looking, but they hurt when they get too full, and it's never been more clear that their purpose is far more than decoration.
That's really the crux of it: my body is no longer decorative.
When I was, um, "maidenly" (pre-baby, to be exact), I thought a lot about how my body looked, and I spent a bunch of time and energy trying to make it look nice: tighter, firmer, smoother, prettier. And whatever, that was fine at the time -- reasonable, even. I had the time and bandwidth to do all that and I enjoyed it for the most part.
But now, my body's purpose is really to serve my baby. Pregnancy, for sure, but now for nursing and nourishing. I was thinking about this in yoga today, as I stretched out the knots and kinks in my back and neck and arms from many days and nights of holding and feeding my kid. I'm making new muscles now, through these different tasks of holding and picking up and bending. My old muscles have atrophied a little bit -- I haven't picked up a barbell in nearly a year -- but they're still there. And they'll be waiting for me when it's time to pick up the bar again.
All this to say that I am embracing being a mother. I haven't "let myself go", but I also am not rushing back into exercise. I'm not trying to "get my pre-baby body back." That body is gone.
Having a baby is transformative. You can't go back and pretend it never happened. It is such a transformation in fact, that you become a different person entirely: a mother, symbolized by the second aspect of the triple goddess. Becoming a mother means that you are suddenly responsible for another life, and your body has grown, nurtured, and pushed out a whole person. That's a big deal. To try to "get your pre-baby body back" feels to me like a farce, because it doesn't honor who you have become. You can't go back in time. You can't erase this change. And you can't get your youth back.
I can see why you'd want to -- parenthood is deeply terrifying and exultant and joyous and all-consuming. Wanting your old life back is part of the transformation. But once you realize you can't ever go back, I think it makes sense to embrace where you are, stretch marks, soft tummy, leaky boobs and all. It seems like the only way to celebrate and accept the transformation into mother.
For me, this means a slow return to exercise and activity. I'm going to yoga again, which nourishes my body and spirit, and doing a bunch of pelvic floor work (totally not talked about enough, if you ask me. I feel a post to come about this). Once I feel strong and solid again, I'll return to the barbell and the box. I've missed lifting, but I also know that it's important not to rush, especially not for the sake of vanity. I certainly care about what I look like, but the needs of my baby come first.
And maybe that's what being a mother really means: that it's not just about you anymore; it's about the two of you.