After you have a baby, you will be flooded with well-meaning advice.
Everyone from your mom, your medical provider and your social media will tell you “what to expect”. And how to recover. How to navigate life after pregnancy.
But here’s the thing: they aren’t telling you what to expect. They’re sharing their expectations of you.
They’re telling you what they think you should care about. They’re sharing their first-hand experience as if it is the postpartum experience.
In fact, you may find it tough to separate YOUR needs and desires from the EXPECTATIONS placed upon you.
You’ll hear reassurance that your body won’t look this way forever (but, what if it does?). You’ll hear that what you’re experiencing is normal. You might be told that peeing your pants is the price you pay for having a baby. You might have your discomfort written off or laughed off as a meme.
You may feel selfish worrying about yourself.
Here’s what I’d like you to know: Your experience matters. Your pains and your joy matter. Your inner voice matters. You matter.
In this post, I’m sharing 9 ideas that I frequently encounter when working with new parents. To be clear, these ideas are all myths and misconceptions. These ideas diminish YOUR joy and the quality of YOUR experience. These ideas diminish your power and your agency when it comes to charting your own unique course.
So let’s bust up a few myths. Let’s dismantle a few expectations. It’s time to experience postpartum on your own terms.
Misconception #1) It is selfish to put yourself first. You should be 100% devoted to your baby and your family.
Nope. Like they say on the airplane: You need to put your own oxygen mask on first. You deserve to be okay, because you matter.
And lets be frank here- if you’re not okay, no one is okay.
You are as much of a priority as your baby. Full stop.
Misconception #2) You should enjoy every second.
My son was a terrible sleeper. Cute AF and lucky thing because his middle of the night antics prevented my husband and I from sleeping well for nearly a year. The sleep depravation tested our sanity. It tested our relationship. I love my son, but I did not love the brutal exhaustion of those first months.
And the sleep deprivation is just one thing. Then there was the reflux. The crying. The blow-outs. Parenting a newborn is not for the faint of heart.
I can’t imagine any greater pressure to put upon a person who is already at their most vulnerable. Already doubting their ability to parent a tiny newborn.
You can love your baby but not love every second of the early postpartum experience.
You’re still a great parent even if you don’t love every second of parenting.
Once more: Your experience matters. Allow yourself to be human. Allow yourself to feel your feelings. Don’t put pressure on yourself to enjoy the shitty and the mundane.
Misconception #3) You need to get your “body back” as quickly as possible.
I mean, okay. Maybe this isn’t a “myth”, in the literal sense. But it sure seems to be a deep-seated cultural expectation that many birthing folk internalize.
For the folks in the back: Your body didn’t go anywhere.
It’s never been more present. If you gave birth, your body did something heroic. You just experienced first-hand how dang STRONG it is. Now your body needs a little rest, a little TLC, a little compassion.
Bodies change shape. Depending on where you are postpartum, your’s may still be changing shape. It might get closer to the shape it was before your pregnancy. But also, it might not.
I get it. Learning to feel at home in your body after pregnancy can be challenging. And while I urge you to honor your feelings, please also dive into the WHY. If losing weight feels like a high priority in the early weeks postpartum, consider examining the deeper pain points.
What do you hope to feel when you lose the baby weight? Strong? Sexy? Confident? Do you want to be able to do the things you did before you had a baby? Are there other ways we can go after those goals besides weight loss?
Food for thought.
On a similar note:
Misconception #4) Breastfeeding will cause the baby-weight to melt right off.
It might. It might not. Some people hold excess fat tissue while breastfeeding, some lose it.
If breastfeeding is a high priority for you, I urge you to table concerns about your body composition until after you wean. As they say, keep the goal the goal.
While we’re talking breastfeeding myths, this is a good time to slip this in: Nursing is not effective birth control.
There are a lot of great reasons to breastfeed, but weight loss and birth control are not among them.
Misconception #5) The 6 week check-up is a “green light” to jump right back into your pre-pregnancy exercise routine.
Sorry friend. This is one of the most pervasive myths in postpartum recovery. As far as exercise goes, your six-week check up is nothing more than a green-light to progress back to gentle exercise.
This myth persists, at least in part, because we are all so damn ready to feel like ourselves again. And because there is so much pressure to get back to the “pre-baby” body.
It also persists, because our primary medical providers aren’t trained in pelvic floor health.
If you want someone to evaluate your readiness to return to exercise, book an appointment with a pelvic floor physical therapist. They are the professionals most qualified to help you figure out if your body is ready to return to your sport of choice.
Misconception #6) It’s normal to pee your pants after pregnancy.
Nope. Common, yes. Preventable? Probably.
Involuntary leakage of pee, poo or gas- can be a side effect of a bunch of things. It can be a side effect of a weak or mis-coordindated core and pelvic floor. It can be a side effect of a too tight pelvic floor. Of a prolapse. Depending on the cause of your sneak pee, you’ll need a different treatment plan.
If you are peeing your pants, beyond your first 6 weeks postpartum, it’s worthwhile to seek professional guidance. I recommend all postpartum people visit a pelvic health physical therapist. They’ll help you figure out WHY you are leaking and help you develop a long term strategy to deal with the problem.
Postnatal fitness pros are also also trained to help you manage leaks. Especially during exercise. Please note, we aren’t trained to help you diagnose the root cause of those leaks.
Misconception #7) The key to postpartum pelvic floor health (and drying up the leaks) is lots and lots of kegels.
Dovetailing off of Misconception #6, there are a lot of reasons why your pelvic floor might be displaying pesky symptoms. And pelvic floor symptoms often overlap between different pelvic floor conditions. The only way to really know what is going on is to seek professional diagnosis.
If you think you need to do lots of kegels to fix a problem- you’re at the point where you need professional support. Don’t DIY your pelvic floor. Taking the wrong approach to your pelvic floor rehab (like, by doing 500 kegels a day) might make your problem worse.
Misconception #8) “Closing the gap” in your abs is the key to improving your postpartum body.
During pregnancy, the abdominal muscles separate to make space for a growing fetus. Postpartum, they typically come back together between 6-8 weeks postpartum.
Sometimes they don’t. Or sometimes they do, but they don’t quite work the same way. This condition is known as Diastasis Recti (DR).
As the most visible of the postpartum core and pelvic floor conditions, DR is a big concern for a lot of people.
But sometimes, it’s not all about the gap.
If you are most concerned about your core function, it’s also about how well the tissues in the gap respond to load. It’s also about the strength of the associated abdominal muscles. And the coordination between the muscles of your core and pelvic floor.
If you’re worried about how your belly looks, it’s about all of the above AND it’s about more. It’s also about the stretch in your abdominal muscles and other abdominal connective tissues. It’s about excess fat tissue. It’s about how much you’re sleeping. How you’re eating. An how much time passed since you carried a baby.
The gap between your abdominal muscles is just a small variable in a complicated equation.
Misconception #9) You can’t do the things you want to do (run, jump, engage in generally badassery) because you had a baby.
If you think you can’t, and your reasoning has anything to do with peeing yourself, a prolapsed organ or lack of strength- let’s talk.
I watch folks give birth on the regular and birthing is as badass as it gets. If you can do that- no matter how that baby was born- I’m pretty confident we can help you do just about anything else.
Maybe you just need the right coach😉.
If you are ready to take charge of your postpartum experience, I’m ready to help. I offer online personal training to help you craft a plan to return to the life and the activities that you love.
Your first step to a strong core and dry panties.
Download a copy of The No B.S. Guide to Breathing.👇🏽👇🏽
My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Contact me if you have questions about exercise or pelvic health pertaining to pregnancy or postpartum. I also offer personal training services and consultations to folks locally (Seattle, Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland) and online.