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You'll Never Be the Same Again
By Jen Klein,
Author of SheKnows.com Presents -- The Mommy Files: Secrets Every New Mom Should Know (that no one else will tell you!)

Being pregnant is hard work for a body and a mind. Physically and emotionally, you are growing and changing.

Emotionally you are growing into a mom, preparing yourself as best you can to take on the almost overwhelming responsibility of raising a child. But that work is mostly internal and rather invisible. The physical growing, however, is a touch more obvious.

The pregnant body is a wonder. It's too simple to say it's "expanding" -- because it's so much more than that! It's an increase in fluids even while internal organs are getting pushed aside and getting less space. It's a changing center of gravity and changes in hair and skin and vision. It's a tell-tale shape and a sometimes a tell-tale walk. It's heartburn and new and different aches and pains. It's a nearly complete change in your physical appearance.

No matter how excited you are to be pregnant, that hard work your body and mind is doing can feel tiring. Many a mom has, amid the joy and anticipation, declared, "I can't wait to get my body back!" And once the baby has been born, you may think, "At last," and think you can begin to get back to your old self immediately.

Hold on just a moment there. What does that really mean, getting one's body "back?" And can you really start right away?

Your body has just done an amazing thing: it has grown a small human. That is no small thing! Literally! And, as if you haven't done enough in that remarkable process, media and sometimes well-meaning friends and family send us mixed messages about what we should look like immediately post-birth. Nothing like a celebrity claiming to have gained a mere 7 pounds during pregnancy or another claiming to lose 60 pounds in a few short weeks after pregnancy to set up some unrealistic expectations about the post-birth body. Add in some airbrushed photos on magazine covers and you may want to return to the maternity clothes and pickles and ice cream.

First of all, every body is different. Pregnant or not, we all have different body types and a different genetic legacy and respond differently to food intake and to exercise. As we age, motherhood or not, our bodies change with the advancing years. Even if you never have children, your body at 40 will never be the same as your body was at 20. Until we can truly turn back time, there is no getting one's body "back" for anyone!

Immediately after birth, your body (and mind!) needs time to recover from the work of growing that baby human -- and the physical insult of delivering it. Whether you gave birth vaginally or by Cesarean section, your body needs some time to recover from this rather traumatic experience; give it that time. There likely will be no intense exercise in your immediate future. You need to respect what you body has just been through and give it some simple healing time before you try to change it all over again.

After a few weeks, after you have prioritized your time getting to know your new little one, and after your body has had some time for initial healing and shrinking, you can talk to your medical care provider about whether it's okay to try to start doing something about feeling like yourself again -- but not your "old" self, your "new" self. Your medical care provider can give guidance appropriate for you on whether and when it's okay to make changes to your diet and activity level to support a new kind of body acceptance.

No matter when you start a process to tone up the stretched abdominals or strengthen the glutes that are a bit fleshier than you might prefer, chances are you'll never be exactly what you were before, physically speaking. How can you be? Your whole identify has changed, and why wouldn't that include your body, too? Could you ever, really, be the same as you were before? Would you want to be?

You may eventually weigh what you did before and the tape measure may display the same numbers, but you are not the same. Your lower belly likely will still be a little soft no matter how many sit ups you do, your hips may fit differently into those favorite jeans, and your breasts may be fleshier than before (or even smaller). But you're a mom now, and that's no small thing. Your strength and beauty is more than physical -- and it's reflected right back at you when you look in your child's eyes.

Becoming a mom is a tremendous physical and emotional process. The physical manifestation of that is in a changed body -- hopefully a body for which you have a newfound respect and understanding. You'll never be the same again -- and that's a good thing!

© 2010 Jen Klein, author of SheKnows.com Presents -- The Mommy Files: Secrets Every New Mom Should Know (that no one else will tell you!)

Author Bio
Jen Klein is a mother of two boys and a girl, the youngest of whom just started kindergarten. After earning a thoroughly useful degree in art history and studio art, she writes technical documentation. But in her primary job as mom, she's dealt with nearly every parenting scenario imaginable, and appreciated every slobbery toddler kiss along the way. Klein has been a contributor to SheKnows.com for the past two years and writes a weekly parenting column called "Monday Mom Challenge" in addition to regular articles. She lives near Boston, MA.

For more information, please visit www.SheKnows.com.