UPDATE: I adapted my own Miyeok-guk recipe from Mangchi. I don’t use beef. I either make it without a meat, add mussels, or a few cubes of diced SPAM (yeah, not the healthiest addition, but The Man loves it and I like to make my man happy 🙂
Alright mamas and friends. I have a bone to pick…it’s about this so-called post baby “snap back” I keep seeing all over the interwebs. For the uninitiated, the postpartum snapback is when you lose all of your baby weight and are on your way back to a tight bod, usually fairly quickly after giving birth. It’s apparently the trend du jour for moms, and it’s pissing me off.
Living in LA, there is no shortage of celebrity gossip, sightings, or wannabes that decide they must fit into this abhorrent standard of beauty and fitness. One will also often find themselves surrounded by a gaggle of women who cycle every day, do pilates every night, just so they can enjoy a lame ass cranberry vodka on the weekend. Well in time, these women become moms. And sometimes they become moms who are hell bent on losing their baby weight like 10 seconds after they deliver. Like, wtf?!
I get it, you want to be fit and healthy, which is completely fine. Hey, I participated in some lightweight pregnancy exercise to maintain my health, nothing to over exert my body, but just enough to keep my limbs loose, and maintain my general wellness during pregnancy. I can get behind all a that, but what I can’t get behind is this idea that a woman must “snapback” to her pre-baby body, or a body that’s supposedly even better in a matter of a couple of weeks after giving birth. And the magazines and blogs, specifically the ones geared towards black women, who idolize these women for doing it. I’m talking to you BET and Essence. As if new motherhood isn’t hard enough, you now have to make the rest of us feel like these famous moms are winning some sort of prize in life for hitting the gym sometimes as soon as 13 days after giving birth?
Like hold the phone, you just had a human growing inside of you for 9 months, feeding off of your nutrients, your energy, your vibrations to this world, stretching one of your most vital reproductive organs (the uterus) from about the size of your fist to the size of a watermelon! And then of course, you underwent some level of heavy trauma to deliver that baby. There was blood, there was a whole new organ that had to be cut from inside of you (the placenta). Yeah, you did that, you grew a completely new organ to sustain a life. There may have been some stitching, and to top it all off, there is the immense mental and emotional healing that I believe should be taken into consideration. You brought a brand new life with no way to fend for itself into this crazy, complex world. Tell me you didn’t cry.
Having a baby is no joke!
And women should not feel pressured to snap back to these dream bodies so soon after having one. To me, this is just another symbol of how our patriarchal society (founded on unrealistic beauty and body standards) attempts to control women and keep us competing against one another. Let’s keep in mind, these same ‘standards makers’ ain’t cool with us breast feeding in public. If they can’t ogle you without your consent (and a baby covering your nipple) then you shouldn’t be using your boobs for anything, might as well cut ’em off.
And a lot of women gladly accept this trap as the norm because celebrities and fitness gurus and the like are out here bragging about hopping back into the gym just 2-3 weeks after giving birth, galavanting in #bodygoals fanaticism, making us regular women feel like the sooner you do it, the better woman you are. What the fuck!?
Why are we celebrating this? Why aren’t we celebrating the transcendent experience of bringing new life into this world? Why aren’t we celebrating healing? Why aren’t we celebrating the joys and challenges of being a very new mom? Why are none of those things held to as high a regard as getting back into a sexually appealing shape?
At that transcendent moment [the laboring woman] had become birth itself. Perhaps, this represents the spiritual birth of woman into mother.
This isn’t to say that some weight doesn’t just go on it’s own or with the adi of breastfeeding, beacause it surely does, i’m proof. And light exercise while pregnant does help. But, mamas, please don’t feel pressured to go to a gym days after giving birth, or try a new diet, or starve yourself from the food your body definitely needs to keep you healthy for your little one.
I was lucky to be surrounded by women who held my healing as a top priority. New mothers deserve extra care and attention. My grandmother came into town for a few weeks to help prepare for baby and to help with whatever I needed as I adjusted to the early days of motherhood. She took on all the household chores and made me snacks as I nursed my vehemently hungry baby. Along with her help around my home, I had my mother-in-law help with my inner healing. From the day I gave birth, she made sure to encourage me to follow some Korean traditions for postpartum healing.
- I ate miyeok guk (seaweed soup) for multiple meals throughout my first weeks home. Though not exclusively as is usually done in Korean culture, the soup was a pivotal part of my healing and early days of nursing. And like Korean mothers believe, this soup was responsible for my uterus shrinking back to it’s normal size by the time I met with my OB-GYN just a week after giving birth.Miyeok guk is consumed by Korean women after giving birth. It is widely believed to contain a high content of calcium and iodine. Koreans eat miyeok guk on their birthdays in order to remember their mother and appreciate how their mothers ate miyeok guk to recover and provide nutrients to their babies.
- I stayed inside my home for the most part of the 1st month and also took no visitors during that time. So not only did I keep myself and baby isolated from any potential sicknesses (and let’s face it, living in a big city, you are surrounded by plenty of unknown sickness and germs), but I also did myself a favor by not getting stressed abut having people over. Exhausted and in pain, it is much easier to politely decline visitors than to stress out about inviting all of your friends and family over to meet baby. If you have a fall/winter baby, this is actually best practice anyway to avoid any flu germs.Of course, I got lonely, but now that life is back in full swing, I kind of miss the days of no pressure to entertain or hearing the many opinions that come with bringing baby around people.**This last one was actually advised by my black grandmother, my Mexican neighbor, and of course my Korean MIL.
- I was advised to keep warm. My mother-in-law felt it was best to not drink cold beverages, not wash in cold water, and because I delivered in November, to stay in the warmth of our home instead of being outside or bundle up if I had to go out. This included always needing to wear socks in the house. The belief is that being cold will cause body aches. And though that’s not medically grounded, I’d rather be warm, wouldn’t you?In the end, it’s really about allowing your body ample time to heal so you don’t stretch or loosen anything anymore than it already is before is “snaps” back on it’s own. Sorry, but exercise doesn’t help your bones go back to their normal positioning after being stretched to fit a baby through, I don’t care how you spin it.If you’d like to read more about Korean postpartum practices, you can here.
Another resource I have found incredibly inspiring throughout my first year as a mom is The 4th Trimester Bodies Project. The two founders are on a mission to celebrate the uncensored beauty of motherhood in all it’s shapes and sizes, through stories and photographs. The months after delivering your baby can truly be seen as an extension of your pregnancy with a lot of healing to be done (which explains why mothers deserve a more robust maternity leave). Seeing other women who look like me, who aren’t concerned about matching someone else’s #bodygoals, but rather are celebrating themselves and their children is what it’s all about.
I think it’s important to remember that we’ll have plenty of time to get into whatever shape we want, but those first months of motherhood are a priceless time of embracing a side of womanhood that we don’t get to experience every day.
So for any of my new mom friends out there, relish in your inner (and outer) Venus. Your body was made for these curves. Your body was made to grow and nurture life, why try to eliminate that very essence before you get to thoroughly enjoy it? Don’t trip, you look great!