I have spotty memories of being home with my newborn and my 18-month-old. I remember the sleepless nights, breastfeeding around the clock and wearing a diaper for eight weeks (me, that is). I remember feeling more competent the second time around than the first. I remember the sadness and feeling overwhelmed.
I remember the peaceful moments of nursing, rocking, bonding, nursing, rocking, bonding, nursing, rocking, bonding on repeat. I remember my older daughter getting so ill with a virus (and me and my partner being so out of it) that we let her run a high fever for five days straight and ended up in the emergency department.
I also clearly remember thinking about what the hell I was going to do with my body.
Having a baby has become less about the baby, the massive life change, the unbelievable miracle or the overall well-being of the mom. Now, it's more about the birthing parent's body and erasing any signs that it ever grew a person.
As women, the physical appearance of our bodies is generally the focal point and for monumental life experiences, the body is even more central than the experience itself.
When we're adolescents, it's how big our breasts are becoming. When we're getting married, it's how thin we must get for the wedding. When we're pregnant, it's close our bodies are to being "all baby," versus putting on any weight. When we're postpartum, it's how quickly we bounce back.
And it's just BS.
Because all it does is take us away from being present in our experiences. Instead, we end up missing them (or being only partially present). The moments of simply nursing, rocking and bonding with baby are overshadowed by how to return to exercising.
The focus on healing and nourishing the body becomes more about restricting in order to get out of it. The pressures of seeing others and being given unsolicited feedback about how "good" (or not) you look based on the weight you've lost.
And being bombarded with endless ideologies like “breastfeeding makes the weight fall right off” or “in about six months you're back to normal”. These messages are entirely misleading and entirely unfair.
They make women believe that this is what should happen for them and that something is wrong and they should be ashamed if it doesn't (and it doesn't happen for most).
Despite our best intentions to move into motherhood with arms and hearts wide open, societal pressures and expectations, cultural norms and beauty standards all make it almost impossible.
I have spent my career helping women develop safety with food and within their bodies. They recognize that pervasive patterns of disordered eating and eating disorders only leave us peripheral to almost every life experience, including having a baby.
I'm not sure when or what exactly changed my thoughts and feelings about my postpartum body, except I know that time —and my girls — had a lot to do with it. I kept falling deeper and deeper into embracing motherhood and all the ways that having my girls changed my life for the better.
The gifts they offer are far beyond what my pre-baby firmer butt or perkier breasts or flatter stomach or tighter skin could ever offer me. Motherhood and my girls have enriched my life beyond words.
And let's be serious, it's not perfect. I don't LOVE my body every day (and I don't LOVE being a mother every day either) — no one does. But I respect it, and I deeply appreciate it and all it's done for me, so for that, we're buddies until the end.
Being postpartum is equally a most beautiful time and a most frightening time. If only we could allow women to be cared for and supported safely in the rollercoaster of feelings of becoming a mother (again or for the first time).
I often wonder what would happen if the physical appearance of our bodies could take a backseat for once, for always, so that women could cherish (and be cherished in) life experiences more fully.
Kyla Fox is an Eating Disorder Specialist, survivor, and advocate who reframes the ways that we think about and treat eating disorders. Kyla, herself, struggled with an eating disorder and an over-exercise addiction in her late teens.
In her quest to find help, she experienced large care gaps and fundamental flaws in the treatment and recovery approach, preventing her from getting the help that she needed.
So it became Kyla’s mission to become the therapist she would have wanted in her own recovery. Kyla is a Master’s-level clinician with degrees from both the University of Toronto in the Masters of Social Work program and an Honours Bachelor of Arts degree in Women’s Studies.
In February of 2012, after 10 years of private practice, Kyla established The Kyla Fox Centre, a first-of-its-kind eating disorder recovery centre, now fully virtual since COVID. Kyla, and her multidisciplinary team, treat those directly affected by eating disorders, along with supporting families, parents, and loved ones.
The centre provides individualized care that spans the spectrum of intensive outpatient treatment all the way through to long-term maintenance. Every day, Kyla and her team are saving lives.
With such deep and varied experience in the field, Kyla is regularly called on by Canada’s top media outlets as a special commentator on a broad list of topics, including eating disorders, self-esteem, women’s health, body image, pregnancy, body confidence and more. For more information, please visit www.kylafoxcentre.com.
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