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The Real Deal On Post-Baby Bodies, From An OB/GYN

I had a flat belly like yours until I had you.

No, I wasn't born with stretch marks. You gave them to me.

I used to be skinny too, but the baby weight never came off.

Oh, and that surgery I had to lift my bladder and tighten up my vagina so I didn't leak pee all over the place—all your fault.

Okay, so maybe those weren't Mom's exact words, but that's what I remember from growing up. The take home message was "Enjoy your hot, toned, young bod now, because as soon as you have a baby, Bye Bye Body."

And it wasn't just my mom. Aunties, my sister, and friends with babies echoed the same kind of comments. And as an OB/GYN physician, I had personally witnessed the worst scars pregnancy can leave on a body (I'll spare you the details.)

Wowsers. It's enough to make a sexy, svelte wanna-be mother buckle up her chastity belt and ditch dreams of mommyhood for good.

'The Body Positive' Week Is Here!

Body After Baby & Mommyrexia

The media doesn't help. As if we don't get enough flack from our mothers, aunties, sisters, and friends, we've got the media blasting us with "Body After Baby" articles all over People magazine.  Heidi, Katie, Angelina, and Victoria are back in their skinny jeans two weeks postpartum and flaunting their bikini bodies six weeks out. I mean seriously, people.

As if that's not enough pressure, now we have the Mommyrexia trend to contend with.  All these celebrities who gain only 10 pounds during their pregnancy and don't even look pregnant from behind are rubbing off on mothers who are ignoring the advice to gain 25-30 healthy pounds, leading to underweight babies and dangerous pregnancies.

And why? So we can get back in our skinny jeans and strut around in bikinis when our milk just came in?

As both an OB/GYN and a mother, I call "BULLs---!" (link to http://www.owningpink.com/blogs/owning-pink/body-after-baby-bulls---). First off, most women don't have nannies, personal trainers, in-house chefs, and plastic surgeons at their beck and call to give them a little quickie nip and tuck before their next photo shoot. Plus, most mommies have better things to do with their time than spend all day at the gym. There are parks to visit, strollers to push through the zoo, and breastfeeding snuggles. And oh…uh…for many of us, just trying to pump and transition the baby from the boob to a bottle so Mommy can make it back to work six weeks later is a full time job. The last thing we need to add to our already overburdened To Do lists is "Attain perfect figure in time for postpartum check up."  Not to mention the damaging message that lies at the core of such behavior- you're not valuable unless you're skinny, young, and toned.'Nuff said.

The Body Positive: Less-Than-Perfect Is Good Enough For Me

Making Peace With My Body

At 35, I finally managed to silence the voice of my mother enough to conceive and give birth. Then, after my C-section, I breast-fed and waited for the pounds to just melt off. Only they didn't. I always told my patients "Nine months on, nine months off." But after gaining 30 pounds during my pregnancy, 15 of them melted away and the other 15 stayed put right where my waist used to be, even nine months later. And although I managed to miss the stretch mark bullet, the varicose veins that course all the way down my left leg from my groin to my ankle pretty much ensure that anyone seeing me in a skirt can tell I am a mother. And I won't even start on my boobs…

After having a baby, I found myself occasionally looking back at photos of my pre-baby body, feeling pangs of longing. But then I'd glance over at my gorgeous daughter, and any question in my mind about whether it's worth it melted away in an instant. This yo-yo back-and-forth between missing my old body and feeling grateful for what I got in return went on for three years, until one day, a switch flipped, almost overnight.

I finally gave up the magical thinking that I might wake up one day and find my old body back, and instead, I marveled in what my body had been able to achieve. Instead of cursing my varicose veins or badgering my beleaguered boobs, I thanked them for allowing me to be part of the miracle of bringing a life into the world. I honored my belly for expanding to allow my daughter safe harbor as she gestated. I thanked my vagina for helping me become a mother. And I made peace with my new shape and finally gave away all the beautiful clothes that no longer fit.

The Body Positive: What I Do To Look Like An Equinox Personal Trainer

The Transformation

I've come to realize that, as women, there's a key step in the maturation process that we must learn in order to be healthy, happy, whole adults. As young women, too many of us cling to our vanity and misguidedly believe our value lies in our perky breasts, our skinny figures, our unmarked bellies, and our wrinkle-free skin. Society affirms what we suspect- just look at the media- so as we age, we tend to cling to our youth and beauty, which may lead us to feel less valuable as we age and our bodies change.

If we continue to believe we must be young, svelte, and smooth-skinned in order to be valuable, we start chasing what we will never reclaim through fad diets, plastic surgery, Botox, and radical exercise regimens. But healthy, wise women know better. We know our true value lies within.  When we make this healthy transition, we can let go of unnatural expectations of how our bodies should look.

I know I matter beyond how my body appears. I am championing Pink Medicine (link http://www.owningpink.com/blogs/owning-pink/the-doctor-patient-relationship-part-two), a heart-centered, self-healing approach to feminizing the health care system. I am helping people heal, connect, and thrive at OwningPink.com (link http://owningpink.com). And I'm raising the most amazing 5 year old ever. But it's still not what I do that gives me value. I now know I am inherently valuable just because I'm me. And you are valuable because you're YOU.

This is the ticket, my loves.  This is the secret sauce. This is how to ROCK your post-baby body, how to age gracefully, how to be sexy at 85, and how to let the light of your true beauty (which I call your "Inner Pilot Light") shine forth.

Are you ready to let your inner beauty radiate? Can you love and accept your body just the way it is, knowing that your true value lies within? If you need help, sign up for The Daily Flame  (link http://www.owningpink.com/dailyflame.html )(little love letters from your Inner Pilot Light). If not, YOU GO GIRL. Either way, tell us your body image stories in the comments below.

The Body Positive: When A Fat-Loss Expert Gets Called Fat

Basking in your inner beauty,

Lissa Rankin, MD

Founder of OwningPink.com, Pink Medicine revolutionary, motivational speaker, and author of What's Up Down There?

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