I know what you’re thinking. Who has the time or energy to snapback after pregnancy? That’s only for rich celebrities who can afford the best fitness trainers, chefs, and nutritionists. I must admit there was a point in my life where I believed the snapback culture was toxic and harmful to new mothers. This is simply because moms are trying to navigate their new normal. While I still hold much of this same belief, something about all of this felt peculiar to me. It wasn’t until I delivered Aiden that those nagging emotions and thoughts began to make sense. I have this problem with acceptance of face value. And I am always assessing any situation from a million perspectives.
Many times I was discouraged from living a healthy lifestyle during & after pregnancy. There were people around me who had all the reasons to support why I shouldn’t be ready to snapback. Why I shouldn’t be practicing yoga, or that I shouldn’t even worry about my health because I “look good.” While I know this was from a perspective of not rushing to lose weight, this advice sure wasn’t encouraging a fit lifestyle - one that I had fully adapted to before 2018. There were even countless suggestions of shortcuts to losing weight after delivery, such as breastfeeding or wearing restrictive trainers that are not designed for postpartum recovery. To unravel some of this mystery, I began to realize that I too had issues related to body image that stemmed back to my early teenage years. Our society is notorious for glamorizing the thin, all while shunning plus size bodies. We should just foster a culture in which we recognize beauty beyond physical standards. Beauty can come in all shapes and sizes, and yet there was time in my life when I didn’t believe my body was beautiful. There are times that I wouldn’t talk about my desire to quickly back in shape after delivery. Somehow my efforts were always seen as bragging or just reduced to good old genetics – but the reality is that I worked hard for this postpartum body. Why should I be shamed for it?
You see I have secretly always desired to be a little thicker. It seems all the guys admired the girl with the plump booty and big boobs. I hated how crop tops never fit me well and I struggled to find jeans that would just stay on my hips. It’s funny how body image issues can really make you feel inadequate. As a child I struggled to eat those three big meals a day, only to later realize I just preferred having 4 to 5 small meals a day. I took up yoga back in 2017 and I honestly never looked back. It was in this space that I was able to develop a lifestyle of healthy living and fitness, while still indulging from time-to-time – because we all deserve to treat ourselves. The goal is to ultimately have food freedom that suites each of our unique bodies, and not the restrictions of diet fads. There is no doubt in my mind that yoga aided in my vaginal delivery and the ability to withstand contractions for several hours without an epidural. I cannot deny how difficult it was to see my postpartum stomach covered in stretch marks after working so hard to define my abdomen. While I knew there was no getting back to your pre-baby body, I still desired to begin making changes to get back to a healthy state. It was my utmost desire to establish a foundation in which Aiden sees his mother making self-care priority. I choose to honor all aspects of my health to prevent chronic illnesses and diseases that have plagued black families for far too long.
Going into delivery I was terrified of enduring gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, and so forth. There was a time after college when I had a spike in cholesterol and this forced me to change the way I look at food. I’m not perfect, but I was very rigorous in changing my diet to ensure that this was resolved within a year. I won’t even buy myself sugary snacks for the pantry because it just creates a lifestyle of quick access to foods that are not nourishing to the body - and those patterns quickly turn into bad habits. I knew that I had to make better choices for the future. Delivering a baby is no easy task, yet far too often I read about black women experiencing these life threatening conditions at higher rates than white women. It is scary. My emergency surgery after delivery was extremely traumatic and it has forever impacted my life. And so I often ask myself, why do we promote a culture of just eating whatever you want and not taking care of our bodies during pregnancy? We have this tendency to act as if our womb is able to handle unhealthy living without harmful consequences. Honestly, that behavior is dismissive and oblivious to the fact that black women face significant disparities when it comes to prenatal health and delivery. By 6 weeks after delivery I was cleared to return to light yoga and I did just that. By 8 weeks I was participating in yoga, pilates, barre, and water aerobics. I can admit there were moments I pushed the limit, but I did this in good confidence knowing what my body was once capable of. I refused to settle and just allow my body to spiral out of control for the sake of mom culture.
In fact, it was when I began to branch out at local yoga studios and baby fitness classes that I began to realize my mindset surrounding snapback culture wasn’t jaded. For so long I believe society has been looking at snapback culture from a negative viewpoint because we do not share or promote our experiences for the betterment of postpartum recovery. You see, if we can tell moms it is okay to have that extra slice of cake while being pregnant, then we should show up to be a walking partner during postpartum recovery. If you know a family member is at risk due to hypertension, be a voice of reason to promote healthy food options. Perhaps the next time our friend(s) discuss their goal to achieve pregnancy, we can open the dialogue of what it means to promote a healthy pregnancy. I’m talking as intricate as finding a provider, to nutrition, and even seeing a mental health therapist. It’s time that we change snapback culture and look at this from a medical perspective. Dig deep in yourself and ask if you have been promoting snapback to a fellow mother in a positive way. It’s been my personal goal to promote the resources I utilized during pregnancy to help my fellow mothers around. It’s so easy to tell moms to resort to fast food and frozen dinners for postpartum recovery, but it’s even more rewarding to show up for that mom with a homemade frozen dinner or fresh fruits for her growing baby. Imagine how my abdomen may have been further damaged if I didn’t make an effort to recover from the tearing I endured delivery? There is a bigger picture here that I think we all overlook. We have the freedom to want a full recovery in a postpartum.
What I have come to realize is that we will never find the idea of “snapping” back to be justified if we are only looking at this subject from the lenses of weight loss. Snapping back required me to have diligent mental strength, and there were days I opted for boiled eggs, fruit, and oatmeal over a quick stop to Waffle House. This is called balance and moms deserve to have it. This is about spreading awareness and providing support to all mothers, so that they can be more conscious of taking control to develop a healthy lifestyle that fits their needs. There is a day I hope to see more of my black sisters enjoying the benefits of yoga and pregnancy. Yes, yoga can make you flexible and define your body, but it is also a healing mechanism. We have to get away from the idea of looking pretty while practicing yoga, and start acknowledging the mental work we are all avoiding when we don’t give ourselves a fighting chance. If you care about the fact that I am skinny, rather than my choice to make healthy decisions and to set an example for my child, then perhaps you are not digesting the core substance of this message. This is not about body shaming. We have to take ownership of our health if we want to make changes in health disparities. Far too often we depend on our medical institutions to sustain our health, rather than incorporating realistic goals to work towards holistic living. So today, I give you the call of action to pause and reflect on what snapback culture means to you. It’s easy to dismiss it as the desire to get skinny after pregnancy when everyday our communities are struggling to find adequate black maternal health resources.
Ask yourself how can you promote healthy pregnancy among the amazing women that are in your life? It’s time that we speak up and get serious about our health and its direct correlation to pregnancy. Our little ones are looking for us to change the world as we know it – and for the better. You got this!
Photo: Siora Photography