My mom once told me that it takes nine months to grow a baby, so it should take nine months before you even start thinking about fitting back into your pants.
It was solid advice, and despite the fact that nine months postpartum has come and gone by about oh, a year and a half for me, it has served me well. Because the truth is, while some women naturally fit into their pants while still in the hospital, a lot of other women definitely do not. But more importantly, as a society, we place a lot of pressure on moms to feel like 1) they should look a certain way after giving birth, like it’s some kind of competition (Fergie, you did not help out here with that MILF video) and 2) that if they don’t look that way, they are somehow failing.
Which is why Mel Watts’ photo of her “nine month out” photo is going viral. She is pointing out that for many women, the time after having a baby is just not the time where many women can make getting a six-pack a realistic priority. And that is 100 percent OK.
“In the last 9 months I have never slept so little in my life. In the last nine months I have suffered my worst anxiety I have ever experienced. Having a new baby is exhausting and life just doesn’t stop. The bills still need to be paid, groceries still need to be purchased and the pressure you put on yourself is overwhelming.
We expect ourselves to know what we’re doing all the time. It doesn’t matter if it’s your first or if it’s your third you’re still learning daily. The first 9 months of your babies life is filled with guessing, rocking, smiling and crying. The amount of pressure we put ourselves isn’t fair. We aren’t invincible. We’re humans and we’re mothers.”
Watts explained to me over email that anxiety is something that she has known her entire life, but that it has always peaked after the birth of her children. “I have managed my anxiety by seeing professionals and by doing hypnosis,” she says. “I went to the doctor’s for help when I found it too much to leave my house and I started isolating myself from my friends and family.”
And part of that anxiety, no doubt, is the incredible amount of pressure placed on moms to act and look a certain way.
“I think there has always been pressure because it’s what sells, it’s what society tells us we should do,” Watts notes. “Companies make millions of dollars selling products for when a woman may feel at her worst … When I gave birth I was given magazines in the hospital and all that was on the covers was ‘lose 10 pounds quick’ and weight loss teas filled my social media. I think we can become so focused on it that it can cause really unhealthy diet choices.”
Watts went on to say that she succumbed to the pressure of getting her body “back” by attempting to go to the gym, but found that that pressure to exercise only made her anxiety worse.
“It was all in my head and I forced myself to go to the gym in the early days with a newborn and I would have panic attacks in the carpark. I sat in the gym carpark when anxiety was at my worst and I couldn’t get myself out of the car,” she explains. “And that’s when I said enough is enough. I’ll come back when I’m ready. Some women work really hard and have for a long time and they are able to get their old figure back. And that’s great for them. Some women like myself have barely ever worked out and my choice of meal was cheesecake and chicken nuggets throughout my pregnancy with a side of salad.”
After having her now 10-year-old son, Ayden, at 19, Watts admits that she struggled with losing the weight from her first pregnancy.
“I put on so much weight when I was pregnant with Ayden,” said Watts. “I don’t think I really started losing weight after Ayden for quite some time but I remember being stuck in this mindset where I didn’t know where I belonged anymore. I started to lose weight and lost around 40 kilos in two years and that’s when my stomach resembled an empty scrotum.”
These days, in addition to planning her Mumma’s Connect event to connect lonely mothers in real life, Watts says she is focusing on giving herself permission to model body positivity and a healthy self-love to her children.
“I have managed to get back to the gym only 2 days a week but that’s enough for me at the moment,” she says. “I hope all my children learn to love themselves and respect their bodies. I think as a mother it’s important to not let any of my insecurities get in to their heads. I don’t talk weight, diet or anything negative in front of my children.”
In the end, Watts hits the nail on the head when it comes to the world of women and our postpartum bodies — she knows that everyone is different and that holding each other up for what we can do is the best remedy for fighting the thought that we aren’t good enough.
“Your mind doesn’t discriminate,” she says pointedly. “It doesn’t care if you’re fit, fat, or skinny. Every single person is on their own journey throughout their life. Being a mother is a journey we’re all on together we all want the same thing — a happy healthy baby.”More On