In a sea of stories of new moms seeming to immediately bounce back to their post-baby bodies, it can be difficult not to compare your experience, your pregnancy, and your body to others. Thankfully, Katie Willcox, creator of the Healthy Is the New Skinny movement, got candid about losing that post-pregnancy weight and is here to give you a refreshing reality check.
"Recently I have received so many messages from women who write to me and ask how they can lose their baby weight," she wrote on Instagram alongside side-by-side pictures of herself during and after pregnancy. "Most of the time they are only a few months postpartum, and I want to be completely honest here, it took me 17 months to return to my natural size. Not 3 months or 6 months....17 months! And I feel really proud of myself because I had made a decision to focus on [my daughter] True and how I could best care for her as her mother." (And just FYI, it's normal to still look pregnant after giving birth.)
Willcox shared how much work goes into motherhood, and that it's okay to let weight loss take a backseat for a while. "This experience was all new to me and I had no clue what I was doing," she wrote. "It was overwhelming at times and there were hormonal mood swings like crazy. My plate was already full and I didn't need to add the stress of poor body image to that plate. So, I chose not to."
For Willcox, it seems that pregnancy showed her the power of the female body—something that's all too easy to forget if it's not happening to you. "After experiencing pregnancy and the universal intelligence that is hardwired in the female body, I quickly understood that regardless of what my mind wanted, my body was going to create a human—isn't that weird?" she said. "I wasn't doing anything to create a baby, my body knew exactly what to do and I was just along for the ride. Being pregnant taught me that my body knows what is best and all I can do is feed it well and stay active, then it will decide what happens next." (Related: Katie Willcox Wants Women to Stop Thinking They Need to Lose Weight to Be Loveable)
It was that monumental realization that she says helped her avoid stressing over baby weight. "I let go of the need to control it and sure enough, my body healed and recovered in its own time," she said. "I feel strong and healthy and I encourage other women who are carrying extra pounds from pregnancy to be kind to yourself."
Wilcox says it best: "You deserve time to rest, recover, and focus on your new child without shame around your beautiful body," she concludes. "The only way to this planet is through a woman. Never diminish that power to pounds and inches. You are a goddess."
This article originally appeared on Shape.com.