It’s been ten weeks since I had my baby, and unlike stories I’ve read online about women who are back to their pre-baby bodies within three weeks of delivery, that’s not me.

 Oh, it’s not that I don’t work out or eat right: I do. It’s just taking longer for everything to get back to normal. Visiting with my doctor at my six-week follow up appointment, I lamented all the ways my body was still out of sorts—hair loss, crazy hormones, night sweats, extra weight—but he put things in perspective. He reminded me of the amazing process that my body just went through to grow and birth my baby. And then he said, “I don’t know why we think women need to be right back where they were before they got pregnant. It took you nine months to have the baby, it can take time for your body to get back to normal.” He reiterated that I was doing everything right and just needed to give my body time to normalize again.

 If you’re someone who also feels discouraged over your post-baby body–whether your child is 10 weeks or 10 years old–here are some practical ways to aid the process:

  •  Snacks. As a nursing mom, I am much more hungry than usual. Having healthy snacks available — things like granola bars, fruit, and nuts — keep me from reaching for cookies or chocolate when hunger hits.
  • Exercise. While pregnant, my goal was to only gain the recommended amount of weight as opposed to my first pregnancy, where I gained 60 pounds. In order to help stay within the guidelines, I exercised regularly. I also found that cultivating my routine made it much easier to ease back into exercise once I had the baby. Starting a couple weeks after delivery I began by walking and light aerobics. I currently exercise several days a week, taking frequent trips to the mall to walk while pushing baby in the stroller or doing 20 minutes of aerobics while she is napping. I may not be able to exercise for hours at this time in my life, but twenty minutes a day feels doable. I also feel better physically and emotionally once I’ve exercised.

  • Portion control. Did I mention that I’m nursing and am, consequently, SO hungry?! Portion control can be hard when you feel hungrier than normal, so I try to increase my fruit and vegetable intake during meals to achieve fullness without taking double portions of spaghetti or alfredo. I’m not really cutting anything out of my diet — the food choices I’m making are part of an overall lifestyle, not a weight loss program — but I am watching my portions. I’ve also added the app Lose it! on my phone that keeps track of my daily calorie intake so I’m aware of how much I’m eating.

  • Clothes. Most of my pre-baby clothes don’t currently fit. I’m one size up from my normal size, which has limited my ability to wear things and feel good — muffin tops can be so discouraging. A few weeks ago, I decided that I was going to buy one pair of jeans that will fit me now and that I can feel good in, while getting out of the yoga pants I’ve been living in the past several weeks. I can’t tell you what a difference this has made for how I feel about myself, which in turn has motivated me to keep exercising and eating right. Do I want to stay at my current size? No. But I want to feel good about myself while I’m here, and having a few items that fit right can do the trick. It also doesn’t have to cost a lot of money — you can find great pieces at secondhand stores that you won’t feel guilty about purchasing when you’re back to your regular size.

  • Grace. The most important thing we can give ourselves as we deal with our post-baby bodies is grace. It can be frustrating and a little upsetting to see new lines, wrinkles, and rolls that didn’t used to be there, but now is the time to give ourselves grace in the process. It’s grace that allows us to be content with where we are while still on the way to where we want to be, knowing that there are probably a lot of other women who feel or have felt the same way we do.

 We need to remember — whether it takes us three weeks or nine months to feel and look like ourselves again — that this is a process. An amazing one, actually. It’s a process that gave us one of the greatest gifts we could ever receive, and even with all the new post-baby body drama, I think we’d all agree, it’s worth it.