First of all: I know that pregnancy is a beautiful, miraculous thing. I love my baby to death and I feel blessed that I was able to use this body to bring him into this world. Many women don’t get that opportunity, and it breaks my heart just to think about it.
But I also know that pregnancy changes your body, often forever. If you think about it, how could it not, right? You’re growing a whole person, which involves packing on tons of weight in a short period of time, doubling your blood volume, and generally wreaking havoc on most of your vital organs in one way or the other (constipation, anyone?). Some women are more genetically gifted than others, and might seem to defy this reality, but the facts remain: you will look like a blob for awhile, your girls will never be as perky, and your smallest pair of jeans (the ones you were so proud of because they were a size you wouldn’t typically fit in, but somehow did in this brand) might eventually end up at Goodwill. And I’m just getting warmed up with those examples.
It is our job as mothers to accept and embrace all of this. And we all try our darndest. But inevitably, some women will be better at it than others (like those genetically gifted
freaks of nature women). Some women even love their bodies more post-preggo, after witnessing all of the miraculous things they’re capable of. These women celebrate their new bodies and appreciate them like never before.
And some women just look and feel gross for awhile, regardless of how many people say “gaaah, you look amazing for just having a baby!!” Case in point: me.
Despite how mentally prepared I was for the changes and despite the fact that it hasn’t been that long since I gave birth, I have to be honest: I’m struggling. It’s difficult to look in the mirror, wear anything other than yoga pants, or fathom the possibility that I’ll ever really “bounce back.” (It doesn’t help that I just watched the Cabo vacation episode of Bethenny Ever After. Are we sure that chick had a baby once??)
To be honest, I dreaded dealing with my post-baby body for nine months, and now that it’s here, it’s just as bad as I expected–possibly worse. Throughout the entire pregnancy, my fingers were crossed that I’d be spared of stretch marks, but nope! One day in the final month, they seemingly sprouted overnight. And I’m not talking a little silvery line here and there–I’m talking dark purple hash marks, all around my belly button and on my sides. The “girls,” which were already big pre-pregnancy and even bigger during pregnancy, are now absolutely melonous*. The fact that they’re holding beautiful nutritious milk for my baby just doesn’t fully erase the horror of shopping for bra sizes I never dreamed I’d actually be wearing, or realizing that my pre-preg shirts and tank tops may never fit again.
And then there’s the weight loss. It was thrilling at first, dropping 25 of the 40 pounds I gained within a week and a half. The change was dramatic and impressive–but then it stopped. Now, a month later, those last 15 pounds still haven’t budged. Everyone talks about how the weight just “falls” off when you’re breastfeeding, but I’m here to tell you, ladies: not so. You have to work for those last pounds, just like any other “last pounds” before your goal weight. Granted, I haven’t started working out super regularly yet, but I am watching what I eat, and I was really banking on that breastfeeding thing!
I think it all boils down to a deep-seated fear I have: that I’ll never bounce back. That I’ll fall into the all-too-common cycle of getting pregnant again before losing the weight from this pregnancy, adding a few extra lbs. from that pregnancy, and on and on until it seems pointless to try anymore. Until I (worst phrase in the English language coming your way) give up. So it’s not really about how I look right now, six weeks after giving birth, but about what I could look like if I’m not careful.
Which is why I’m wildly determined to be careful. I refuse to see motherhood as an excuse to let myself go. The reality is that when you’re a mother, you have to work harder than non-mothers and harder than you did before you were ever pregnant to get the results you want. Although tragic and unfortunate, this fact doesn’t give us license to sit around feeling sorry for ourselves forever. If anything, it should remind us to cut out all comparisons to others as step number one. Of course you want a general idea of how you’re faring next to the general population, but any more specific self-imposed expectations (“that chick is/does X, therefore I must be/do X”) are unwelcome and will sabotage your motivation.
Yes, I’m proud of my body and all that it’s done in the past year. And hopefully I’ll just be that much prouder when I see what it’ll do in the next year.
On a positive note, now that my body’s officially “broken in,” the next pregnancy shouldn’t be nearly as traumatizing!
Stay tuned for more on my diet and exercise plans. I have my 6-week postpartum appointment Friday, where I assume/hope I’ll be cleared for all exercise. That’s sort of been a deadline in my mind, so once that passes, I’ll officially have no excuses left.
A potentially helpful read: What Do Real Women Look Like After Having a Baby?
*Melonous=akin to a melon. I thought I made it up, but it’s actually in Urban Dictionary. Ha!