There are a few things that even a Grumpy Gus like me find pretty cool about pregnancy. OK, well I’m sure there are a few, but I can only think of one at the moment. When you really start to show your belly gets hard. It isn’t doesn’t feel like a bowl of jello, which is what I anticipated. It almost feels like smooth hard muscle. Less so when you are seated, but rubbing your hands over it while you are standing is kind of addictive because why is it so taut? And when you are showing you feel no compunction about wearing a shirt that hugs your belly. For several reasons, the first is I’m not sure they sell tents large enough to hang loosely on a pregnant lady’s frame. And the second is the world is very forgiving about pregnancy bellies. You don’t necessarily feel fat, you just feel huge and unwieldy. It must be a continuing-of-the-species evolutionary thing, but when I in all my curmudgeoniness (yes, I just made up that word) see pregnant ladies even I can’t help but thinking they are adorable.
Fast forward to the postpartum you. First of all you feel FUCKING AWESOME because you are no longer carrying a watermelon under your skin that is messing with your equilibrium. If you are a selfish ass like me you are so excited you don’t need to share your body anymore you feel like you could run a marathon. Of course, the reality is you are a physical mess, you might even have a shit ton of stitches in your lady bits, so the marathon thing is actually out. As the docs and nurses loved to tell me, my experience giving birth to T was not “normal” (though let’s face it, it was the only experience I’d had. So it was 100% normal to me) which was born out by the copious amounts of percocet they freely gave me. But even through all that “abnormal” discomfort, and the struggle to figure out breastfeeding, and the return hospital trip 5 days after T’s birth so the rest of that pesky placenta could be removed, I was enormously relieved to no longer be pregnant.
OK. So no longer being pregnant equals great news. Here’s the not so great news: your old body has gone on a permanent vacation. I’ve had some friends who packed pre-pregnancy stuff for the trip home from the hospital. I admire their optimism so very much, but nothing makes you feel worse than trying to pull your jeans on and realizing they won’t go over your thighs. Ladies. Please. Pack maternity gear. Preferably yoga pants and the largest shirt you have. Because you will still look pregnant. I’m sorry, it’s not fair, it’s not cool, but it is reality. And your belly won’t be cute. It won’t be hard. It will be simultaneously big and flabby.
After a week or two you might fit into some pre-pregnancy shirts. They’ll kind of be OK everywhere, but they will cling to your flabby belly. And while you are out and about someone will ask you when you are due. It happens to all of us. You will want to cry, heck you might not be able to stop the waterworks. But please know it isn’t just you. I’m not entirely sure where the expectation that our bodies will just snap back comes from, but it is ridiculous and unfair.
And it doesn’t do a lick of good to compare yourselves to your friends. There will always be those who buck the trend. My friend who just had a baby? She was wearing her pre-pregnancy jeans two weeks after giving birth. THAT IS NOT NORMAL. I still think she might be an alien. My sister was back to her pre-pregnancy weight within 6 weeks of giving birth. Totally not normal, either. But her weight settled differently and her pre-pregnancy cloths still don’t quite fit several months later.
So your old body is gone, and the new one is never quite going to live up to your expectations. But you know what? Postpartum still rocks. You have a baby! And after the blur of the exhausting first few months you’re gonna have a baby who interacts with you! And then you’ll be completely confused about how quickly your sweet little baby had turned into an amazing toddler! And you are going to love that little thing so much it just isn’t going to matter that you are carrying extra weight, or your boobs sag, or you have stretch marks on your belly. OK, it’s still going to matter. But I swear when that little kid starts saying, “I love you!” it’ll matter a hell of a lot less than it would have before.
Self image is such a slippery and dangerous topic. My own battles with it are pretty well documented here, and my personal self image sucks balls. But I do wish there was more support available for how hard it is to come to terms with the changes in our bodies during and after child-bearing. So I’m taking it upon myself to declare to all those pregnant ladies and mamas out there: It’s OK! It’s OK if you weigh more! It’s OK that your boobs droop! It’s OK that you have stretch marks! And if you really want to do something to change your body that is also OK! I believe in you! Your kids don’t give a shit what you look like! But it is your prerogative to do whatever you need to in order to feel good about yourself!
I’m not sure what is motivating my urge to be a crazy positive cheerleader this fine day. But suddenly I feel like I have so much to say about how we treat ourselves during pregnancy and beyond that I could write a book. I think about my friends who are such kick ass ladies, and I think about how they feel about themselves. And, damn it, it is simply unacceptable.