So the baby is 9.5 months old now, which is crazy. We just had some nice family portraits done a few months ago, and I’m having a hard time making the critical self conscious voice in my head to shut up. Because my post partum body is still not where I want it to be, and I feel bad because I feel self conscious about it. (I feel bad about feeling bad! Welcome to my brain.) So, inspired by Meghan, here’s my journey with the body post baby.
I have never been thin, and my stomach has always been large and jiggly, even when I was a teenager swimming 6-8 times a week. It’s just what my body looks like.
Here I am at 4 weeks pregnant, or, more accurately: just peed on a stick, went for a walk to celebrate. I was at my heaviest weight in my entire life at this point – the summer had already involved a miscarriage and a flooded basement, and that had resulted in a summer of crappy eating and a lot of rum. I weighed, shall we say, X pounds.
I got pretty big during my pregnancy, but I put on very little weight at all. I actually lost 5 pounds in the first trimester – stepped on the scale to see that the very day I popped my first stretch mark. I take no real credit for what my body did during the pregnancy – I had terrible heartburn that meant even eating a muffin was a set up for 18 hours of unrelenting burning pain. The only foods that I could really eat in the second trimester were Lucky Charms and ice cream. (Being pregnant meant I suddenly became lactose tolerant, which was awesome.) So I didn’t eat much, but what I ate was really calorie rich. I got big in the belly, and fast, but I didn’t get big all over. In fact, I’m pretty sure the rest of me lost some fat. (I had some to spare.) I also lost muscle mass when I had to stop working out around 28 weeks pregnant, because of some pelvic floor issues I was having. Okay, yes, I still walked and did yoga, but that’s totally not the same as 4 day a week fitness classes with weights.
After I discovered Zantac, I could eat again, but still didn’t gain much weight. During the whole pregnancy, I put on 12 pounds, or, X+12. I’m short, and carried it all out front, so I looked like I gained a lot more.
I gained 12 pounds (X+12), gave birth to an an 8 pound baby (X+4), and a week after she was born was down to X-7 pounds.
I bounced up to X-3 pretty quickly, as my body tried to adjust to the baby and the Breastfeeding Hunger, and all the rest.
I fit back in to my jeans by the time Jess was a month old. Which was nice, but I again can’t take any credit. The c-section recovery was really, really hard on me, and at a month post partum, I still couldn’t lift her in the car seat, let alone exercise.
At 12 weeks, I took a lame mommies and babies yoga class. (I don’t like singing much. I like yoga. This class was way too much of the former and far too little of the latter.) At that point, I couldn’t even lay down from a sitting position because of the internal adhesions and resulting pain.
Around the 4 month mark, I started taking more intensive fitness classes – starting with strollercize twice a week. By the end of November (9 months post partum) I was up to 4 classes a week – a deep water running class, two areobics/weight classes and a pilates class. My weight has been pretty stable for a couple of months at X-5, and while ideally I’d like to hit X-8 and stay there, I’m not unhappy about my weight.
I finally bought new jeans, in time for our family photos, and found that I’d dropped a pant size from my pre-pregnancy jeans. (My chest size, however, is still a few sizes up. Breastfeeding!) My hips, ass and thighs are the same size or smaller than they were pre-baby. Thanks to all the fitness classes and squats, I had not developed mom-butt and I still like my ass. (I first learned to love my butt when I took pole dancing classes. I liked the way I looked in short-shorts!)
But I am unhappy about my stomach, and it shames me that my belly is the first thing I see when I look at the family portraits. I don’t want to be that person. I don’t want to be the woman hiding from the camera, or the one who looks at herself with shame. Because life is too short to fixate, or so I keep telling myself. The conflicting messages in my brain (be happy! you’re too big!) are annoying, but I’m feeling them, so here we are.
The thing is, I’m DOING THE WORK, and it’s not making the kind of difference I wish it would. I work out a lot, I eat mostly sensibly, and I have a big belly and my core strength just is not back yet, 9 months after the c-section. When I started doing the fitness classes at 4 months, I couldn’t even get in to a plank position, because something internally caused screaming pain if I tried. Hell, the first time I tried to do a crunch, 3 months after the birth, I couldn’t lift my head more than a half inch of the ground, and 5 of those made me hurt for 3 days afterwards. (C-SECTIONS ARE NOT THE EASY BIRTH ANSWER.) Things are better – because I’ve worked very, very hard – but still not great. I still can’t, for example “access my transverse abdominals” at pilates, or hold a plank for 60 seconds. I’m getting closer, but I don’t have the strength that I’m used to, or the sensations I remember.
I guess, really, that it upsets me on both fronts – the loss of tone and the loss of strength. I’m trying hard to be kind to myself, and to keep going to the classes and to generally not think about it to much, but it’s hard. I’m mostly happy with my body – as much as I ever am – but this one thing upsets me, and then I’m upset that I’m upset. Blerg.
Being a woman in the 21st century: self-esteem is a minefield.