I’ve debated writing about this for awhile for fear of being judged shallow or having the “wrong” priorities. But here’s the deal: having a baby demolishes your body. I read a lot about how the body changes during pregnancy and what each alteration is doing for the baby. Surprisingly, my growing abdomen didn’t bother me at all during those 38+ weeks. Lots of people love a pregnant belly and my friends and family obviously embraced the changes.
About 12 hours before my water broke
But then the baby came out. She weighed 8 pounds. Not 35. The day I went home from the hospital, I had packed the most unflattering, body-hugging nightgown/dress. I tried to hide myself heading down the elevator and getting into the car. When I got home, my well-intentioned brother who had no experience with pregnancy, childbirth or the aftermath looked at me and said, cautiously, “So, not trying to be mean, but now what happens to…all of this?” And waved his hand over my midsection, which still looked like I was stowing away a baby.
I shrugged it off at the time, knowing that the few days after delivery were not going to be my most attractive. My midsection was the least of my worries.
In the first two weeks, I got down about 20 pounds from my heaviest pregnancy weight. It was encouraging, and I figured it was a sign that my body was going to bounce back quickly. And then that little weight loss factory completely closed up shop. Stalled all production and locked the doors and windows. Nada. Nothing. Nil. I didn’t lose one pound for about two months.
About a week and a half after delivery
Now, no one means to make you feel bad, but once there is a baby to play with and talk about, the conversations directed to you are frequently body-related. I was often faced with well-meaning “you’re looking good”s and “have you lost weight?”s. The problem was that I hadn’t lost weight and didn’t feel like I looked remotely good. Those comments only reminded me of how unhappy I was with my figure.
About 3 weeks after I had Addison I started doing light weights for my upper body in a last ditch effort to slim an ounce or two from my arms before my brother’s wedding. It was a lost cause. However, the wedding proved to be a glaring indication that my perception of my body was so grossly unhealthy and skewed. When it came time for the bridesmaids to put on our dresses, I almost had a complete breakdown comparing what I [thought I] looked like to what the other girls looked like. Their boobs were proportional. I thought mine spilled out of my strapless dress. The other bridesmaids’ dresses cinched in at their waist. I saw myself in a light pink column of fabric with nary a waist in sight. Their arms had definition. I saw every imagined extra fold of skin on my arms.
That day, I did my very best to keep myself together and redirect my focus. Of all the things to think about that day, I knew my overanalyzed body image didn’t even deserve to make the list. So I blinked back tears and tried to avoid the room in our suite that was wall to wall mirrors. Unfortunately, I also tried to avoid the photographer.
Thankfully, throughout the day I began to feel a little more comfortable and not deathly afraid of a camera flash. When I saw the pictures from that amazing day, I was so very disappointed in myself. Not because I looked fat and ugly, but because I looked beautiful. And there wasn’t one minute during the celebration that I allowed myself to feel it. I was tormenting myself about my appearance, and because of that, there are a slew of pictures I wish I had but refused to take.
And here we are today, almost four and a half months since meeting my little peanut pie. I have lost a few more pounds…s l o w l y. To be brutally honest, I still hate how I look in the mirror and in pictures. One of the hardest issues for me is not feeling like myself. For months, I have not recognized the curves and the softness that I see staring back at me. I don’t know who that person is, and I still have not learned to accept this new shape. Instead, I try to hide it or avoid it. Witnessing me getting dressed is a whole ball of fun for my husband as he dodges the dozens of articles of clothing tossed around the room before the final ensemble is settled on.
I feel like I have been at a crossroads recently where it’s time to shut up about my hang-ups. Even though I am convinced everyone—family, friends, Facebook friends, strangers, Facebook strangers, cashiers at Target—are judging my appearance, the reality is that no one cares. The only one scrutinizing every pound and cursing at the scale is me. It is easy to throw into conversations that “it’s so worth it, though” and smile affectionately at my kid. I know my lines in this play. The real work now is to actually claim that belief and force myself to grasp what that easy sentiment means.
I had a baby for crying out loud. My body, with the teeniest bit of assistance from the hubs, created a human being. The most perfect, adorable, hilarious, smart, chubby little girl. My extra pounds were what nourished her. My extra skin is what held her. My labored breathing allowed her to have strong, hearty lungs. My gigantic boobs are what sustain her and give her those kissable cheeks. While my crazy brain has perfected the art of compartmentalizing my adoration of her and my self-deprecation, I need to begin using the former to combat the latter.
So I’m trying. I’m really, really trying. Not to lose 15 more pounds but to be proud of all the other accomplishments I can brag about from the past 13 and a half months, some of which are entirely due to this temple of mine. I grew a baby, I pushed that thing out and now I am raising her the best I know how. I know that I won’t ever be satisfied with this current body. I am focused on changing it. But I am also working so hard on not being focused on my body all of the time.
Apparently, it’s a struggle. I would not have written a novella about this if I had done one sit up and out popped the six pack or if I could simply be fat and happy. Neither have been the case. I know that I don’t have throngs of readers, but if you have any experience with this—lost the baby weight in the first two weeks, still haven’t lost the weight, don’t even care about the weight or anywhere in between, I’d love to hear your story! Although, if you fall into the first camp, I have a serious eye roll with your name on it.
And here’s a video that prevents me from feeling anything other than sheer joy and will probably make your life: Addie the Enforcer. I’m not lying when I say she really is so worth it.