The first time I really noticed how my body had changed after I gave birth was in the bathtub. My refuge as a new mom, after a long day alone with baby, and after Jon came home after work, was to climb into the tub and soak with a good book, some yummy-smelling candle, and sometimes some chocolate (ok, often a lot of chocolate!). This was also a necessary reprieve as I needed to get in a few sitz baths a day. Before baby, this bath ritual would have involved some delicious bubble bath or pretty bath bomb. Now it was just half a cup of salt, and my new mom body uncovered and ready to be critiqued. I honed in on the bright red stretch marks low on my belly. I’d noticed them at the hospital, and while I was a little surprised by how many there were, the excitement and love for newly born Lily Rose made me temporarily immune to worrying about their sudden appearance. I honestly thought I didn’t have many stretch marks going into labour. Since I already had an assortment of stretch marks from growing, and years of losing and gaining weight, I should have known it was only a matter of time before they appeared. And it wasn’t just the stretch marks, but the way my belly looked, all smooshy, saggy and softer than ever before. Then to add insult to injury, as I got out of the shower after rinsing off, I got the very unwelcome surprise that many new moms get: I was leaking milk everywhere, from my massive milk bags. I have always had big boobs, and when I got pregnant I knew it was only a matter of time before they grew bigger even still, but these puppies were on a whole other level. I didn’t stay in the bathroom and have a good cry (I have had some since…after substituting wine for the chocolate), because I was too consumed with a gorgeous, but needy, newborn.
No matter how much I didn’t love the look of my belly and boobs, I wasn’t at the place where I felt I needed to be doing anything about it. I was tired, busy, and so in love. And I was more than fine with living in the forgiving new mom’s uniform of yoga pants and long nursing tanks, preferably in all black, and when ready, pouring myself into jeans I wore when I was only 20 weeks pregnant, and a recycled maternity top. And why not, I’d just had a baby. I don’t think the practice of immediately trying to lose the baby weight and get back to your pre-preggo body in a matter of weeks is realistic, or healthy. Life has just changed, immensely,so it’s only natural and normal that your body has changed drastically in the process. Thinking my body would look or feel the same after birthing a baby was in a sense denying that something life-changing and amazing hadn’t just happened. Pictures of celebs looking gorgeous and skinny after having just pushed a baby out have us all thinking it’s normal to rush to get back to where we were 9 months ago. But these celebs have the luxuries of private chefs and trainers, and it’s their job to look a certain way. It’s not right, and it has done a disservice to all us normal chicks, struggling to settle into mommyhood while being stressed about when, how, or if, the baby weight is gonna come off.
But in one of these inevitable moments of self pity and doubt, I remember looking back at myself in the mirror in only my underwear, and saying that I didn’t like how my body looked now. I wasn’t skinny before I got pregnant, but I had lost weight, planned on working to lose more and was getting happier with my body. But now, it felt like I was so crazy far from being on the road to body self acceptance. My boyfriend and recipient of the best babydaddy award said that I I had “the body of a momma,” and that I was beautiful. This was sweet, completely needed and appreciated, and made me feel secure that in that moment, at least one of us was happy with my new bod.
It’s now been 7 months, and while the stretch marks have started to fade to pink, I no longer leak after the shower (I know it will be only another 4 or 5 months till my boobs are once again my own…woo hoo!), and continued breastfeeding helped me shed half of the weight I gained while pregnant, my body is still, for a lack of a better word, squishy. It seems as though the weight didn’t leave so much as it got re-distributed. I wanted to buy into the “It takes 9 months to gain it, it should take 9 months to lose it” advice. I wanted to take as long as I felt like it to enjoy time with baby, without the added pressure of trying to lose weight or get in shape. But I know I’m not the only mom who felt like suddenly, it was time to make a change. Like ok, my baby is getting closer everyday to being a year old, and the “I just had a baby” excuse has gotten a little tired. For some it may come after the look you get, whether real or imagined, over still wearing yoga pants everywhere you go. For others, it may be your own disgust over still eating whatever you can get your hands with no regard for what it will do your ass cause you have a crying infant who needs you like 5 minutes ago, all the while ignoring the fruit on the counter as you stuff chips in your mouth. Or it’s the taunting of your pre-baby clothes hanging in your closet; you may be now able to squeeze into some of your old jeans, but the resulting muffin top you’re sporting, hidden under the maternity granny panties you have yet to pack away because they are oh so comfy and cover your now bigger behind, are all starting to give you complex. For me it was these things, but also climbing up and down the stairs carrying my baby girl, then being too out of breath to sing her You Are My Sunshine before her nap that finally did it. It was the aching back and sore knees (more side effects of having a baby and carrying extra weight) that were starting to be a problem when I wanted to quickly get up and down to play with my baby on the ground. The building anxiety over having to get into a bathing suit for Lily Rose’s first swim lesson may have played a part as well.
And so I’ve started the journey of getting in shape and eating healthy to lose the baby weight. I want to feel comfortable in my clothes. I want to be able to shop in any clothing store. I want to feel sexy again for myself and my man. So I am doing what is best for my own health and happiness, and doing it so that my daughter has an example to follow. I don’t aim to look like the girls in my workout dvd’s. I like my curves. I want to get to a healthy weight for my body shape. And I want to get fit so that I can crawl around on the ground with my baby girl without feeling so many aches and pains, and run after her once she gets to that stage without feeling out of breath. Yes I would prefer to be napping while baby naps, but instead I put on some new workout gear and get in 30 minutes of exercise. I have possibly the only baby in the world who doesn’t love to be pushed around in a stroller, but I make a point of going a little further everyday on the beautiful trails around our home so that someday, she may be a happy camper for more than a just a walk to the mailbox, and so that I get in more physical activity. And yes, some days I’d prefer to be making and eating a quick meal of KD, chicken fingers and canned veggies, but instead I take some time most days to plan often tastier clean eating alternatives. And I already feel so much better for it.
Jon was right (he’s never gonna let me live this one down!): I do have “the body of a momma.” And it’s not a bad thing. I have discovered strength I never knew I had: I birthed a baby for starters. Those stretch marks across my belly will be a reminder that I created a cozy home for our babe and carried her inside me for 9 months. And under the chub I have new mom muscles from now regularly carrying a heavy carseat with a growing girl in it. My breasts, no matter how large and in charge they have become, have sustained that little girl’s life. My daughter’s favourite resting place has evolved from nestling in those boobs to resting squarely on my curvy hip. A mother’s body is a beautiful, strong, amazing thing. It’s not perfect, and it looks different for everyone; that’s the beauty of it. Some have enviable flat bellies and legs for days like the skinny moms in LR’s swim class. A certain other mom in that class may still be soft and squishy, but boasts a great rack and a pretty small waist;) The great part is we can decide what a mother’s body looks like for ourselves, and in our own time. Like motherhood itself, there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it; it is each mother’s individual journey,and it may be ever evolving. Attaining the momma’s body I am most comfortable with will be an adventure with a lot of ups and downs I’m sure, but still a wild ride that I’m happy to be on .