1. Re-iterating, again, how incredibly blessed I feel to have had a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. So please don’t misinterpret any of this as complaining. But after having a baby I now realize how much we DON’T say when it comes to the postpartum body. So this is my attempt at being honest.
2. Alek has never, and I mean NEVER made me feel less than beautiful. Every day. Every time he sees me, no matter the state I am in. I always feel loved. I always feel desired. He is an incredible partner. I don’t know how you do this with someone who makes you feel lesser. And if you happen to be with someone who ever makes you feel less than beautiful, DO NOT have a baby with that person. And if you see a pregnant or freshly postpartum lady around, give her a compliment. Trust me, it will be well-received.
The questions I get asked about most from my girlfriends who have not had babies all have to do with the postpartum body: Did you get stretch marks? How much weight did you gain? Etc. etc. All of these are asked of me in low tones with pleading eyes. And there is nothing you can say to make these women feel less apprehensive.
Yes, I gained weight.
Yes, I greased the shit out of my belly with the best prayer creams money could buy from the moment I found out I was pregnant until the day I went in for an induction and yes, I got stretch marks.
[SIDEBAR: To my point above, when my stretch marks hit, I was, on a range of mildly disappointed to pretty upset, more on the upset side of the scale. And Alek found some meme or article or chain email or Facebook something something about an African tribe where women with stretch marks were the most desirable in the tribe because stretch marks were considered the ultimate sign of womanhood. And then he kissed my belly, told me he loved me, thanked me for carrying our baby and, well, the stretch marks haven’t really upset me as much since. See what I mean about the right partner?]
Here is the thing that I don’t feel like we women talk about: you will have a completely different body after you have a baby. I am surrounded by women who have BEAUTIFUL bodies AND also have kids. So I am in no way saying that you will have a “bad” body after a baby. But you will have a DIFFERENT body. And that is just a fact.
You will always feel tired. [I don’t know when this part ends. Maybe when they go to Kindergarten?]
Your hair will be different. [Nothing falls out your entire pregnancy and a few weeks postpartum and you’re standing in the shower holding a clump of hair in your hand that takes your breath away. I have more gray hair now than ever. Much of what laser hair removal did has now been undone. The list goes on…]
Your skin will be different.
Your belly will be different.
Your breasts will be gone, and they are never coming back.
Your lady business will be different. [TIP: Maybe wait until a few weeks after you’ve had that gorgeous baby before you get all curious and check out your lady business in a mirror…just saying…]
Your feet will be different. [And by different I mean bigger. And sure, you’ll squish those big bastards into your stilettos for in important presentation at work one day, but you’ll pay for it.]
You will be…softer. That is the only way I can describe it.
Your body will have done what it was made to do. And pretty much all of that “doing” is driven by hormones. Hormones that come into play when you get pregnant, when you enter new phases of pregnancy, when you go into labor, when your labor is over, when your milk comes in, while you’re breast feeding, when you STOP breastfeeding. [Are my hormones now back to where they were pre-pregnancy? Do they ever go back? Is this just the new normal? I really have no idea.]
We are culturally fixated on postpartum baby weight. How much weight did you gain? How quickly did you lose the weight? How much weight did Kim Kardashian gain? And OMG have you SEEN Kate Middleton? She looks AMAZING!
So let’s just get it out there about my weight gain – ~16 pounds. OF COURSE I ballooned up to ~50 pounds of weight gain by the time I gave birth, but after birth, losing water weight, breast feeding, some light walking around the neighborhood, not eating ice cream every single day, etc. etc. I really netted out at about ~16 extra pounds. And if I’m being honest I had about 25 pounds to lose BEFORE I even got pregnant so ~16 pounds in exchange for THIS:
SO not a big deal. And when you really start to think about what you GET for that weight gain – A F**KING BABY – any amount of pounds put on is SO not a big deal.
I have a friend who said to me “If you’re planning two kids back to back, you just need to know that you’re not going to feel like yourself for a long time.”
This is, BY FAR, the best piece of pregnancy wisdom that has been shared with me. Because the reality for me is that my postpartum body experience has not been about the weight or the hair loss or the big feet, it has been about finding myself again, and finding well-being for ME, not for the baby.
See, if you are planning a pregnancy, there is the lead up to the unprotected sex part. Where you start looking at yourself as a potential baby making machine. You take up a healthier lifestyle so that when you get pregnant, you’re in a good state. [Well, in my case, I probably needed to lose that 25 pounds, but I did lose all those prescription medications and soft cheeses and never missed a prenatal vitamin so…] This is when you start to distance yourself from, well, yourself. And the choices you make and the lifestyle you’re living become less about you.
When you get pregnant, every choice that you make when it comes to your health and well-being is about the well-being of your baby. And there’s also the part where you’re just trying to figure out what the hell is going on down there.
Then you have the baby and you’re STILL figuring out what the hell is going on down there. And that doesn’t really matter because you’re now smitten and fascinated by this whole entire person that just came into your life and making sure their needs are met.
Then you go back to work and there’s THAT.
And time with Alek.
And time with friends.
And time with family.
And grocery shopping.
And then suddenly it’s the holidays.
This year our Christmas Card photo was taken by Justin Hackworth, a photographer that is known for creating very real, very NOT-Photoshopped, #nofilter -type portraits. We have our shoot, and everything seems great. And we go back to look at the photos and when he shows them to us I am kind of in a state of shock, because I really felt like I was looking at a stranger. I kept thinking “So, this is what I look like now?” And I was forced, literally, to take a good look at myself.
And it was really, really hard to face how disconnected I felt from my own body.
But I had to face it, and then quickly choose one of these photos to mail to 175 of our closest family, friends and colleagues.
I’m not gonna lie, it took some time to love these photos. I am so so grateful to have them though. All extra-41-pounds-tired-wrinkled-bad-hair-no-boobs-soft-belly single one of them. Because FINALLY, after six months, I SAW MYSELF.
One of the many reasons I wanted to have a baby was to evolve who I was as a person. To challenge myself every single day with something I had never experienced before. It was just so unexpected that the first evolution was a physical one.
So as I go into this New Year, YES, I KNOW, I need to lose 40-ish pounds. Sheesh.
But more importantly, I want to focus on this when I look in the mirror:
Being grateful and MARVELING in the fact that this body [THIS BODY!] brought life to a new person.
My body [THIS BODY!] channeled a human being with a heart and a soul and a smile and a demeanor that totally and completely surprises and delights me every single day.
I am DIFFERENT.
I am NEW.
I am POWERFUL.
This is an EVOLUTION.
This is an OPPORTUNITY.
This is an AWAKENING.
I am becoming the person I was meant to be.
And this is what I look like now.
all photos by Justin Hackworth