I’ve been working on this post for weeks struggling to describe how pregnancy and childbirth has affected me physically. Where do I even begin? What stereotypical path should I start with? Should I tell you how insecure I’ve always been about my body? Or should I just dive in to a tired old diatribe about the baby weight?
But this isn’t the years I hated my body or about baby weight. It’s not about any of things I expected. It’s about feeling out of place in your own body. The midwives described the baby as a very effective parasite, leeching my body of nutrition. I was impressed rather than put off by this until I realized all the energy it (the baby) was taking, how incapacitated I felt. I felt frail and heavy all at the same time. As I walked down the stairs I always reached for the railing or traced my hand along the wall. Never before had I considered I might fall but I stopped trusting myself. I didn’t know this body.
The last few weeks of pregnancy, I lost my positive attitude. I beached myself on the couch and wallowed in self-pity. It was pretty much all wallow and waddle. After giving birth, I eagerly waited for my body to return. I thought there were four stages for my body: pre-pregnancy, pregnancy, the days or weeks of recovery and then the return to pre-pregnancy body. Um, no.
The fourth trimester was a strange trip. I was desperate to be active again in the hopes of feeling like myself. After about a week we started venturing outside the house, walking around the school across from my house and then eventually down to the lake and back and so on. It was a month before I walked the 4 mile lake trail I’d typically done every week. It did not feel good. It is a whole new world when it’s your vagina that says you’re exercising too much.
Everyone had told me that breastfeeding would cause the weight to drop quickly. Obviously I have nothing to compare it with but for me it was true. The first 25+ pounds were gone in 5 weeks. My enormous belly first became soft, then drooped, then starting to fade away. Only a couple weeks after childbirth I could find my belly button easily. A tiny dip reappeared where it was once flat. But it doesn’t take much to go up a size or two and I still can’t fit into most of my clothes. I’ve started to exercise regularly again but I can see these last pounds will be a long process. To be honest at this point my belly feels like a souvenir or a badge of honor. A light tan line still marks me down the middle proudly announcing “new mama”! I’d embrace it all if I could just wear my dang old pants and shorts like I want to.
NEWSFLASH- You may think it’s a waste to buy maternity clothes since you’re only going to wear them for nine months but chances are that’s not true!
What I truly didn’t anticipate was the boobs. Sure the Internet said all kinds of silly things about needing bigger bras when your milk comes in but who can understand what that means?! Well, it means that your T-shirts are too short, your button-ups are too tight and your cleavage is full on out there. There’s a reason nursing shirts are a thing.
Exercise, hormones, my hair, eating habits, sleep schedule, sex, who I saw in the mirror – nothing escaped the experience of childbirth. Nothing felt recognizable in the weeks and months that came after. Haines is getting ready to hit 6 months in a week’s time which is absolutely wild. Last night he tried avocado. He’s on the verge of crawling. He watches everything and becomes less of a baby and more of his own person every day. But I still struggle to appreciate all that my body has done and continues to do- carried a baby, gave birth, provides milk. I struggle to give myself time to recover and figure things out. But here’s goes nothing.