My Body's Not ‘Back’ After Baby — And I Love It
Writer Amy Klein opens up about her post-baby body. (Photo: Amy Klein)
“What’s that on your nipple?” my husband said to me, pointing to a gray line that had never been there before. “I don’t know,” I said, more concerned with the 3-month-old nursing at my breast than the newest malformation on my body. It was one of the many that had made an appearance since I got pregnant and then gave birth to our daughter: birth marks all over my neck and chest, skin tags on my back, humongous veiny boobs, and a flabby stomach overhanging a red scar from my C-section.
But I don’t care.
In fact, I kind of love it all.
See, having a baby wasn’t easy for me, to say the least. It took three years of infertility, 10 doctors, nine rounds of IVF, and four miscarriages to get and stay pregnant. Although many women loathe their pregnant and postpartum bodies, I had little time to think about that, worrying instead about whether my baby would be born healthy. So when my stomach grew, my belly button popped out and turned black, my feet swelled turning into cankles (calves turning into ankles), and I was so itchy my husband had to rub me down with a Brillo pad — I tried to ignore the discomfort, hoping it would pass. I thought about the larger picture: I was finally having a baby.
After I gave birth, some of the discomfort did pass. The itching disappeared. My feet unswelled, though they have not returned to their original size 7½ (new shoes and boots all around, yay!). Plus, I immediately lost 25 pounds of baby weight. While that was thrilling (I’ve never lost that much weight, and not in one night!) I still had about 20 more pounds to go for pre-baby weight. Plus another 10 for my pre-infertility weight, and maybe another 10 if I ever wanted to fit into my wedding dress.
Amy Klein with her daughter. (Photo: Amy Klein)
But here’s the thing: I don’t want to fit into my wedding dress. Why should I? I’m married. And my husband’s not going anywhere, despite the extra kilos I’m carrying. Neither of us expects us to go back to our pre-pregnancy selves. I say “us” because my husband had a sympathetic pizza pregnancy. Both of us remember those pre-baby years as lean, with plenty of time to work out, but we were desperate to trade in all that fun and fitness for a child.
That’s why, when I look at that roll of flab now, I remember how I got it: a stomach growing and expanding to house a beautiful baby. And when I see that C-section scar, I recall that moment — after four excruciating hours of labor and a babe that wouldn’t budge — when they moved me to the operating room and within minutes held up our scrawny, bloody child. This is my battle scar. And this body is the battleground.
Look, it’s not like I don’t care about the way I look. I once got a stem-cell face lift to get rid of the bags under my eyes. For most of my adult life, I’ve worked out to maintain a size eight-ish figure. I used to run marathons, and did one sprint triathlon. So I’m not exactly giving up and gorging on bonbons for the rest of my life.
At some point, I want to get my body into fighting shape, but right now who has the time? These early months, I’ve had to choose between showering, sleeping, eating, and cleaning the house — not to mention working — before my little cookie wakes up and wants to nurse yet again (which requires me to constantly drink gallons of water in order to maintain my supply). Honestly? My house is a mess: I’ve mostly chosen sleeping instead of cleaning. Which may be the wise choice for weight, as sleeplessness has been shown to decrease willpower. Oh — who am I kidding? I eat like a fiend because breastfeeding makes me ravenous.
Which brings me back to my boobs: Yeah, they look kind of stretchy now, as my little girl chomps away, digging her tiny fingers into the skin and pulling at it, as if they were her own little playthings. I wonder what will become of them when I wean her.
But mostly I marvel at how they feed her. These mammary glands, whose purpose in the past seemed only to attract men (and get in the way of my running routine), now feed a human being. She’s gone from the 14th percentile at birth to the 38th. She’s downright chubby. And at a size 12, so for that matter am I.
So believe me when I say I really do understand the obsession many of us have with getting our bodies back as soon as possible, especially with all the media hype of princesses looking picture perfect postpartum and Kardashians kicking it.
But we have all got to relax. We’re not princesses (or even goddesses, no matter how our partners treat us after performing the feat of giving birth), and we’re not celebrities with Instagram followers in the millions. Whose job, I must point out, requires them to be thin.
We’re regular people. And now we are mothers.
Shouldn’t our bodies serve a different purpose now?
For everything there is a season, right? A time for our bodies to be young, lithe, and hot to attract a mate, and a time to sustain our little ones.
So as I leave the haze of this fourth trimester, that’s what I would like to focus on. Getting my body — not “back,” I hate that word because I never want to go back to life before my daughter — but healthy. Especially for my daughter, I want my knees to bend so I can sit near the bath with her. I want my stomach flatter so it won’t get in the way when I’ll have to run after her. I want to eat right so she can mimic my food choices. I want to swim, do yoga, play tennis, and all the other sports I’ve loved and hopefully will be able to do with her one day. And who knows? Maybe if I’m lucky, she’ll get a sibling.
Now, that’s a body I’d be proud of.
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