I realized yesterday as I was bent upside down coaxing volume into my limp postpartum locks that on the morning of Evie’s 9 month birthday, exactly 9 months to the day of her arrival ex utero, I felt like myself. And I was so grateful.
My eldest son punctuated my moment of epiphany by wandering into my bathroom, looking at my washed and styled hair, cocking his head to one side and announcing: “You don’t look like my Mommy. Why did you do that to your hairs?”
It’s called a curling iron, son. And your future wife can thank me for setting that bar niiiiiice and low.
When Joey was a baby I obsessed over the concept of “nine months on, nine months off” and was fanatical about trying to coax the nearly 60 lbs I’d gained off my petite frame. I couldn’t fathom a future where I walked around borderline obese, and I lamented the boxes and boxes of White Cheddar Cheezits I’d thoughtlessly tossed back while cooking my plump firstborn turkey. Jillian Michaels and I did hard time together most afternoons, and I tried my pre baby pants on once a week, crying in defeat when they wouldn’t ascend any further than my hips.
When I finally arrived at the magical number (not even on the scale, but in the pants) I promptly got pregnant a second time and resigned myself to more of the same, only with 100% more gym dedication. I still gained 50 lbs, but I worked out 6 days a week and I was definitely a “fitter” second time preggo. And you know what? The weight came off a little easier, too. But both times I spent a good amount of my post partum “recovery” period doing anything but recovering. Mostly I vacillated between binging on tortilla chips and sticking to a strictly-regimented Weight Watcher’s plan which imperiled my milk supply and left me feeling guilty and anxious. (Disclaimer: WW is probably a good fit for lots of people! But for me, with my history of eating disorder, it was a match made in body shaming hell.)
This time has been different. This time I’ve been more aware that yes, it’s frustrating to be bigger and softer and slower than “normal,” whatever exactly normal means anymore, but that it is, in fact, temporary. I’ve spent more time enjoying the baby and less time bemoaning the body. Do I still bitch about my love handles to my sister and cry on the phone to my best friend about my pants size? I mean, absolutely, but it’s not the all-consuming focus that it once was.
I wanted to share with you guys some things that I think have helped this time around be my most pleasant postpartum period, mental illness aside.
First, I bought a new wardrobe. Not like a new, new wardrobe, but I went to a couple cheap stores and picked up a 2-sizes-too-big but fits just right right now pair of dark wash, high rise jeans and a plethora of flowy, forgiving tops. I also kept my Blanqi locked firmly in the torso position for the entire 4th trimester, and I was happy. And so were my sprung out hips.
There’s nothing more depressing (too me, anyway) in the sartorial realm than shimmying into a big-ass pair of blown out maternity jeans while your 3 week old voms on the bed beside you. Nothing quite like it. Do yourself a favor and retire those belly banded beauties as soon as you check out of hotel hospital. (Unless you had a c-section, because I’ve heard they’re easy on the scars. But otherwise I really can’t fathom a reason to put yourself through that.) Old Navy and Walmart are pretty much everywhere, and you can score yourself a $15 pair of skinnies to get you through the dark times.
Second, set measurable, realistic fitness goals, not weight loss goals. My FitBit and the step-counter app I downloaded were invaluable tools that helped me hit my 10,000 step per day target starting back in the spring, and they helped me reacquaint my tired mommy body with physical activity not involving pushing or lifting. On the (many) days I didn’t get any further than yoga pants, I at least had some hard evidence for the work I’d put it.
On the matter of physical fitness, it helped me tremendously to retrain my brain to see activity as directly correlated to overall wellness and success in mothering, not only as a means by which I might attain blue jean nirvana. Once I stopped seeing “working out” as some vaguely punitive means by which I might become hot one day and started realizing the real, tangible benefits of physical activity on my energy levels and domestic acumen, something clicked for me and I wanted to work out. Not just to have “worked out,” but I craved the actual process instead of obsessing over the desirable end. Game changer, big time.
Finally, I embraced the stupid expression. At least internally. Sitting in Mass with a gassy newborn and catching sight of a skinny friend a few rows up, bouncing her 3-week-old on a slender hip? 9 months on, 9 months off.
Seeing on social media that your college roommate just ran her best ever half marathon time while her 3 month old watched from the sidelines? 9 months on, 9 months off.
Standing in the dressing room at H&M with a 7-month-old sausage strapped to your chest, trying to translate European sizes into US and feeling a stroke coming on when you realize your current size? 9 months on, 9 months off.
Tugging in vain at the zipper on your favorite cocktail dress while your 14-month old tugs at your suddenly shorter hemline, impeding your preparations for a long-awaited date night?
9 months on, 9 months off was just a number, after all.
You were never actually going to *get* your pre baby body back, anyway. Because that body was transformed and transfigured by new life. And no amount of low carbing or tread milling or denim shimmying can erase those effects.
But know this mama: there is a day in your future where you will see your altered and perhaps slightly haggard reflection in your bathroom mirror and you will feel like you again, promise. It might take a few months longer than you expect, and it might happen on a totally different timeline than you envisioned, but she’s in there. You’re in there. I promise.
And happiest 3/4’s birthday to my petite principessa. You’re certainly not the size your mama envisioned that you would be today, Genevieve, but you are utterly lovely to behold, and you’re super easy on your mama’s back.
Silver linings, right?