Congratulations. You went through nine (really it’s 10, so I’m not sure who keeps deciding it’s 9) terrible months of pregnancy. You went through an excruciatingly long and painful labor. You just delivered your sweet baby safely into this world, and you’re holding him in your arms. An overwhelming rush of hormones is circulating through your entire body, and you start to feel complete euphoria. You hold your baby on your chest in total awe and wonder of how perfect and precious and completely orchestrated by the angels this heavenly moment must be. You do skin to skin immediately, and you know for a fact that there has never been a more tranquil moment in your life thus far. You look down in complete gratitude with a smile of thanksgiving to your doctor, when you accidentally see her bloody gloves, scissors in hand, and string being pulled to and from places that should never ever EVER have to be stitched. And so this begins the unspoken, unacknowledged, suuuuuuuper underestimated trimester. The 4th trimester. It’s real nice to meet you, sloppy-broken-mom-bod.
Let me start by saying this: there will always be somebody who is better off than you, and somebody who is worse off than you. Let’s all stop for a second and acknowledge that although everybody has different body types, the feeling of being personally unsatisfied and self conscious about your body feels the same for everybody. It sucks. Being unhappy with your body feels as crappy for a size 4 woman, as it does for a size 14 woman, because feeling crappy… feels crappy. So if you’re reading this and thinking “Boo hoo, lady. I’ve never been a size 4 so how can you even complain?” do as I instructed all of my anti-induction friends in my previous post and poke yourself right in the eyeballs. (Side note: I haven’t been a size four since age four so I was obviously just using that size as an example).
The fourth trimester. It’s so overlooked that it doesn’t even have a real name. Obviously, a trimester insinuates one of three approximately equal time frames or terms. We assume that our body is done after the third and final trimester. We think that once the baby is born, the intense changes that our body underwent the past year will magically reverse. It’s over! Except of course, it’s not. It’s definitely not. I will spare everybody the disgusting details of what goes on downstairs in the weeks following child birth… but just know that it’s SUPER not awesome. Breastfeeding morphs your new momboobs back and forth from porn star to pork chops at an incredibly disturbing rate. The first week after you give birth, you’re basically carrying a deflated inner-tube around your waste, and your belly button is a sad melting marshmellow. WHY DIDN’T ANYBODY TELL ME ABOUT THIS? Why didn’t I know that for two months I would be living in skateboard sized diaper pads and disposable ice packs? Why didn’t I know that I would have to casually snack on Colace if I wanted to have a bowel movement that didn’t make me suicidal? Why didn’t I prepare myself for how disappointing it would be to not be able to fit back into my pre-pregnancy pants right away. Why didn’t I understand that the lifestyle changes that happen when you have an infant are not conducive for weight loss AT ALL? Oh, mom bod. You are the worst.
I have never been somebody that has struggled with weight, so that confused me into thinking I was never somebody that struggled with body image issues. I have never had to work through any of these emotions before, and I assumed that since it wasn’t hard for me to stay “skinny” with minimal exercise, it wouldn’t be hard at all to go back to my previous size after having Owen. I was so wrong. I sometimes think breastfeeding was the darkest and loneliest time of being a brand new mom… until I realize how hard struggling to love and accept my new postpartum body was and still is.
I’ve read a lot of sweet articles that say things like “your stretch marks are battle scars!” and “wear your saggy stomach like a badge of honor!” I realize that my body did an incredible thing by growing, birthing, and feeding a tiny human, but I also realize that after the newness of having your baby wears off, being stuck with a dimply squishy body just totally sucks. And also when your peers still have their crop top wearing college bods with none of these “battle scars” or “badges of honor” you’re left feeling like a washed up version of your old self- a washed up version that now pees a little at random times in the day without warning.
I remember feeling SO FAB when I introduced Owen to people when he was only a week or two old. It felt so good to hear people say things like “Wow! You don’t look like you just had a baby at all!” But as the weeks started dragging on, suddenly introducing my 3 month old baby was not getting the same reaction. It’s a vicious cycle that we’re in as women and mothers. There is so much pressure to return to your pre-baby body, that other women also understand how important it is for you to hear those words. Because we obsess over this ourselves, we accidentally word vomit it to other women as a way to reassure them that they are still beautiful. Instead of feeling good, however, I think it slowly reinforces the idea that returning to your pre-baby body is extremely important and obviously very noticeable.
The first couple weeks after having Owen I dropped about 35 pounds, almost instantly, with no effort at all. I gained 55 pounds during my pregnancy, so I just assumed the last 20 would continue to fall right off. -WRONG.
**Let me just interrupt this blog post to share with you the time I got mean girled.**
While I was breastfeeding every 2-3 hours, I was basically totally starving at all times. Turns out, when you’re always awake, you’re also always hungry. Having a new born baby is all consuming; all consuming in the way that you literally never have a moment to yourself outside of showering, which is a freaking luxury. After having Owen, a tepid bath without soap (because your new momvag, obviously.) turned into a Four Seasons Spa package.
Anyway… I say all that to say, you don’t have the time (and if you have the time you certainly don’t have the energy) to prepare healthy, filling, and accessible snack options for when you’re ready to eat a whole city while nursing your baby. I had the brilliant idea to go to Target, skim through their healthy snack aisle, and pick out some “snack bars” for me to eat whenever I had a craving for something sweet or was hungry between meals. “Skim through” as in sprint through the aisle because my newborn was screaming bloody murder and my boobs were leaking. Guys…in my new-mom-zombie-sleep-deprived haze, I picked up several packages of CLIF BARS. You know, the ones with the stick man scaling a mountainside? “Oh, he looks healthy,” I thought.
So let’s fast forward to three weeks later. I had been eating Clif bars like it was my after school car duty y’all. I ate AT LEAST two a day, in between my other meals. I was noticing that I was putting on weight, and fast! I was crying to Barry one day about the new 10 pounds that I had gained.
“I just don’t understand why!!!!!” I said as I cried.
I watched as he nervously glanced at my snack bowl of clif bars on the kitchen table.
“Why do you keep looking at my clif bars!!!??” -Me
“Well…. ummmm…. well…….” -Barry
“WHAT IS IT?!” -Me
“Well… umm….. how many of those are you eating a day?” -Barry
“I DON’T KNOW BARRY! MAYBE 2 OR 3???” -Me (getting more emotional and defensive)
“But have you read the label on the back? Each one has like 50 grams of carbs.” -Barry
“BUT IT’S A SNACK FOR HEALTHY PEOPLE, BARRY! IT WAS IN THE HEALTHY SNACK AISLE!” -Me
“No it’s a MEAL for healthy people. Healthy people like.. marathon runner healthy people. Like, spend the entire day climbing a mountain and eating one of those for dinner type of healthy people.” -Barry
DAMN YOU, TARGET!!!!!!!!!!!! DAMN YOU DANGLING STICK FIGURE CLIF MAN.
“WHYYYYY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME THAT THREE WEEKS AGO WHEN I STARTED BINGE EATING THESE????” -Me
“Afton. Are you serious? I would never mention something like that to you. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings. You’re so sensitive about your body. I didn’t want you to think that I didn’t think you were beautiful.”
Guys…. how sad is this scenario?
1.) Because I’m an idiot and basically accidentally ate 2 whole loaves of bread a day for almost a month.
2.) Because I was so obsessed and sensitive about my postpartum body that my husband was too afraid to confront me.
What a wake up call for me.
The next few months I made a lifestyle change. I mean, obviously I stopped binge eating meal replacement bars, but instead of making a “goal weight” or a “goal size” I made a lifestyle goal. I tried my hardest to eat healthy foods because they gave me more energy to sit and engage with Owen during the day. I tried going out on walks with him in the morning, and walks as a family when Barry got home from work- this killed time, got Owen outside in his stroller, and just made me feel a whole lot better. I sleep trained Owen (that’s a whole other blog post for another day) which meant I was slowly defeating the sleep deprivation beast. Owen started becoming mobile, so instead of sitting on the couch or floor with him literally all day long, it finally made sense for me to be active and to start moving. And lastly, I gave myself some time and grace. Taking care of yourself doesn’t mean hitting the gym super hard while you have a newborn baby at home. Be patient with yourself and give yourself time.
If you are reading this and you are a mother who is struggling with loving, accepting, and appreciating your postpartum body, please know that you are not alone. So many women are experiencing this with you, but also remember that while you are obsessing over getting your body back right away, you are also missing out on some of the sweetest, most worth-while memories. Although they feel like they drag on, the newborn days and the infantile moments go by so, so fast. Already, my 1 year old son is showing signs of independence that make me proud but break my heart all at the same time. Looking back, although I hated my squishy postpartum body at the time, I love what it represents. 4th trimester me symbolizes a new mom who knew absolutely NOTHING about raising a baby. 20 pounds heavier reminds me of the sleepless nights, the crazy schedule, the permanent spot on the couch, the struggles with breastfeeding, and the only time in Owen’s life when he needed 100% of me 100% of the time.
So be easier on yourself, postpartum mama!
(And besides, even if you DO get your pre-baby body back you can’t reverse the pants peeing, so really nobody is winning here.) just kidding… sort of.