Before I had my daughter, I used to worry about, “How am I going to look after being pregnant?” It might not help that as you get further along, people begin to tell you how gigantic you are. Why on earth anyone thinks this is ok is beyond me. The more they say it, especially early on, the more I worried about how I would ever look normal again.
I read all the books, assuring me that although right after delivery I would still look pregnant, it wouldn’t stay that way for long. Other moms reassure you by saying that they simply snapped back into shape a week post partum, regardless of exercise and what they ate. So you begin to believe that the bag of Doritos, a box of pink frosted cookies, a small carton of ice cream and fettuccine alfredo won’t have any affect on losing the extra weight. I told myself, “It’s better that I gain a few extra pounds - for the baby,” or “I’m eating this so the baby can have a variety of tastes,” and “It’s not like I eat a pan of brownies every night.” Although just because the batter never made it in the oven doesn’t mean it wasn’t a whole pan of brownies.
I heard this a lot - “You spend most of your life on a diet - pregnancy is the one time you can let go and give into those cravings without feeling guilty.” I didn’t have to worry about that for the majority of my pregnancy, I had morning sickness from 6-37 weeks until I had my daughter. So I ate because it made my stomach less queasy, not because I really craved anything.
Exercise was another matter. I hate exercising. I‘d lost 15 lbs before getting pregnant and wanted a break. At 31 weeks I got put on bed rest for preterm labor, and I (sadly) remember thinking, “Sweet, now I really don’t have to exercise.” So it was like all the guilt I had about it went out the window. I got permission, by a real doctor, to lay on my couch all day. Was it boring? Yes. Was it worth it to not even think about turning on the prenatal yoga DVD and die trying to bend into poses no pregnant woman could get into? Yes. Those last 6 weeks were some of my biggest weight gaining weeks. By that point I was so huge and uncomfortable anyway, I didn’t care.
The day after giving birth, I went in my hospital bathroom to take a shower and to survey the damage. I remember standing there on the cold tile, no one else around, taking one look at my stomach in the mirror and bursting into tears. I still looked 7 months pregnant. I wanted to call the nurse and have her check to make sure they got everyone out in there, because I was sure we had a twin they’d forgotten about.
That wasn’t the worst part. After my stomach started to look like a very slowly deflating balloon, I noticed that somehow my stretch marks had gotten uglier - it was like they became un-stretchy and saggy and just plain sad. In fact, re-stretching them made them look normal again.
Nothing fit. I was shocked to come home and find I still had to wear maternity clothes. Luckily that only lasted for about 2 weeks, then I found I could fit into my “plump” clothing again. I didn’t ever think I’d be pleased about that as much as I was. It was a hard thing to get used to not looking completely normal again.
I haven’t learned to love my new body, and I want to work at getting back into shape again, but I have learned to accept it for now, and in some ways hold it in awe. It made a child. I carried my daughter safely and I know the marks I bear because of it are, in some ways, badges of honor. So when I struggle with my jeans (get into them damp, they stretch easier) or make sure I look the other way while putting on a top near a mirror, I know that I’m in a large group of moms who feel the same way.
So I wear a Bella Band and a size up from what I used to with a deep down twinge of pride. Yes, part of my “something extra” comes from a few too many cupcakes, but most of it comes from becoming a Momma. I’d never change that, not for anyone’s body.