Try this experiment, new moms everywhere: Go into the bathroom, position yourself in front of the mirror, and give yourself your biggest, brightest, most enthusiastic smile and thumbs up with the best posture you can muster. If that sends wincing grandma pains through your back, head, shoulders, vagina, and left kidney, you are an old sack of potatoes tumbling down the hill of life. Sure, you've got a precious baby, but note that, unlike you, the baby has perfect skin that doesn't need to be dipped in butter to not look crepe-y.
I can't figure out exactly when it happened, I just know that one day I was still a twenty-something go-getter, mentally and physically ready for the challenges of sitting around all day and going to bars at night, and the next day I was a ragged-out potato-sack tumbler carrying a very heavy tote, with a newly flat ass backing up the rear. One day I was a human woman, and the next day I was Nick Nolte in mom jeans. One day I was a regular looking twenty-something female, and the next day it was as if my head had been sculpted out of granola and now found itself sitting on top of a bag of oddly shaped yams.
Not that anyone I knew would have called me "fresh" or "invigorated" in the first place — I'm pretty sure I picked up the pace for exactly nothing and no one — but I don't think they would have used the now-apt description "ashen, hunchy blob."
Pro tip: Have a baby in your 20s while you can still bounce back. I know, I know, march me into the streets, tar and feather me, and set me fire, I have said the opposite thing of the thing you're supposed to say. It's certainly not true for all women, and the Internet proves that, unlike me, tons of (dubiously human) women all up in their forties can be those sorts of people who move around and stuff and therefore bounce right back from a baby. But my people! If you're one of me! If you are a sitting, talking person and you wait till your thirties to have a baby you might just end up feeling a little bit like sack of rusty mufflers left outside in the harsh desert sun. OK, light 'er up.
Pro tip number two: Don't look at old photos of yourself from right before you had your baby until you are significantly older than that, so as to find the pictures "a real gas." I made the darling mistake of flipping through some 2009 pics of right before I got pregnant too recently, and I thought, whoa, in a dark, smoky bar around people with questionable eyesight, I could still pass for 29. I was so fresh! So 32! So alive! Then I walked past the mirror and cringed when I saw someone wheeling in some old broad for a visit from the nursing home. You think it hurts to smile? It hurts to live!
Sure, somewhere in there, I grew an extra organ and produced a person and pushed it out, exerting more effort than I ever had trying to get a CD case open. But this wasn't what I expected what no discernible post-baby effort would look like. I thought it would just like old me, only tired. But this isn't tired. It's like South Park bus driver Veronica Crabtree — dum-dum-dum! — even when I brush my hair. It's like someone mummified your face but you're still alive, but you have a mummy face? It's like someone took your normal day face and ran it through the hangover sad-o-matic and your nighttime face doesn't even cover it up. Sometimes, with two large cups of coffee, I can appear as though I might have slept three days ago, but still forgot to shower.
Sure, in the intervening two years since that whole baby CD effort, I've lost an obscene amount of sleep and probably some important fluids and essential amino acids, and then there was the period where I subsisted entirely on meatloaf, but that never made me look like a hag before? And it can't be the meatloaf that made my ass so flat. Meatloaf is an ass-booster if there ever was one, amirite ladies?
Seriously, I know it gets wider (not the meatloaf, the mom butt), but why flatter? The baby doesn't come out of your butt, contrary to my own exact previous statements. Is it all the sitting? Am I just an old, droopy flat butt because of age, or is this my baby's fault, and how soon I can I use it against her?
I think it must be the following combination of experiences that have created this Crankenstein: All the stooping, all the awkward neck craning to get the kid to take a nap, all the fast jerky head motions to catch choking hazards, all the weird reaching to the back seat with one hand while driving a stick shift, to say nothing of the various and sundry routine pummelings, kicks, and times the baby has decided to body slam me for laughs. Always, always a riot.
I decided to ask my nurse friend who was on chat if she could help me make sense of this national tragedy of prematurely aging rusty mufflers who are too tired to do anything.
Me: Hey, can I ask you something? Why is it that when a woman has a baby her ass has to get extremely flat? How does that work into the biological changes?
Her: Ha, I have never heard that. Maybe the fat is used for breast milk?
Me: You know what a mom butt looks like though, right? It's wide and flat.
Her: I just assumed it was from age and jeans.
Me: Or is it just an old butt?
Her: Yeah, probs. Squats? Stairmaster? Pilates?
Me: I prefer depressionless effort: everyone wins.
Me:Ok, so why do people suddenly look so old after they have a baby? Is it just the lack of sleep?
Her:Ha. Exhaustion, duh. Malnutrition, no time for exercise.
Me: But are you really older or after you get the sleep and stuff, if things improve, you won't be such a hag?
Her: Yeah I think it gets better, but then you are literally older, so that doesn't help.
Frowny town! She sent me off with a regimen of getting the fuck off my ass and getting some sunlight. Thank you, Dr. Quinn Who Hasn't Had a Baby Yet. If you should ever need any advice on how to put no effort into yourself after you have a baby, I'm here. I'll look very much like the sack of rusty mufflers in the corner doing nothing.
Tracy Moore is a sitting, talking writer person living in Los Angeles who is into sitting, talking.
Image via Horst Petzold/Shutterstock