Almost two years ago I gave birth to a nine-pound baby person. While pregnant, I read everything I could, not just about how babies grow and what stuff not to do to fuck them up, but also about what would happen to my body. Obvs, I knew I'd gain some weight and would need to eat "crazy combos" like bananas and Doritos, but I also wondered what my body would feel and look like after the baby, how much I would care, whether it would ever seem or be the same, and if I would ever enjoy bouncing again.
Getting a reliable answer from The Coven, the name I've given the collective sum of websites geared specifically toward telling women what to expect about their babies and bodies, on the question "how long to lose baby weight" is about as easy as trying to solve Goldbach's conjecture. In other words, for every website that mentions the Sisyphean struggle that is returning the body to its unwrecked form, there is also the anecdotal (and celebrity) evidence that some women simply "snap back" into place in no time, like an accidentally disjointed Barbie. Actually, I see these latter types all the time in Los Angeles, and they are every bit as bewildering as you would expect.
Probably like most people, I found myself falling somewhere in between on the Frump Spectrum. I knew these changes were and are something I consider a rite of passage of becoming a mother; however, I'm still me (right? RIGHT!?!?!). Not wanting to be so completely defined by motherhood, I also knew I wasn't going to go yield in defeat to the "now my body feels like a comfy old pair of blue jeans" movement either.
Let the record show that the bodily changes that come with motherhood aren't bad in and of themselves — the wider hips, the more pronounced curves that (for some women) accompany pregnancy and the postpartum body are part of the Great Feminine Allure, a silhouette of triumph that marks a transition into maturity. But the concept is one thing; how it feels to inhabit your own body and undergo The Great Expansion helplessly is quite another.
After a while, you start to think of this business a bit like a house fire — shit's definitely getting damaged, and all you can save is whatever most valuable items you can get your hands on fastest. Just remember: You're really fucking tired, so that makes you the slowest-moving grabber of burning things on earth.
Also, one woman's happily bigger cup size is another's sagging bust line. For me, it's been a chore just figuring out what to gracefully relinquish and what to vigilantly guard. If I had more sleep, I bet I could definitely tell you.
But 20 months later, I can offer this State of the Postpartum Union report:
If I have to pee more than just a little, and I sneeze really hard, pee comes out (not out of my nose, I mean). I think I can do those exercises if someone would just remind me to do them instead of or I guess while I am playing Words with Friends. Is there an app for that? Words With Friends Plus Kegel Reminder?
As I've written about before, I gained 50-something little pounds during pregnancy. I left the hospital 20-something lighter — I wasn't kidding about all the fluids — and 20 months later, I've still got 15 of these puppies on the docket. It's also worth noting that I haven't done so much as five minutes of INTENTIONAL exercise since the baby was born.
I finally "pretty much" stopped wearing maternity clothes a few months ago, but I still refuse to buy anything "real" to wear until I figure out what my "actual size" will be. Yes, that means I will only buy clothes from cheap, fast-fashion mecca H&M, where maintaining illusions has never been more affordable, until further notice. You know what I always say: a woman can never have too many big long shapeless black V-neck sweaters for $14.95 to wear over big long shapeless black A-line skirts for $12.95.
It's no longer a pain in the ass for the most part, as we're down to only one or two feedings a day during the weaning process, but anecdotal research tells me that for some women, this is why the weight actually stays on. Some women breastfeed and watch the pounds fall faster than Loutallica's cred, while others, such as myself, seem to have decided that it's time to hibernate for the winter of my life.
A friend who is a women's health nurse practitioner told me that she often tells her patients this analogy for explaining the difference in their vagina before and after childbirth: It's like a car that you wrecked, and you take it into to the shop to get fixed, and you get it back, and it looks the same as before and it seems to drive the same as before, but something about it just feels different. At first, I thought she was INSANE when she told me this analogy and I wondered why people weren't slapping her with a speculum after hearing this horrifying news.
But bitch was right! For the first year of the baby's life that analogy was exactly correct. I'm happy to report that this wrecked-but-repaired car feeling has basically faded. Meaning, all systems are go, and I no longer think about steel cubes when having intercourse, and in fact have better sex than ever before. Every once in a while there will be a position that just suddenly feels like something is being put up fast on a high corner shelf you didn't even know was there, and yes, of course I realize how ridiculous this sounds when written out in sentence form.
When I was pregnant I remember thinking that it was awesome that I didn't have any stretch marks at all even though I'm super pale, and I had read that some women just don't get them and it's totally genetic and they're just lucky, and I was like, "Huh, guess I'm just lucky!" and then I had the baby and everything kinda shifted around and I realized I had super severe totally forever stretch marks all over. Online it says these will "fade over time," which I took to mean a few months, but apparently means, "over multiple lifetimes that are not yours." I applied some creams and stuff, but then I forgot to anymore. Guess I'll just have to get that zebra print bikini and hope no one can tell the diff.
I now wear a size 11 and I hate it. I was totally fine with a 10, which in a certain West Coast glare can still be cute, but now I'm Clompy McClomp Foot in a zebra printed bikini.
I give it all a solid B-minus. It's nothing I lose sleep over, especially because I don't have any other sleep to lose. But mostly I can't complain much since I've made literally no effort whatsoever — just like high school. But I plan on starting to care right away, and if I'm not totally perfect again by the kid's 2nd birthday, I want my money back.
Tracy Moore is a writer living in Los Angeles who figures smelling like pee is just her maternal cross to bear.
Image via Suzi Nelson/Shutterstock.