4 Truths About Our Post-Baby Bodies

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after-baby-bodyImage via Shutterstock

It’s 7:47 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I’m hustling to get a spot in my very popular 8 a.m. step class. The usual crowd is made up of mostly women in their mid- to late-30s through their early 50s. However, this morning I find myself striding through the doors of my upscale suburban gym behind two young, first-time moms. Here’s what I overhear:

“You look amazing. You’re so thin,” says Mom #1 to Mom #2. Both are carrying very adorable children under a year old.

Mom #2 grimaces. “Oh, no. I’m still a few pounds heavier than I was before Charlie.”

I look at this woman. She is, without question, thin. As a body conscious mom of three, life-long exerciser and current Jawbone UP addict, I think I’m a decent judge on this score.

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” says Mom #1. “I still can’t run as many miles as I used to before Chloe and it’s so hard to keep the weight off. I just don’t want to give up my wine.”

You go girl. Do not give up the wine. Meanwhile, this woman is even skinnier than her friend.

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I get it. After the initial shock of bringing home baby fades and you’ve settled into the whole motherhood thing, you turn your laser beam focus on “getting your body back.” Somehow, even though we know that life will never be the same, we expect our bodies to be.

I watch the women head towards childcare, knowing exactly how they feel. Here’s what I want to tell them:

1. You will never look the same again. Your body has changed. Forever. Even if you get back to your pre-baby weight, those pounds will be in all kinds of different places. The terrain has shifted and stretched, drooped in the most inconvenient spots and plumped up in others. For me, some bits feel worse than others: the way the bottom of my bum hangs out of my bathing suit; the new fold of skin at my knees from carrying all that extra weight for nine months (times three); my sagging belly button. Other parts emerge more beautiful than they were before: the curve of a hip; more pronounced cheekbones; lush, hormone-infused hair.

2. Your body will not function like it once did. Not only is the way your body looks irrevocably changed, but the way it works is too. I probably won’t ever be able to run five miles again without feeling that painful tweak in my right hip. A totally flat belly may be a thing of the past, no matter how many reverse curls I do in a day. I can’t do jumping jacks without squirting pee. Holding plank without pooching out my belly or hunching up my shoulders is forever a goal. Two and a half years after my third daughter arrived, I’m still figuring out what works and trying to let go of what doesn’t.

3. Instead, your body will do amazing things you never dreamed it could do. Your body will not fail you as you get up for the fourth time in the middle of the night to feed a hungry baby. You will be able to hold an infant or a 1-year-old or a toddler for ridiculously long periods of time — cuddling, soothing, shushing — and your biceps will grow strong and defined from it. Your core will tighten and hold you firmly in place as you lift your child from the crib or catch her as she jumps from the bed into your arms. I didn’t know how fast I could sprint until my toddler slipped from my grip and darted towards the parking lot. You will surprise yourself. Marvel over what you are capable of with this new mama body.

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4. Beauty is where you find it. The talk about post-pregnancy beauty is relentless. We get it: yes, our bodies have sagged and crinkled and jellied and no, that doesn’t mean we’re suddenly ugly, but we each catalogue those changes with varying degrees of self-acceptance. Our body-obsessed culture doesn’t help prepare us for our newly hewn post-baby bodies or feel good about them. The challenge is to blow all of that off and realize it’s not just our bodies that have changed. The way we view the world is different too. Beauty abounds in the most unexpected places, making the minor and mundane suddenly magnificent. I remember looking at my daughter’s impossibly long eyelashes as she slept thinking they were the most gorgeous things I’d ever seen. And who hasn’t called their new baby’s poop beautiful? The trick is to include yourself in this expanded version of beauty: the soft lines around your eyes, whether from smiling or lack of sleep, make you more interesting. Your rarely used singing voice now sounds sublime as you soothe your child to sleep. And that rounder booty? It’s hot. Period.

These are the truths about my post-baby body. Realistically, I still struggle over accepting the body I’m in and what it can and cannot do. I won’t deny being jealous of celebrity moms with their trainers and ready-made, low-calorie meals. I’m not psyched about my incredible shrinking bladder, my forever-sore lower back and the fact that I own a pair of Spanx.

Still, there’s no going back, so why waste time feeling bad about it? The choice that makes the most sense sanity-wise is to champion the mama body I’ve got and never, ever give up the wine.

Related post: Excuse Me, But Is That A Third Boob In My Armpit?

Excuse Me, But Is That A Third Boob In My Armpit?

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third-breast

The first pregnancy is always the most exciting. That’s not to say that other pregnancies aren’t full of wonder, but the first one is full of all things new. Every change is a new experience and the unknown helps add to the thrill of it all.  

I enjoyed that first pregnancy myself… that is, until i noticed a kiwi-sized lump growing in my armpit. The worst of scenarios raced through my mind. Did I have cancer? Was this a tumor? What the hell!?

Sitting in the office of the ultrasound technician, I stared at the monitor trying to figure out what she was seeing on that little screen.

“What is it?”

“All I can see is breast tissue. I’ll send the results to your doctor.”

I felt a sense of relief, no tumor, just breast tissue…in my armpit.  I had no idea why that would be, and my OB/GYN was actually of very little help in that department.  I was told it was just breast tissue, breasts swell during pregnancy, and that it should go back to normal after giving birth. This was a great theory but, after looking around, no other pregnant women seemed to be walking around with a kiwi in one pit!

Finally, a lactation consultant friend of mine told me it could be an extra mammary gland. This was confirmed in the hospital after I gave birth to my first son. A second lactation consultant came in to check on the nursing situation and I blurted out, “I think I have a third boob.” In the tradition of lactation consultants getting all up in your boob business,  she peeled back my hospital gown to examine the extra appendage.

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This lady had all the good intel; Apparently, your milk lines run from your armpit all the way down your abdomen (think a cat or a dog with a litter of puppies). You can be born with extra mammary glands or extra nipples anywhere along your milk line and, unless you have a visible nipple, you may not know it’s even there until your breasts swell during pregnancy. The consultant then proceeded to tell me that there was a woman in the hospital the day before with eight boobs! (I can hear the collective gasps through the computer.) I suddenly felt pretty happy just to have the extra ONE.  She then continued by saying that it would go away after nursing and that, because there was no visible nipple, it would dry up and shrink back to its former undetectable size.

But, here’s where she got it wrong: My milk finally came in for my first born, and while I was nursing him, I asked my husband if he’d turn up the air conditioning because I felt like I was sweating profusely. It was then that I  looked down to see that no, I wasn’t sweating, but what I thought had been the tiniest of brown freckles was instead a nipple that was currently dripping milk down into a puddle on my shirt. Yep, sign me up for the circus people! Not only do I have a third boob,  but it lactates.  Lac. Tates.

I had to nurse with a towel in my armpit, and while most nursing moms got to walk around with just absorbent breast pads in their bras,  I got to do that and wear a huge band-aid on my armpit.  Just so you’re all aware here, my son was born in June. Tank top weather. It was fabulous.

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Between baby one and two, I had the boob surgically removed. There’s still breast tissue in there and with each pregnancy, it swells up to say hello, but at least there isn’t a nipple. I’m fine with the third boob thing, just not the wet clothing every time I  need to nurse or hear a crying baby.

So, there you have it. I think the third boob can give everyone a brighter outlook on life and on their after-baby bodies. Your stomach may look like a venetian blind from the stretch marks you earned, or you may have skin that now somehow resembles an elephant’s trunk, but still, looking in the mirror at yourself you can always say, “at least it doesn’t lactate!”

So, here’s to you, third boob. Thanks for making most of the world feel a bit better about themselves… and for giving me a great story to tell. Cheers!

Never Had a Baby Body

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baby-body

I’ve decided we need a new word in the English language, or every language for that matter: “Never Had a Baby Body.” It’s one word, a noun, a pronoun, and an adjective and has to be written and said as one word. As soon as you say it, you have a vision in your mind. You know what I am talking about, bodies that resemble a thirteen-year-old boy more than a mommy. Anyone?

I thought of the term when one of my husband’s co-workers showed up at my house to drive with my man out to a town about four hours away to do some interviews. This female co-worker showed up at my house, freshly showered in a trim little outfit and her Never Had a Baby Body (noun), ready to spend the day with my hubby. What made it worse was that my youngest was just a couple of months old, I was still nursing, holding onto pregnancy weight, hadn’t showered and was sporting a maternity top because it was the only thing clean.

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Getting the picture? Never Had a Baby Body (pronoun) and my man left for the day and I decided it might be time to wash my hair for his big return that evening.

Then, a few weeks ago, I came across a picture of myself on my honeymoon. I couldn’t help but wonder, “Who’s the hot chick in a bikini with my husband?” Then I discovered it was just my Never Had a Baby Body (noun) and while it was smokin’ back then, it didn’t take any work to look like that so I don’t have much respect for my former hot self.

Now, when I see a mommy with an amazing body, I have the utmost admiration for her ability to force her body into submission to resemble a piece of its former self. Without an in-home chef, a mean personal trainer and a few extra doses of willpower, I’ll never resemble my Never Had a Baby Body (adjective) self.

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I’m okay with that. When it comes down to it, I have four kids that I wouldn’t trade for my Never Had a Baby Body (adjective) self and an amazing husband that likes the me the way I am.

I’ll take that over a Never Had a Baby Body (noun) any day.

10 Unrecognizable Post Baby Body Parts

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Having three kids has done a number on my body… and my life. From the giant elephant that used to be my vagina to the varicose vein that constantly gets snagged on the coffee table, there are countless parts of myself that I no longer recognize. The top ten…

Post-Baby-body

1. My Elephant. You might call yours a vagina, but I made the mistake of taking a hand mirror down there for some post-childbirth exploration, and all I saw was a giant, weary elephant looking back at me. Sometimes I have nightmares that he’s trying to eat me. On Mondays, I can hear him sighing in exhaustion.

2. My Legs. What I used to consider legs are now mountainous road maps that all seem to point to a nursing home. I snag my varicose vein on the coffee table multiple times a day. And don’t even get me started on the sexiness that oozes from my compression hose.

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3. My Life after 10 pm. I used to be doing my first shot at 10 pm. Now I feel like I’ve been shot at 10 pm. Going to bed before midnight used to make me nervous that I was missing out on something. Now I start to twitch if I’m not in bed by 11 pm – because I know someone will be waking me up at midnight, one, two, three, four and five.

4. My Stomach. I really don’t know why it’s called a muffin top. Muffins are delicious and make me smile. But the dough ball that continues to rise over the top of my pants is not delicious and it does not make me smile. But it does keep me from being able to look down and see my varicose vein, so I guess that’s a good thing.

5. My Ride. One word: Minivan Or is that two words? Before kids, I would have had time to look that shit up… and I would have cared about getting it right.

6. My Dry-Shriveled Carrots. AKA, my breasts. After three years of breastfeeding, I got so talented that I could swing one behind my head and pass it around the minivan for anyone that needed a snack. I just asked that it be passed back before anyone got out of the car. (I do have some standards.) Now that my breastfeeding days are over, my breasts have been replaced by dried out, shriveled up baby carrots.

7. My Right Eye. Am I the only person on earth to have one eye become larger than the other post childbirth? I have WebMD’d this issue countless times – but there appears to be no known disease to diagnose me with. All I know is that my face used to be somewhat symmetrical. After baby #3? Well, I don’t want to brag, but I have been invited to be the crazy-eyed freak at the circus.

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8. My Clothes. I was never all that put together in the first place, but I did used to leave the house every morning to go to a place called WORK. I owned high heels. And pants other than torn jeans and sweats. Now I just pray that no one near me dies, because I’d have absolutely nothing to wear to a funeral.

9. My Perineum. I didn’t even know I had a perineum until it was destroyed by three vaginal births. And apparently – I have a SHORT perineum – which means that I tore from hole to hole during each childbirth – resulting in a giant vasshole.  And giant vassholes produce a lot of sharts – trust me.

10. My Poop. I used to be on a very rigid schedule – 10 am every single morning – just after my 2nd cup of coffee and just before my morning snack. Post children, this type of rigid schedule is laughable. And apparently my giant vasshole only feels like working when I’m out in public with all three kids.

Why You Won’t Find Me At Babywearing Ballet

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Bv_5809CUAAgeWX Image via @ColoradoBallet

At the time of conception your body changes and there is nothing we can do about it. As the baby grows inside of you, you grow. You grow a lot. You are now someone’s house. Nobody wants to live in 700 square feet; why should your baby be any different? That little sucker wants to flourish. That little sucker wants it all, and he takes it all. Your nutrients, your energy, your brain. You give it up because you already love him. Pregnancy is your first motherly act; it’s not about you anymore and it will never be about you again.

This used to be okay; this used to be the norm. Mothers everywhere accepted the fact that they would never have a pre-pregnancy form again. Even if you are an athlete, even if you work your ass off. Things shift when you are pregnant, and some of those things are never going to find their way back to where they started.

But, then it happened.

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The media started flooding us with famous women who look “fabulous” after childbirth. Kate Hudson, Kourtney Kardashian… Snooki, for fucks sake… SNOOKI!! I mean, you gotta love her drunk swagger but homegirl didn’t look too hot before she had the baby. And now here they are, all hot and non-matronly looking, making the average mom (all the rest of us) feel like sub par pieces of shit. As if being the only source of everything for another human being wasn’t a daunting enough task, now we have to look great while doing it? Ugh. I’m so aggravated I could spit out my wine. But I won’t because… wine.

So, now we have entered the hamsters wheel. Round and round we go… Diet. Exercise. Beauty Products. Keratin Treatments. Green drinks. Raw Juice. Vegan. Paleo. Yoga. Weight Watchers. Jenny Craig.

I’m already exhausted just thinking about it.

After the birth of my second child, I took up running. It was difficult and boring all at the same time. I was never very good at it nor did I enjoy it much. I “trained” for 8 months, ran two 5Ks (okay, I’m lying, I walked most of the second one) and I stopped running as quickly as I took it up.

At the time, I chose to run because I felt that “need” to get into shape. I wanted to be a MILF. I mean, who doesn’t? With the media showing us motherly beauty at every corner I just wanted to feel skinny. I wanted to feel something other than tired and old. Running was ideal for me at the time because I couldn’t afford classes, a gym membership or a babysitter. I had to do something that I could do with my son.

What I saw today is what knocked me into this I-fucking-give-up laden tirade: Babywearing Ballet.

You’ve got to be kidding me.

I know some people are really into babywearing. I am not one of these people. When I wear my baby, it’s because I have too, not because I want to. It’s because he’s crying and fussy. He needs to be soothed and I only have two damn hands (and two other kids).

Yes, I need to get back in shape. I know it. It’s time. I’m big, and fat, and looked better when I was pregnant. I like food and booze way too much to do nothing. And no, carrying around my 19 pound 5-month-old doesn’t count as exercise. I wish it did.

I’m just slack-jawed over babywearing ballet. If a mom has the financial means to pay for an exercise class, lets just stop now into shaming her to involve her baby. Jesus, can’t Mom just have one damn hour to herself? 60 little minutes? Just an hour where you drop the kid in the daycare at the gym to go do your thing? Now we have to strap our baby to our chest because, “G-d forbid”, we do one thing that’s just for us?

I do have some mom friends that are in STELLAR shape. Amazing, beautiful, mind-blowing shape. They exercise and have a huge amount of discipline and time to look this way, but none of them are five months post-pregnancy. Their kids are school aged and they use that time to their advantage. I could be like that in three years. {wishful thinking}

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I’m troubled that the “bring-along-your-baby” fitness trend is the ultimate mom brainwash. Why would you pay $100 a month if it doesn’t include childcare? I won’t. I refuse. It’s batshitcrazy. We are told we need to look fit and young but we can’t have anytime to get it done on our own. “Here you go, look like a million bucks with a $20 budget.” That, my friends, is impossible. These famous new moms look like a million bucks because that’s what the going cost of beauty is nowadays.

I know what I can get for $20.

Tacos. I can get tacos.

Related post: 4 Truths About Our Post-Baby Bodies