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.

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.

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.

This piece was published in partnership with HuffPost Parents. Read more: A Polite Request For All The Second-Time Moms I Meet.

Comments

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    • 7

      Susie G says

      Same for me. I am 39. I had my son at 31 & the stress of a changed life alone had me enjoying running for the first time in my life. They continued after I had my daughter at 36 and haven’t stopped yet. I am healthier now than I ever have been.

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    • 9

      says

      Pls ladies tell me the secret. I have been working out like crazy and eating right, my weight and body is sure looking better but what about stretchy marks??? Though by body is slimming down to pre baby weight, those stretch marks are not going anywhere.

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          • 12

            Marcia says

            This article is true for most moms that were in good shape pre-pregnancy. If you were not in good shape, and you start to work out after baby more than you did before, you can definitely achieve a better body. Keep up the good work!

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      • 13

        jamie hackford says

        Honey you earned those stripe wear them proudly like the tigress that you are!! I have my fair share of them and I am proud of them because they brought me my children

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    • 16

      ScareTacticsSuck says

      These stories do a dis-service to young women considering having a baby. Your body may or MAY NOT change after having kids. The female body is designed to have babies! Why would it ‘ruin’ your body to do what it was designed to do? I’ve had FOUR babies & my body looks better than ever. I was a size 6 in high school & now I’m a size 2. I’m 5’7″. My stomach IS flat & tight. I have NO stretch marks anywhere, and the girlies are just as perky! (I have a proportional sized chest, so no heavy big boobs feeling the effects of gravity.) I even nursed all four kids for a year each! Prevention is the key!!! Eat right, exercise, drink lots of water, wear a good bra 24/7 while pregnant or nursing, do those kegels and you’ll be fine. You’ll be better than fine, you’ll be a mommy! If your body did experience some change, don’t give up. So much of it is lifestyle which you have the power to control. not always, but often.

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      • 17

        Krista says

        I eat 1300 calories a day and work out a few times a week. I have done this for years. I still look like a couch potato. Don’t make it sound like I haven’t worked hard or like I have chosen to eat crappy all the time. You have good genetics, I will need surgery to repair the damage to my body from carrying children. I have worked with doctors, physiotherapists, nutrition counselors, and no change. Good for you with your 4 kids and flat stomach. Your experience is NOT mine. This article does a great service to me. Your comment is a disservice to me.

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      • 18

        Kristen says

        It’s true, and not true. I lotioned up a lot, but I had a condition that made my belly swell with extra amniotic fluid the whole pregnancy. It suddenly jumped up in volume (more than its unusually high amount) at the beginning of the ninth month. I was devastated.. all that preparation and my belly still got marks..

        I have to say that Kegels are must regardless of what may happen during birth. Sometimes you tear, regardless of preparation. I, thankfully, do not deal with urinary issues even though I did have a small tear that required one stitch. I took care of that stitch with the water bottle, and refused to touch or be touched for the full six weeks until the postpartum check up.

        Although I did not gain any net weight from the pregnancy I was overweight before the pregnancy. I was horribly swollen, and lost 25 pounds of water from my body within a couple of weeks after birth… I now workout on a regular basis, and I feel better now than I did in high school.

        Point is: Take care of yourself… but also understand that shit happens. Your body can regain strength even if your skin will not look the same. The fat may not come off in the same pattern it did before the pregnancy, but it can come off if you want it to.

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        • 19

          Kristen says

          Frankly… I don’t think 1300 calories is enough calories.. but each body is different. I know that regardless of exercise and eating right if I am stressed I will not shed a pound. In fact, I will most likely gain three.

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    • 20

      Lara says

      Same! And I have worked my butt off to get it, and I think it is amazing! I am all for “self love” I really am, but some things do take time and a lot of hard work.. It is all in the eye of the beholder.

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  1. 28

    Samantha says

    I really loved this! My baby is 6 months and although I am close to my pre pregnancy weight my body is definitely different. My hips are wider and my thighs and butt are bigger. I am trying to embrace the new me but I am still very hard on myself most of the time. This post really hit home, thank you for putting into words the very things I’ve been feeling! :)

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  2. 31

    says

    @chelseahopson I’m glad to see you post that. I’ve only put on about 12 lbs and my baby weighs 7. I’m 2 weeks away from my due date and very optimistic about “bouncing back” … Until I read things like this. I always thought I was too skinny and the extra weight feels and looks awesome. I can’t wait to have some feminine curbs post partum!

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    • 32

      says

      Elena I was actually 30 lbs heavier as a teenager. I started running when I was 21 and have kept it up even through 3 pregnancies. Don’t get to run as much as I like these days, but running. After kids keeps me fit :)

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  3. 35

    says

    These articles make me happy I’m already overweight. Yeah I’d like to be healthier, but I’m glad I’m not going through stress over stretch marks and flab. I feel no need to rush to get my body back once this kid finally pops out of me.

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  4. 38

    says

    I’ve got a better body at 30yrs old and after two children then I did when I was a senior in high school. I worked hard for it and continue to do so. You can do anything if your mind, body and soul are in cahoots! :-)

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