People always tell you that “nothing is the same” once you have children…but it is impossible to grasp the depths of this until you actually have children in your lives. Sure, adjusting to less sleep is crazy. Tracking the eating and pooping schedule of a tiny person is insane. Realizing that you are actually in charge of another human being alters your entire mindset. But then…there’s your body…your forever changed body that has been through some seriously wacky expansion and contraction. Well meaning people will always say, “don’t worry, you’ll bounce back” or “just chasing children around takes the weight off!” And let’s not forget, “breastfeeding burns mad calories!” Ummmm…thanks, but NONE of these were true for me.
After gaining 65 pounds with my first baby, I did NO bouncing back and breastfeeding did nothing for burning my calories. I struggled intensely with adjusting to life with a baby and losing weight was not on my list of things to do. Maintaining enough energy to keep one foot in front of the other was first and foremost. I continued to wear my baggy maternity clothes and bought bigger clothes to hide my postpartum-ness. If you are looking for blousey tops that flow in just the right places, come to my closet. This has been my state of being since 2010.
Yes, I work out. I have worked out through every single pregnancy. Yes, I eat rather well. I really DO try, but my body is just not the same after kids. It almost feels foreign to me the way that things have changed. I have had three babies and am currently 21 months postpartum (yes, I still consider myself postpartum…I might always feel postpartum at the rate I am going). I am still a work in progress. Learning to accept myself is ongoing struggle.
It’s the not the size of the clothes I wear that matters. It’s the fact that I have roughly 6 separate wardrobes: pre-baby, 1st maternity, 1st postpartum, 2nd postpartum, 3rd maternity (because, yes, I got even bigger and most of my 1st maternity collection was now too small!), and 3rd postpartum…I have so many sizes in my closet, it’s no wonder that I have an internal body identity crisis! Half of my clothes are ill-fitting, but then again, what runway am I working? I’ve decided that if I can feel good about myself, then I look good. If it means ordering three different sizes online because I don’t have a clue which one I am, and sending back what doesn’t work, then that’s what must be done. It sure beats going into a store and lugging too many things (and children) into the changing room under fluorescent lighting.
It’s not the numbers on the scale. It’s the fact that everything just feels different. The obvious parts are different: boobs and belly. But I swear my shoulders are broader…how can that happen from pregnancy? I’ll blame five years of carrying increasingly heavy children. My thighs cannot be tamed. Where did they come from? I’m pretty excited that legging season is back, that’s no joke. And my hands! What’s up with that?! After two years of not being able to wear my rings, I finally threw in the towel and had them re-sized bigger so that I could look married in public again. That one little step helped my self esteem immensely! Some days I feel better about myself than others, and working out or doing something physical definitely leads to feeling better about myself, but seeing the numbers on the scale go nowhere sure can be depressing.
Hello new physical limitations! Through the luck of the draw, I ended up with horribly split abs and I’ve been in rehab for over a year. It’s hard to stay positive through the process of healing. I’m an impatient person and don’t care much for the slow boat. But that’s what I am on and I have three pairs of adorable eyes watching how I navigate my struggle.
I’m still in the picture. There are hundreds of pictures of me with my children that I would love to delete because of how chubby I look, but I keep them because those pictures capture a moment in time with my beautiful children. Yup, those pictures go in the photo album. If anything, those pictures show me how far I have come in my postpartum journey and encourage me to be proud of my accomplishments. I have pushed out three babies. I have loved them and attended to their every need, often putting their needs before my own. They are the reason that I am “Mommy.” Nope, I won’t be kept out of the family album because I feel bad about my body.
Everyone has a different path to becoming a parent. But ALL of us suffer the physical changes of being a parent. I’m tired of celebrities making it look so easy. They are able to “bounce back” because they are paid to do so, their career actually depends on it. Plus, they have personal trainers, nutrition experts, stylists and make-up artists all working together to make a fabulous product. Me? I have my fellow moms to lean on for support, a double jogging stroller, some weights in the garage and three beautiful children who think that I am amazing. I think I’m pretty amazing too, but I’m still a work in progress.
How have you learned to accept your new self after becoming a parent?