Sunday, January 3, 2010

8 months post-pregnancy body: Selfish mom and thoughts on the new belly

Okay, so once the baby is born, it's all about the baby, right?  Those mothering hormones kick in--we eat the burnt toast and give our kids the good piece, we wrap our toddler up in our own coat after he drops his in a puddle, we lift cars with our bare hands to rescue our child from beneath...Yes, this is true.  Really.  It is amazing how priorities change, how that fierce "protect my cub at all costs" instinct really does dictate actions, and how we would literally give up our lives in a heartbeat for our offspring.


Don't my posts always have a nice healthy does of "however"s?

We're still human, we're still women, and we still remember (even if not on the forefront of our butternut squash purreed minds) what it was like to focus on ourselves.  And hopefully, if we have a great support network, we can still find time to do a few little things for ourselves--whether it's a nice bubble bath, a pedicure, a movie with a friend, a private walk with a coconut milk bubble tea.

And time to ourselves means we can think more.  One of my friends (a new mom in the Spring 09 onslaught of babies) recently emailed about how her baby is still a great sleeper.  For her, this is good and bad.  She writes, "I've been getting so much sleep, that I've started waking up with anxiety again, which wasn't a problem for the first few sleep-deprived months."

So sleep jealousy aside (and yes, Thank God, my baby is sleeping well at night now--I, on the other hand, still am not), she emphasizes this good point.  The more time we have to think, the more our brains can start running circles around themselves.

Which brings me to my self-centered body-image post.

Okay.  So let me start by saying, this isn't a pity-me-I'm-so-fat-afterhavingmybaby-post.  I'm not fat and I am not even technically overweight. But my body is not the same as it was, and selfishly perhaps, I have the right to wonder when it will be, and be a tad impatient until it is.

While pregnant, I gained a healthy 25 pounds.  I was pretty much all belly, and was delighted with my shape (as you can probably guess by all my exhibitionist weekly belly shots).  At my 6 week postpartum appointment, I had lost 21 pounds.  I went back to my OB at 8 weeks post-baby for an annual exam and had lost 23 pounds.  Not bad, right?  This was great!  When I went to a party at 5 weeks postpartum, people exclaimed at how I could have just had a baby.  Another party at 2 months, a cousin said, "Where'd you have your baby? From your head?"  (Thanks, Kat!)  I was happy.  I was wearing a bikini at the pool, I escaped pregnancy stretch-mark free, and I didn't mind that my stomach wasn't entirely flat because, hey, I'd just had a baby 1 month ago. Or 2 months ago. Or 3, or 4 or 5 months ago...

And now, 8 months has come.  And my body is still not back to its old taut self--in fact, I can't even say that I've kept that initial weight loss entirely.  Many friends around me who've had babies during the boom seem back to their pre-pregnancy shapes.  One of my friends whose baby experienced allergies from nursing went on a strict pear, turkey, sweet potato diet and within a month had that wonderful flat belly again.  So what seemed awesome for a 2-month post-baby body now seems a bit lagging for 8-months postpartum.

A few days ago, after a wonderful Christmas of homemade cookies and chex mix, I decide it's time to buy a scale.  We have had a scale before, but bought and moved into a fixer-upper house this fall, and since the renovations (which were supposed to be completed before we moved in two months ago) is far from being done, most of our items are still in boxes. Not a fun way to be living with a baby who is crawling and taking a few baby steps on his own already--but we are managing.  So at this clearly necessary time, I buy a scale.  A "Biggest Loser" scale to top it off.  Goes up to 400 pounds.  Great.

And wow. I remember why I don't usually have scales accessible.  Every time I step into that bathroom, I am weighing myself.  I weigh 2 pounds lighter in the morning than I do the night before.  My clothes add 2 1/2 pounds.  I weigh 5 oz more after drinking some water, 6 oz less aftering peeing, 1.8 pounds more after chinese food, 7 oz less after brushing my hair, 3 oz more after doing weight fluctuates 5 pounds in one day...and it goes on and on...

Perhaps this scale is in a too convenient spot...

Okay, in all seriousness, the novelty will soon wear off the scale and I'll use it occasionally.  And numbers aside, it's my stomach that I'm really unnerved about.  Even after 8 months, it does not feel like my stomach.  When I first had my baby, in the hospital, I remember lying on the bed and touching the skin on my belly and telling Mike, "this doesn't feel like my body.  When I touch it, it feels weird. Like it's just skin, but not hitting my muscles, which is what makes it feel like it's me..."

And in fact, it was just skin not touching my muscles--because my muscles were all stretched out and not flush to my skin as they had been pre-pregnancy.  Eight months later, my muscles are back and yes, I can feel them, but they are still separated and do not feel like they are mine.  One of my yoga teacher friends felt my stomach and said she'd felt far more separated muscles on other women, and that mine weren't that bad.  Perhaps, and for that, I am grateful. But they are still no where near what they used to be. I never even understood how they could be separated before, and my muscle-memory-perception of my normal stomach still expects them to be tight, so I am constantly feeling at a loss when I touch my abdomen.

Before I reiterate how I am not pleased with my body, I should point out, my loved ones have been nothing but supportive.  Mike is constantly telling me how beautiful I am and that he is completely happy with my body.  Strangers and acquaintances compliment me, and my new mom friends encourage me with positive reinforcement, but validation to my feelings of dissatisfaction. 

But now I reiterate.  I am not pleased with my body.  The shape of my stomach still reminds me of my expanded uterus and while that's cute when I'm pregnant, it is not so much anymore.  So as we are a few days into 2010, perhaps if I make this blog-public, I will start to get more serious about doing my best to make my body into a semblance of what it once was.

When I went to the beach with a few friends the month I got pregnant (July 08), one friend told me, "Don't let that baby of yours ruin your great abs."  Okay, he's a dark-humor playwright friend of mine and he's gay so he can get away with saying that, but yes, evin, I remember that warning.  And at the time, I thought there was no way my pregnancy would change my abs forever. I was totally confident that within a few months, I'd be back to my pre-pregnancy shape.  And I wouldn't even have to work hard at it.  I've always been lucky to have a body that responds well to little training, but...not that well anymore.  So I have to do what they say in reality shows and "step it up."  While D is playing his keyboard on his play mat, I'll be next to him doing my crunches and leg lifts and all that jazz.  And my husband pulled out the eliptical machine amidst the chaos that we live in, and even put a light in that dark storagey room the machine resides in, so with a baby who goes to bed by 7:30 every night, there are no more excuses.  Well, there are a lot of excuses, but I'll try not to let them get in the way.

And I'll end on this final note: That while I am a somewhat self-centered mom who does still tie a bit of happiness to my superficial body, everyone is 100% right when they say you wouldn't trade anything for your baby. I mean, this is obvious, of course, but to those pregnant women reading this and who might be thinking, "Man, will I ever get my body back?  Will it be this hard for me, like it has been for Tara?"  First of all, who knows.  Maybe, maybe not.  But secondly, there is a bit of "who cares" in that too.  The thing is, you do care, but then again, you really don't care that much.  Unless you're one of the girls on ANTM or Make Me a Supermodel who is modeling 1 year post-baby, most of the time, you are thinking about that adorable cuddle-bundle who stretches his arms out to you and says "MomMom," or who slobber kisses you with his mouth and tongue all over your face, or who refuses to let go of his spoon with a playful grin on his face until you beg him to giggles and he graciously places it in your hand...

Your baby is just so much fun and you love him so incredibly much...and you really do keep believing that some day, you will get your old body back...and if you don't...well...with all those crunches your little one keeps doing to sit himself up while you're trying to change least you know your baby has abs of steel.  And isn't it all about passing along the genes anyway?

You're still a very happy mommy.