Wednesday, February 13, 2019


The verdict is given at the six-week appointment: Are you back to normal? Your normal, not Gisele's, but both may seem similarly implausible. Six weeks is when - at least if you're nursing - your uterus is supposed to have shrunk down to its original size. This is a giant unspoken euphemism for: if you still look pregnant at that point, it's the pregnancy-exacerbated addiction to salt-and-pepper potato chips, but not pregnancy itself. (Or just... pregnancy more generally, which involves more than an expanded uterus? But anyway.)

The personal: It has been 10 weeks and while I feel a bunch more with-it than I did, say, 5 weeks ago, I still look... not just bigger than pre-pregnancy, but somewhat pregnant. I had and hadn't expected this. All bodies are different, so there's no actual answer to how permanent this and all other bodily changes might be.

There's all sorts of empowering language about this online: You just created and birthed a whole new human being! Be easy on yourself! Which, sure. But then there's life in the clothes limbo where the maternity clothes are excessive (or just too dreary to keep wearing), but all pre-pregnancy clothes - pants at least - seem like they belong to a small doll of some kind, so little of your current body would they possibly contain. (Admittedly this was the case with those black Levis from the get-go. What was I thinking there?)

And then this is all paired with the not-vanity physical aspects of recovering from childbirth - as much as a line can even be drawn.

And if it's winter in Canada, and your preferred form of exercise is jogging, and the only gym nearby costs $180 a month and that's with a discount, getting back (?) in shape - at whatever size - is a challenge.

What I've found, maybe of use to others, maybe not:

-Move more, but don't diet. This is essential if nursing but probably the way to go regardless. So I'm forcing myself to jog, a bit, despite the terrible weather. (High school winter track, in an only slightly less-cold climate, was good preparation.) Also to do many dog-walks I might otherwise pass off to spouse or dog-walker. But apart from trying harder to remember that vegetables exist (even in winter, in Canada) and staying away from potato chips, I'm not changing how I eat.

There are practical aspects to this choice as well as values-ish ones. Practical being, having a newborn means scarfing down something, and quickly, when time permits. (I have not turned into a different person, so there are not casseroles or bean soups going into my freezer on Sunday nights. But now is not the moment for the David Tanis recipe where use of foraged asparagus is encouraged.) Values more like, I have a daughter, one who for better or worse will not be coming of age on the Upper East Side in the 1990s. Worse perhaps global-politics-wise but in terms of having the option of avoiding thinness-is-everything culture, better, I hope?

It can hard if you grew up in that culture to look at your newly-very-pudgy waistline and not think, this is a problem something must be done about. So I sort of allow myself to think this, but then remind myself that whatever the build is that results from eating normal food and getting some exercise is the one I'm best off having.

-'Invest' in jeans in the size you actually are. Just do it, don't overthink. I resisted doing so at first, both because I believed (correctly) that my build at 3 weeks postpartum or whatever would not continue, and because I figured (incorrectly!) I'd be fine alternating between sweats and leggings indefinitely. Turns out, it does wonders for a sense of normalcy, of resumption of life outside a postpartum haze, to put on some pants - yes, with stretch - that have a zipper.

But... get nice jeans. I don't necessarily mean $200 (a road I personally have yet to go down, now or otherwise), just ones that you genuinely like, and that don't feel temporary. Because who knows! They very well might not be temporary, and you don't want to be aiming for size goals rather than in-shape-ness ones all because you're sick of wearing crummy jeans in your 'just for now' size. I ordered two pairs from Everlane - one in black, inspired by Andréa in "Call My Agent!", and another in dark denim inspired by my need for a pair of regular jeans that can close around the waist - that are so nice that this will be the silver lining if I wind up having to get rid of all my previous pants.

-In-person clothes-shopping is not going to happen. Certainly not if you're carrying your baby in a carrier, or exclusively nursing (which in my experience means you never have more than 2 hours apart from baby, and get antsy after 30 minutes). Or if it does, don't expect to try anything on in the store. Normally I don't do online shopping. I have gotten over this.

-Accessories, always the obvious choice when clothes are for whatever reason complicated. But shoes are tricky because walking around with a baby (in winter, at least) is limiting style-wise even to those who don't normally wear anything all that impractical. (Got a pair of Blundstone boots in the third trimester and am trying to remember that I own other shoes, but the traction they provide on the perma-ice outside is making this difficult.) Bags, same - whatever it is will need to fit some baby-stuff, if not necessarily nearly as much as diaper bags suggest. But I ordered myself a bracelet (this, from Shlomit Ofir), which just arrived, and now feel massively more elegant. Have painted my nails red to go with. And the velvet scrunchies I bought in my last third-trimester outing-of-sorts (tacked onto a trip to the dentist) do liven up a sweatpants look.


Miss Self-Important said...

I've never heard of a rule about 6 wks being the baseline for returning to pre-pregnancy weight, even with nursing. Everyone, including my OB, had always just told me it varies or may never happen.

Also, just wait until you meet your new unexpected friend named "postpartum hair loss."

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

Ohhh not pre-pregnancy weight, just pre-pregnancy uterus, which, in turn, means whatever's going on is... no longer your expanded uterus. I heard 9 months or maybe never for weight itself. That said, I think I'd expected to have lost more weight early on, considering the new lifestyle doesn't allow enough opportunities to eat. (Granted when it has, I've eaten more donuts and potato chips than maybe ideal.)

And alas this one is expected (and has possibly begun?) - ducked out and got the shorter haircut in anticipation of further shedding. Here I'm a bit less concerned because my usual hair is poufier than I know what to do with, but if it gets more dramatic I'll revisit this.

Monica said...

6 weeks may be back to my old uterus but it's also when I was diagnosed with diastasis recti so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ as far as stomach flatness, sigh.

Phoebe Maltz Bovy said...

This diastasis recti thing remains a mystery - they didn't check for it at the obgyn but best as I can tell, it's both a condition in its own right and a normal consequence of pregnancy. (I'm supposed to do these ab exercises I learned about via physiotherapy but I don't think I have the arm strength to stay in that position long enough to do them!)

Maya Resnikoff said...

I was told it takes your body a year (a Year) to be fully back to its pre-pregnancy state, when it comes to the assorted effects of pregnancy- one of which is the so called "maternal stores", aka some extra weight. I've definitely seen friends who continue to look a bit pregnant in shape for several months post-birth, and yet do eventually return to a less pregnant sort of shape over time. (I have no idea about my own body, I'm not a great judge there- also, we lack a full-length mirror.)

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