To be completely honest, when Emmett was born, I was so exhausted and just trying to survive those first months that I didn’t pay much attention to my new body. It was still really cold, so I kept the sweatshirts on and decided I didn’t have the energy to pay any attention to my postpartum physique. At my postpartum checkup, I hopped on the scale that showed I still had about 10 pounds to lose to get back to my pre-baby weight. I thought to myself, hey, it could be worse, I’ll get there and honestly I’m not in any hurry. It took 9 months to make this baby, I shouldn’t be expected to bounce back in a few weeks. Then spring started to melt into summer, and I thought I deserved some new clothes. I was 10 weeks postpartum at the time and I carefully selected a few cute summer dresses that would likely suit my pre-baby style and my post-baby body and hit proceed to checkout. When the box arrived on my doorstep, my Grandma was here and my husband had just gotten home from a deployment. I optimistically told them I’d model my new outfits for them!
LOL. That’s not what happened.
I had ordered these dresses with visions of cute, Instagram worthy pictures of me in Cape Cod this summer with an adorable baby on my hip. I made sure to select more forgiving flowy summer styles and left the fitted numbers where they belonged—saved for later. The flowy floral number I was so excited about zipped up, and I thought to myself, “Hey, it zipped! That’s a good sign!”
But the woman that stared back at me in the mirror looked like a stranger to me. She looked so tired. I could see the anxiety around her eyes, and she clearly shouldn’t be wearing anything relatively low cut or that doesn’t have an elastic waist. I think what really hit me was my breasts. I don’t use the word breasts, so I’ll call them what I normally call them; boobs. The dress was lower cut, and guess what else was lower? My freakin’ boobs. Before baby I never wore a bra. NEVER. I had silicone stick-on nipple covers I’d replace every few months as I rocked those low-cut sun dresses that flaunted my perky cleavage and cheeky side boob. Clearly, I can throw those out now… The nip covers and the cheeky dresses. My new boobs look like I tried to breastfeed a rabid grizzly bear and lost the fight. Within seconds I was in tears, with flashbacks of just how horrible my experience breastfeeding was. Not only was it the worst experience of my adult life, I now have a permanent reminder of it every time I look in the mirror. A saggy, stretch-marked reminder of the constant pain, sobbing, bloody nipples and the sound of the breast pump’s aggressive buzzing as it tugged away at my raw nipples. A dainty scar left behind from Mastitis like a tattoo you regret but can’t get rid of. I felt the defeat of screaming “I can’t do this anymore” through bloodshot eyes wash over me all over again. I felt the fever and chills from Mastitis return. I felt the sobbing in the shower as the warm water hit my tore-up nips. It all came back and it sucked just as much this time as it did when it was really happening. A true flashback of a time I’d rather never, ever revisit.
I also saw my tummy. That needed work too. Although it had somewhat deflated back to normal, the loose skin was definitely visible. My belly button looked like it was frowning. Kind of like the flower towards the end of The Beauty and The Beast—wilted AF. I thought to myself, thank goodness one-piece bathing suits are back in style. My hips were wider. My stance, less confident. Everything just seemed foreign and unfamiliar. Softer. I just stared at myself as the tears continued to well up.
I heard my eager audience say from the living room “I guess we don’t get to see the show!”… I wiped my eyes, folded up the dress and put it back in the box. I slipped back into the maternity leggings I still rocked and emerged from the bedroom explaining they weren’t worth showing. I picked up the baby and went into his nursery and sobbed as quietly as I could as I rocked him and put him down for a nap.
When I was pregnant, I cried over the most insignificant things and whined how I couldn’t wait for it to be over so I could get my mental stability back. HA! After baby, everything is new, and the tears certainly didn’t slow down. Your life, your schedule, your body… Everything. But at that moment, I sat there staring at my baby who was now sound asleep in napland, and I took a deep breath and I thanked him. First, I thanked him for not fighting said nap at a time that Mama really needed him to be sweet and cuddly. I thanked him for making me a Mama and giving me this job. I assured him I wasn’t crying because of him. I whispered to him that I loved him more than any sundress. Then I thanked him for my new body. I wiped away my tears, turned off the tear spigot (righty tighty y’all), and promised I’d try to do better at respecting this body that gave me him, and not get so angry at it.
This is something that will be a constant struggle and will take some work, but I’ve promised to do better. Although I still joke about my body and say things along the lines of it being Emmett’s first apartment, I’m trying to not me mean to myself. I actually wrote this 3 months ago, and have never been brave enough to share it, because it’s weirdly personal and emotional. I’ve started working out again. But I’m not doing it “to get my body back,” I’m doing to for me, and for me time. I’m doing it as a little something good for myself. To thank my body for being strong during tough times. I’m working out to stay healthy and strong for my baby who will soon be a toddler that needs chasing. Honestly, as much as it sucks, the endorphins really do a body and mind good.
This body, as much as I’m not a super fan of it’s appearance, worked really, really hard to give us this healthy baby, and so what if it’s hard work shows. The phrase “bounce back” needs to be retired. You can get back into a healthy lifestyle, but there certainly is no bouncing into anything… Especially because new moms are likely afraid of wetting their pants in the event of bouncing. With that said, you can find me in my yoga pants and one-piece swimsuit for now. And if you have a problem with that, then that sounds like your problem, doesn’t it.