There’s a pile of maternity clothes folded on the floor of my bedroom.
Even though I’m still shaped like Humpty Dumpty, my maternity clothes don’t fit anymore, so they’re waiting to be sent back to the attic. They’re sitting in my closet, under my regular clothes that don’t really fit either. Ah, postpartum is such a chic look.
I’m in that in-between phase. Nothing fits, but I refuse to buy any clothes that do fit because I don’t want to get comfortable here, and nothing is more motivating than looking terrible in your clothes. And there are the times I get curious and decide to try on my jeans just to see or try on a shirt that used to be loose and flowy but is now very, very tight. I can’t even wear non-maternity shirts that I wore far into my pregnancy, because shirts that look cute stretched over a pregnant belly do not look cute stretched over a muffin top.
And when a well-meaning stranger asks me when the baby’s due, and I’m standing there in my Humpty Dumpty pants, I have no choice but to say, “September.”
A quick tangent before I go any further…I’m sharing this here partially for accountability, but also because of the avenue of honesty and camaraderie that blogging provides. No matter how much weight you gain during pregnancy, after delivery I think every woman looks at themselves and thinks, “what happened?” There’s value in saying, “me too”, so that’s what I’m doing.
For the first six weeks after having a baby, I give myself my version of “maternity leave”. I don’t do any real exercise, and I mostly eat whatever I want. The exercise part is legit; I wait until my doctor says I’ve healed from pregnancy and delivery (although my doctor did say that if I wanted to get back to running I could call his office and schedule an appointment as early as three weeks. What on earth gave him the impression that I’d want to do that?). The eating isn’t quite so legit, but I justify it because I could use a break from feeling guilty about everything I put in my mouth. If I deserve any time to eat marshmallows before breakfast, it’s now.
And in my experience, after the first six weeks, I’ve lost all the weight from childbirth that I’m going to naturally. You obviously lose a lot when the baby is born, but then you continue to shed pounds from retained water (it’s really a beautiful process). Breastfeeding also helps with weight loss in subsequent months, but in my experience, breastfeeding isn’t a slam dunk, you have to work for it.
My six weeks was up last Friday, which means my boondoggle is over…or it’s supposed to be over. Realistically, I know I won’t really be back in the game until I’m getting more sleep and I’m not breastfeeding around the clock.
Here’s the plan.
First, I’m switching back to being mindful about eating, but not militant. This isn’t just to help lose weight, but also because, if there’s any time you could benefit from good nutrition, it’s when you’re sleep-deprived and breastfeeding around the clock. That’s also why I’m not planning to limit my diet. My body needs calories, and sometimes I need to self-medicate with butter pecan ice cream.
Next is exercise. For about three weeks now I’ve been taking two to three mile walks every day. Soon, I’ll turn those walks into walk/runs. It’s been really hot, so it’s hard to get motivated to run outside (the last time I went through this it was October, and the weather was perfect for running). I’ll start doing Jillian Michaels workouts once I work up the nerve. I have a goal of running the Richmond half marathon in November. Mary Virginia will be five months old in November, which means she’ll still be breastfeeding exclusively and probably not sleeping through the night. Both of those things make me really nervous about training and race day, but for now I think it’s a doable goal, and I don’t want to quit before I start. I’ve heard of women stopping midway through races to nurse their babies, and whether that’s hardcore awesome or hardcore crazy is up to you.
The postpartum body is unlike any other body transformation. Suddenly your body is different than it’s ever been, and it happens, literally, overnight. Normal weight gain or loss happens slowly, and you can usually look back and remember the process. Even in pregnancy, you see your belly get bigger every day. But then one day, you’re no longer pregnant and you’re left with a belly that feels like an empty bag hanging around your waist. In a day you go from pregnant to a weird, soft shape.
At my six-week appointment, I asked my doctor for good postpartum exercises. He knows I’m a runner, and told me to resume running. He also told me to do planks to tone my midsection, so I’m adding planks to my routine. Since I haven’t used my abs in almost a year, I’m starting slow, and making Tom do them with me. So far I’ve done just over a minute without stopping.
After talking to my doctor about my postpartum frustrations, we talked about planks and running, but he ended by telling me that the questions I was asking were questions of vanity. Sure, vanity has its place, but he reminded me that I had two easy, uneventful pregnancies, my deliveries went as planned, and I’m now the mother of two healthy babies. Considering that, if what I’m left worrying about is vanity, well then I’m one of the lucky ones.