You know how you feel when you wake up one morning and you see an enormous zit right in the center of your chin?
You think, Ick. This isn’t how I look.
Maybe you meet someone for the first time on this day that you have this huge zit on your face, you end up thinking, Oh, please don’t think this is the way that I always look. I usually look a lot better than this.
When you’re in the bathroom washing your hands and you look up in the mirror, you think, No… That’s not really me.
That’s how I feel about the baby weight.
At two months postpartum, the uterus is done shrinking. You’ve lost the baby, the placenta, and all the excess fluids. And what remains is officially “the baby weight.”
In this pregnancy, I gained 45 pounds.
Pregnancy books will reassure you not to worry. A lot of women lose up to 25 pounds in the first few weeks!
I’m only down 23 pounds.
Trust me, it doesn’t feel so stupendous when you’re still carrying around another 22 extra pounds.
The first pounds are always the easiest.
After the birth, I was already down 12 pounds.
At two weeks postpartum, my body went into flush-the-system-out mode and I started shedding pound after pound. Sure, it was mostly water weight, but God, it felt good every other day to look down and see my weight another pound closer to my pre-pregnancy weight.
This is awesome, I thought. Keep on going!
Then at four weeks postpartum, my weight stabilized. I started walking 30 to 40 minutes every day and I enjoyed that. It improved my mood, for sure, but it didn’t do much for dropping more weight.
Then, at five weeks postpartum, I noticed that most of my maternity pants weren’t fitting very well anymore. (Okay, one pair of leggings got a huge snag in them and I had to throw those ones away, but nevertheless.)
A good sign, I thought.
So I went to Macy’s and grabbed a few pairs of black stretchy athletic pants. Sweatpants? Perhaps. Yoga pants? Sure. Running pants? I was open to it. Whatever made me feel like I somewhat possessed an inkling of the figure that I had before this pregnancy.
Now, you have to remember, I had no idea what size I was anymore. I hadn’t worn anything but maternity leggings, yoga pants, pajama pants, and dresses for the past six months.
Staring at the sizes, I thought, Okay, be liberal here. Get a size above what you think you are.
So I did. And I got the size above that one.
I pulled on the smaller size first. When the waistband hit my thighs, I thought, Oh, sweet Jesus…
I should have stopped there, but I thought, Go ahead and see if the second larger size fits.
Another bad idea. I got them up over my hips, but really, who was I kidding? My entire midsection was shaped like a shitake mushroom.
Defeated, I went back out and picked up the next larger size.
At least they’re on clearance. And I’ll be able to use my 20% off coupon that I got in the mail.
“Sorry,” the cashier said, “You can only use that offer on sale and clearance items.”
“Isn’t this a clearance item?” I asked
“Oh, actually this is a Last Chance item.”
“Oh good God,” I said.
“I know, it takes a while to know the different kinds of sales.”
“Yeah, I don’t speak Macy’s.”
“Will you be using your Macy’s card today?”
After I swipe my card, I see a screen of available offers come up. Oh! There’s the 20% off one!
“Look at that!” I point it out to her.
“Oh, yeah, that won’t work,” she says as she folds my pants and puts them in a bag.
“Why is it being offered to me if it doesn’t work?”
“I mean, you can try, but it won’t work on this item.”
I try. It doesn’t work.
“Well, that’s just cruel,” I say.
“Yeah…” she agrees. “I keep telling them they need to fix that glitch.”
I’ve lost the baby weight before.
Okay, all but the last five pounds. But still.
I remember that it took until ten months postpartum for my thyroid to stop going completely bonkers and for all the cardio kickboxing and portion controlling to finally eat away at that stubborn extra layer week after week after week.
I remember telling my husband that I wish I had been kinder to myself at two months postpartum, when it felt like I should just stop caring. The rationale went something like this: You’re not getting much sleep, but at least you can look forward to eating all day.
Another part of me cared tremendously about seizing opportunities to return to my pre-pregnancy physical condition. And when I fell short of my own expectations, I would get upset at myself.
Today, the rational side of my brain tells me, Your body is amazing. You just sustained another life for three-quarters of a year. You gave birth to a healthy baby (without tearing!) and lost 23 pounds in eight weeks. Give yourself a break.
It is hard to keep this all in perspective, but I try.
I tell myself that people don’t usually stare at the big ol’ zit. While we think they’re looking at all our flaws, they’re usually looking at the whole package of who we are. Smile. Confidence. Congeniality.
In the meantime, I’m doing the daily work of exercise and portion control. It’s hard. Especially when I need to get up at 4:00 a.m. to exercise. And all my exercise clothes are tight. And I’ve gone two weeks without any change in weight or inches.
The truth is, exercise improves my mood. So even if I don’t lose weight, I know I’ll keep doing this.
But I’ll still have to acquire a transitional work wardrobe while I’m dropping the weight.
And that means a lot of time in fitting rooms, learning to love myself through this.