Dealing With Your Postpartum Body
Call it a delayed reaction. It wasn't until I hung up the phone that the implications of what I'd just done hit me. "Sure, we'd love to go to the pool with you!" I'd told the mother of Benjamin's favorite playmate. "We'll see you tomorrow."
What was I thinking? Going to the pool -- two and a half weeks after having a baby, when I still can't see my own feet? Did I even have a swimsuit that fit my new bumps and bulges?
As the cold waves of worry washed over me, I longed to talk with someone with an understanding ear. Someone who could commiserate, who could tell me they knew exactly how I felt. I looked desperately around my living room, my eyes lighting on the closest human -- my husband. Uhh? no.
John's actually pretty good at hearing my daily trials and tribulations (such as unruly toddlers, colicky infants and IRS audits) and helping me work through them. But I know from past experience that though he handles most of life's challenges with aplomb, he's not the person to go to when I'm having anxieties of the body image type. He just doesn't get it. Hey, he's a guy.
Let's put it this way: This is the man who can sit beachside in the tropical paradise of Maui, surrounded by beautiful people wearing thong bikinis (the women and the men), and not only eat a Dove ice cream bar with complete enjoyment and guiltlessness, but can order a second one from the waitress without batting and eye -- and without having the decency to lie and say he dropped the first one in the sand. No one with that kind of un-self-consciousness is going to understand a little reluctance about showing up at the pool sporting a few (okay, twenty) extra pounds as sun block.
Forced to rely on my own self-soothing capabilities, I tried logic. Sure, I'm not as waifish as I once was. And sure, I have a great excuse for the extra padding. But great excuses or no, I still felt the societal and personal pressures to look like Heather Locklear the second I was off the delivery table.
And the first couple days postpartum, I did feel pretty darn sticklike. After all, I'd just lost about twenty pounds. in a matter of hours -- better than liposuction, and more productive, too. Not only did I lose a ton of weight, I got a cute baby in the bargain, too!
But reality set in as soon as I had to wear something other than the oh-so-fashionable, one-size-fits-all hospital gown. I made the awful mistake of actually trying on a pair of shorts without comfort panels or an elastic waistband. I had myself halfway convinced that I was one of the few, the proud -- the women who can fit into their old clothes instantly after giving birth. I was so delusional that I was actually surprised when the shorts didn't make it past my ankles without screaming in protest.
I sadly kissed the Tinkerbell myth goodbye, unpacked my pregnancy clothes again, and pondered how I can own college-era clothing that I can't bear to sacrifice to the Goodwill, but be so sick of my maternity stuff after nine months that the thought of wearing it again makes me physically ill. Maybe it has something to do with the emotional pain involved in wearing something that could easily double as a pup tent.
All this ruminating didn't do much to help me with my pool dilemma. It was time to get tough. Did I want to go to the pool? Yes. Did I have a swimsuit I could squeeze myself into? Yes. Would I feel terribly exposed while there? Yes. Could I deal with the discomfort? I guessed so.
That taken care of, the next day I packed the tote bag, slithered into my suit, grabbed the kids and headed out bravely. Yeah, so I wasn't going to be much of a threat to Heather L. or the Baywatch Babes. But who cares? Mother Nature isn't entirely sadistic. She's provided postpartum moms with a secret weapon, guaranteed to draw eyes away from dimpled thighs and other physical weak spots. It's the perfect fashion accessory for the self-conscious -- an adorable baby.