Hey Pregnant Ladies:
I hope very much that you, like a celebrity, look Us Weekly-cover ready a month after you deliver. Looking and feeling hot and sexy as a new mom would make for a few less things to worry about during that emotional, exhausted, insane first few weeks. And I want that for you.
And maybe that will happen. But just in case it doesn't, I'm here to tell you a couple of personal tales that I hope can prepare you, in the event that you find yourself still looking pregnant for a really long time after you deliver. (If this is news to you, sorry I'm the one to—ahem—deliver it!)
Here's the real deal: You're probably going to look pregnant for a while, even a long while, after delivery.
Here are stories from my first three months postpartum, after delivering my full-term twins, that still make me cringe deep in my soul — the trauma may never fully fade, in fact. But now that I've lost all my pregnancy weight (50-plus pounds through hard, protracted work — no magic involved), I have the necessary distance (and confidence) to tell two tales from the trenches.
Story one, and perhaps the depths of my postpartum insecurity, came about two months postpartum: I was invited to a bachelorette party at a massive and well-known spa in Koreatown Los Angeles. If you are not familiar with the Korean-style spa experience, it's totally communal, with nowhere to hide. For that reason, I almost declined the invite, but I somehow summoned my strength and went for it after all, knowing my friends would support me and pump me up.
Instead, at the entrance, the check-in lady took one look at my belly and told me pregnant women were not allowed inside. I turned around and cried into the arm of one of my dear friends, who did her best, as expected, to make me feel supported. Enough so, in fact, that I wiped my copious snot, told the woman I wasn't pregnant but recently had two babies, and went on ahead into the locker room. I emerged wearing my maternity swimsuit — with enough fabric it could be a bed sheet—and a spa patron promptly yelled at me (in Korean, but the message was clear) that swimsuits were against the rules. Rather than let my further suffering take away from the bride's experience, I collected my stuff, asked for my money back, and walked to the nearest bus bench at Crenshaw and Wilshire (not the most scenic of environments) to sob my eyes out and wait for my husband to pick me up. Aaaand scene.
Several weeks later — at almost exactly 12 weeks postpartum — I had a milestone. A business trip to Las Vegas provided the opportunity for my first flight since I got too pregnant to fly, and also my first time away from my babes. Thanks to an assortment of drapey new clothes, I felt somewhat more confident, and relished my success as a new mom in getting it together (logistically, mentally, physically) enough to maintain my professional responsibilities, even with eager flair and competence. All was going well until the return trip home: At the airport, I passed through the body scanner no problem. But the TSA agent on the other side took me aside and told me she'd nevertheless "have to check my waistband." Yes, she thought it looked like I was a terrorist stashing something. Not a bomb lady, but thanks for the punch in the emotional gut!
Before anyone points out that I should shut up about my body because I was blessed to have to healthy babes, know this: I did, and do, feel deep gratitude for delivering healthy humans, in particular after a high-risk pregnancy and a delivery complication that might have killed me in another place or time. But none of that makes me less of a woman who wants to feel confident in her skin.
And those, of course, were only two of the more memorable times people inquired about my pregnancy long after the fact. Thankfully, those shattering experiences are at last in the past — though at six months postpartum, I'm still working hard to heal the diastasis recti that was partly responsible for rounding out my belly. Diastasis recti is an issue many moms face — and something close enough to my heart that I'm writing a series of three stories for Parents.com explaining the details and treatment in more depth. (Look out for these!)
But with or without this specific condition, it's a huge bummer. Your uterus will likely need weeks to shrink back down to size. You may need to heal damage to your core. You will need time to heal. You're going to want the postpartum period of time to go faster. You're probably going to want to punch people who comment on your pregnancy while you are pushing a stroller filled with an already-born baby (or, in my case, two babies). Perceptive much? Tactful much?
It's totally normal. Be patient — or don't. But try to be kind to your amazing self.
And if you need to, cry it out on a bus bench while you wait for your husband to rescue you from a truly bad afternoon at the Korean spa.
Do whatever you need to do until you adjust to your postpartum figure and your new life. You and your body just performed a miracle.
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Photo courtesy of Alesandra Dubin