July 5, 2010

bringing sexy (pre-pregnancy body) back

When I was pregnant, I heard lots of horror stories about unexpected bodily functions, breasts that would take on a life of their own, and ghastly tales of labor and delivery, but, somehow absent from this overload of information, was the reality of living with a post-pregnancy body. Maybe the ultimate shock of this little unexpected surprise was my fault. After all, I didn't even think to ask about that part of the process. I just assumed that once the baby was evicted from my womb, my body would go back to "business as usual."

Well, you know what they say about assuming things ...

First, I should start by saying my pregnancy went by swimmingly. There were no complications to speak of: No morning sickness, no aches or pains, just some swollen feet (and a glorious set of cankles) for the last month or so. Even labor and delivery went relatively well ... As well as a non-medicated, back labor-filled natural birth can go. My body, in its pregnant state, wasn't completely unlivable either. For the most part, I carried all of my weight out front in a big, round belly ...

I didn't notice that I was putting on a bunch of extra baggage in my legs and/or butt until late in the third trimester when some of my maternity pants were getting too tight. I really wasn't expecting that to happen ... And why didn't anyone tell me that stretch marks can appear in places other than the abdomen??

While all of this was an uneventful adventure, the moments after my son vacated his cushy womb suite were much more confusing to me. I didn't expect to have a baby in my arms and still feel pregnant. Even though it wasn't firm with the expectant baby inside, my stomach still had some, shall we say, shape to it. And my breasts (yes, I'm going to go there), were like two living, breathing monsters residing on my chest ... They felt so foreign, so other-worldly. For once in my life I got to experience life as my sisters do on a daily basis: Double D's!

Anyway, while pregnancy is a slow adjustment, barely noticeable from week-to-week as the gestation period crawls along, life postpartum is the complete opposite. One minute there's a baby in there ... The next it is gone! Yes, once the baby has left the womb, the adventure truly begins ... Not just in terms of life-as-you-know-it being completely altered, but in terms of figuring out the ins and outs of a body that was once so familiar.

While I totally lucked out when it came to getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight (breastfeeding was good to me, what can I say?), it still took much longer for me to feel like my body was actually mine again.

For a good six months or so (and much to my husband's dismay) my body belonged solely to the little guy. It was his vessel for transport, his safe haven, his 24-hour diner. Now, about nine months out from delivery, things are shifting ... The biggest being that the diner operates on a much shorter schedule. Not only has that meant many nights of uninterrupted sleep, it has also contributed to the defeat of the chest monsters ... No more spontaneous letdown or leakage! No more nursing bras or disposable bra pads! And, probably best of all, no more breast pumping before bed!

And that seems to be the trick.

I almost hate to come to the conclusion that the gradual cessation of breastfeeding has brought about a return to normalcy, but, thinking logically and rationally as we scientists tend to do, I must admit that it's much easier to feel like your pre-pregnancy self when there isn't a tiny human attached to you at any given moment ... I mean, that certainly didn't happen before the child was part of the equation.

Ultimately, (finally) having my body back allows me to experience the best of both worlds: Calling myself someone's Mom and feeling as good as I did before that someone existed.

Not a bad deal, really.

Now, if only it didn't have to take a year and a half to come full circle.

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