Wednesday, November 24, 2010

post partum

Let's get real about the post-partum body, shall we? We don't all look like this:

Jessica Alba, 3 months post-partum

Or even better, like this:

Rebecca Romijn, 6 weeks post-partum after TWINS

In fact, very many of us new moms - I would guess the majority - look more like this:

me, 2 weeks post-partum

I remember after Elan was born I was a bit shocked by the belly that remained. The same shape as what it had been, just shrunken down, empty and slack. The skin was soft and brown, and I completely identified with how Anne Lamott described her belly three weeks after her son was born in Operating Instructions:
"Oh, but my stomach, she is like a waterbed covered with flannel now. When I lie on my side in bed, my stomach lies politely beside me, like a puppy."
This time I was prepared for my puppy-belly, and grateful to discover that, despite the tremendous growth at the end of my pregnancy, the stretch marks below my belly button were fairly minimal and already a worn-out silvery color.

This time, I am a proud of my post-baby belly. After all, I grew an entire complete human being in there, and it wasn't an easy job. I didn't even mind much when a saleswoman at lululemon thought I was pregnant and advised me to buy a size up because "you're just going to grow bigger." I laughed, and pointed to my one-week-old asleep in his stroller beside me. "Actually, I'm pretty sure I'm only going to get smaller," I said.

4 weeks post-partum

Day by day, Emry grows bigger and rollier, and my belly shrinks down little by little. It is a visible symbol of our separation into distinct people, as well as a reminder to myself that it hasn't been very long since I gave birth, and I still need to take it easy.

I'm pretty sure that celebrities walking the red carpet a few weeks post-partum have stretch marks too, and they're likely wearing some major structural support garments to squeeze that belly into a designer dress. It's a silly ideal to hold up for women - how fast can you lose the baby weight; how fast can you "have your body back"? Not to mention potentially a destructive ideal: Jessica Alba's trainer said she exercised for one hour a day, 5-6 hours a day, and stuck to a 1700-calorie-a-day diet in order to lose the baby weight fast. It's hard to imagine that many women could keep up their milk supply to nurse with that kind of strain on their body. Of course, it is a celebrity's job to look good, and they have the resources (trainers, nannies) to make it happen. I'm certainly not against feeling good, looking good, and being active. I'm just against setting unreasonable standards for women in the already-delicate post-partum period.

And besides, as my midwife pointed out, the post-baby belly makes a perfect nursing shelf. As I snug Emry in between his old home and his new favorite place, I think eventually I will "get my body back" and then how I will miss this.


  1. Oh mama. I love you for writing this and showing us your REAL post partum belly! This needs to be printed in Oprah were millions of new moms see it. You are my hero!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I'm 3 months post-partum and still have a loosey goosey belly to deal with. Reading this made me feel better about it, though.

  3. So glad I was not the only one who thought this way. I was so surprised at how big my belly was after my baby was born, and how long it took to reduce...she's 10 months old now and it still hasn't gone, but if I wear the right clothes I can disguise it, so that's ok with me.