Seven months ago I gave birth the most beautiful baby girl that has ever existed (maybe I’m a little biased…). I had an uneventful pregnancy where I gained less than 20 pounds, in a healthy fashion, was wearing my pre-pregnancy jeans with a “belly band” two days after coming home, and hit my pre-pregnancy weight at around 2 months without doing anything special (seriously… I am NOT an exerciser). My little girl was healthy, I was feeling good, and then it happened. The unthinkable. Today, a woman who sees me on a semi-regular basis exclaimed, “Oh my gosh! Are you pregnant with another one!?”
I had no idea how to respond. The world froze and I just stood there for what seemed like forever. Thankfully my smart ass survival reflexes saved me and in what was actually a matter of seconds I replied, “Nope, this is still the last one… just hangin’ around.”
Did that just happen? Did another woman – another mother for God’s sake – just ask me the one thing that you are NEVER supposed to ask someone? Good Lord, do I look pregnant?
I spent the rest of the day feeling like a cloud was just sort of hanging over my head. All of sudden, this issue of baby weight which I thought I had skillfully eluded was following me like that cloud in an animated anti-depressant commercial. I reasonably decided that I simply wouldn’t eat more than 500 calories a day until it was obvious that I was, in fact, NOT pregnant. Thankfully the idiocy of that idea became very clear once lunch time rolled around and I was hungry. I went through the rest of the day fighting how I would deal with this. The feminist in me was screaming, “Why yes, my body has changed a little since having a baby and even though I weigh the same, my tummy hangs a bit now. And by the way, this body just built a human being. This body just spent nine months providing for and literally building another person. So I love this body and every flabby part of it!” Because that’s what you’re supposed to say, right? That’s what all the parenting magazines and mommy blogs and supportive articles tell you. Don’t stress about getting your body back right away; every stretch mark is a reminder of that bundle of joy; love each little thing that has changed about you after pregnancy because you were part of a miracle.
But is that really fair? Is it really that easy? We have spent our entire pre-pregnancy lives being sold this idea of beauty. We are constantly taught what is good enough and what isn’t and even though we fight it, that image is programmed into us hundreds of times a day and after a full day of work and a baby, I’m just too damn tired to fight that image. The reality is that I’m simply not strong enough to love every stretch mark, value every pound, and revel in the new shape of my body. But my little girl deserves better. She deserves a mommy who can raise her with the example of something different. She deserves for me to find a way around this.
So as I stood in the shower contemplating how I would tackle this problem, I thought about all the things in my life that were different since having that beautiful bundle of joy: My body (as previously discussed), my marriage (stronger but still different than before), my sex life (very enjoyable, even if a little slower), and other countless things. I began to realize that all these things had something in common. They are in transition. None of them are stagnant. The bad, the good, the things that are neither – they are all transitioning to something different.
My body is different than before and that has nothing to do with what I eat or how often I do or don’t exercise. It has everything to do with the fact that I spent 9 months giving my daughter everything I had and then spent the last 7 months continuing to do that. My body is in transition; it is in recovery. I may not be able to look at myself in the mirror and be happy and in love with what I see, but I can recognize and understand what I see and that is an ever-changing, tired but happy, body in transition. My transition and recovery may take longer than yours, or it may be quicker – but it doesn’t matter. We all recover at our own pace. Right now I’m choosing to recover by spending my free moments with a laugh that melts my heart – and that’s a body I can love when I look in the mirror.
I’m not an introvert and I don’t find it hard to communicate my feelings (just ask my husband). But when it comes to the outside world, I’m a very private person. I don’t have a Twitter account, snap chat freaks me out, I have no idea how to ‘insta’ something, and my Facebook is void of check ins at restaurants, constant updates on my life, and has very few photos of my baby girl.
I’m a very private person, but there is something you need to know about me. There is something so personal that the thought of sharing it with the world makes me cringe, but I have to do it. It needs to be said.
I can’t breastfeed.
It’s not that I don’t want to and it’s not that I haven’t tried. I have done everything I possibly can while (barely) maintaining my sanity, but I can’t breast feed and it’s none of your damn business.
But it needs to be said. Not enough people say it. Too many women hide in fear that they will be judged for pulling out a bottle in public and mixing up that forbidden powder.
I’m a very private person, and I don’t share a lot with people, but this needs to be said.
There are these magical women who seem to be blessed with enough milk that they could feed their own baby, plus mine, plus yours, and still have milk shooting across the room until they slap their breast to make it stop (like my own mother). And no matter how understanding those women may be (because not everyone is a judgy mc-judgerson), they will never be able to truly know what it feels like to open that circular plastic lid and peel back the foil seal for the first time, and know that you can’t provide for your child.
But I do.
They won’t ever have any idea how much time a person can spend researching different medications that may or may not be fda approved. They probably have no idea which Canadian pharmacies will ship to the US and if they require a prescription.
But I do.
While those lucky women might choose to pump so they can have a reserve of milk, they have no idea how much of a science experiment you can feel like when you have to hook up to that damn machine every time your alarm goes off just so you can maybe squeeze out 2/5 of what your child needs, only to add formula to it.
They have no idea what it is like for a mom who can’t breastfeed when people ask how old your baby is only to follow it up with the very personal question of ‘And you’re breastfeeding, right?’. They will never understand how you truly contemplate lying because you don’t want to have to explain that you have a brain tumor which inhibits your milk production, or your baby’s latch was so bad you bawled every time she ate (which by the way, you put off for as long as you could because her hungry cry was nothing compared to the thought of that excruciating pain), or because she was in the NICU for a few weeks and your body didn’t respond to the pump, or any number of other reasons. They have no idea what’s it’s like to want to scream it’s none of your damn business.
But I do.
And some of you do too.
And it doesn’t put us in some special club of moms who are better because we struggle but keep going. It doesn’t make us more dedicated to our child than a mother who couldn’t keep trying to breastfeed and it certainly doesn’t make us more loving than a mother who chose formula from the start. It doesn’t mean that we need people to feel sorry for us. It simply means we can understand each others struggles. Not enough people talk about it, and that’s the only way to make it feel even a little bit better.
You are still a great mom.