Where My Girls At?

I’m going to let you in on a secret. I’m going to share with you what women talk about when they get together: Gravity. And specifically, what gravity does to our chests.

The changes that happen for women’s chests start for some early, others late, but is such a visible metamorphosis that the world witnesses each stage, from painful nubbins to grown-up nubbins or more. For some, each month also marks changes, as the cycles of our bodies dictate an ebb and flow.

Perhaps one of the largest – literally – changes my friends and I talk about is what happened to our chests during pregnancy, post pregnancy and beyond.

When we were pregnant one of the first signs of change to our bodies was the growth of our chests. After pregnancy, for those who are able to and chose to nurse had ever-changing fluctuations of milk. While producing milk, it isn’t uncommon to constantly manipulate your chest to feel which might be full, which might be empty, etc. This is as easy to explain in writing as what kissing feels like.

Then, the “after” stage, when the milk dries up. What happens is possibly more shocking than the growth or milk production, since the slackness that ensues is the remainder of the skin that grew and contracted. What’s left is, well, not much, as if all of the stuffing was removed. What’s left needs serious support to even mimic what existed before. I remember when I was pregnant friends who had already had children shared funny stores:

“You can just roll them up into a bra.” 

“They’re like two strips of bacon.” 

“I look like an orangutang.” 

And one of  my favorites, “They’re like flour sacks.”

Is this true? Well, yes.

So when sharing drinks with friends a few nights ago we spent a good amount of time discussing how gravity has effected our bodies post-baby. All in fun, we shared stories about pregnancy and delivery and easily slipped into the area that again, is the most visible: our chests. We cackled and guffawed and, yes, even hooted about the mighty, the fallen and the fruitful.

– MD

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Nine Month Deadline

O turned nine months old yesterday.  While this ¾ of year birthday did not seem to faze her, except for a brief morning photo shoot with her teddy bear, for me it felt like a huge milestone. Pregnancy is extremely tough on the waistline and childbirth is rough on everything else.  And since it took nine months for my body to make a baby, I had been giving myself nine months to get back in shape.

This seemed fair and logical. I wasn’t going to be a new mom on a diet, unlike J-Lo I did not start training for a triathlon 6 weeks after birth.  I would give myself time to enjoy motherhood, eat healthy enough and exercise when I wanted to and could find time. Nine months seemed like a fair amount of time to give myself. O’s nine month birthday crept up way too quickly, both because I am not ready for how old she has gotten and because of this arbitrary deadline I have set for myself.

Weight: I gained about 35 pounds during pregnancy and lost about half of that giving birth.  For me the weight has melted off.  I am confident this is because of breast feeding and I am feeling a little nervous for when O weans.  I have pretty much matched my daughters weight gain with my loss pound for pound for the last nine months.  I have actually lost ten more pounds than my starting weight.  These were the last ten pounds that I had been trying to loose for the last decade; these were the ten pounds that would make me happy, my clothes fit right, increase my confidence and all sorts of other magical stuff.  Ironically, when you loose those ten pounds nothing changes.  I feel no different and no better have finally lost the “extra” weight I was carrying around. Loosing those ten pounds matter not one bit – my self esteem remains the same and my clothes fit worse.

Strength and Endurance:  This has been the area of biggest distress for me.  I can’t run as far, lift as much, do as many reps or exercise as hard as I once did.  I still feel weak and afraid of injury.  Over time I have grown stronger but I am not able to invest the time, mental and physical energy I need to get back into the same shape.  This has been the hardest part of all the body issues surrounding motherhood for me. I am not as strong as I was.  Last week, a guy at the gym asked me if my daughter was 5 months old yet.  Nice of him to inquire, but I wanted to cry.

My body: I need to reevaluate my assumptions.  My body has not returned to pre baby shape in nine months.  And it is pretty clear to me that some of these changes are here forever, the softer stomach, the wider hips, and the new wrinkles from worrying too much and sleeping too little. I have the body of a mother that I am slowly accepting.  It is not the price of motherhood but another reward of it.  

– ACK

The Weighting Game

Breast feeding. Vaccinations. Work/life balance. Childcare. Cloth versus disposal diapers. BPA. All hot topics amongst the childbearing set. Add to that weight gain and loss, from pregnancy to post-partum.

Each woman I know talks about pregnancy weight with a mixture of fear and glee. Fear as you see numbers on a scale you never imagined and glee at eating a little more than you ever thought possible. Stories about never owning maternity clothes or who shows earlier are traded like cards. It is a tough scale to balance on, with one hand wondering how a being mere ounces can make you gain weight and on the other, loving your growing form. Rumors of people only gaining 15 pounds are laughed at and brave people admit they gained upwards of 60, 70 pounds per pregnancy, no matter your assumptions of their previous size.

Women share stories about how big they get. Or don’t get. Numbers equaling a middle schooler are tossed around, or odd stories of someone who gained so little they walked out of the hospital in pre-pregnancy jeans. You can thank genes for that. I remember thinking around month 7 that I looked a little like Chris Farley and my ankles were so swollen my husband’s thumb prints from nightly foot massages stayed visible for far too long.

My personal weakness while pregnant? Lemon freezies with fresh fruit from Culver’s. I didn’t go overboard, but didn’t hold back. “When else can you eat Cheetos and not have anyone stare at you?” said my friend, E.

After stories about gaining weight come stories about how fast someone gets it off. Again, stories of women who lost it all when they had the baby, or weighed less than before the baby. It’s all something pregnant women are anxious about – when will my bottom parts feel normal again and when will the pooch disappear? I have good news and bad news, ladies. You can figure this out on your own.

The Baby Weight Gain Game doesn’t end even post-partum. There’s the excuse of “I just had a baby,” or “I’m making milk,” that leads to no budges on the scale. We moan amongst our female friends about stomach skin that doesn’t look right anymore, angry, red stretch marks or a chest that will always require the help of underwire and padding. [Note: if you have never been pregnant and are a woman, take a photo of your chest RIGHT NOW. Consider it a quaint historical relic to admire once you’ve had a baby.]

Many of us trudge along, working on getting back to shape, while balancing work, child(ren), friends, life and personal time. What I notice on this path is that I’m kinder to myself as I work on the numbers going down. I made a pledge amongst our female friends that we won’t say negative statements, even in jest, about our bodies in front of our children, and I’m also giving myself more time and yes, more permission, to wait out this weight game. After all, my insides grew a baby and my privates pushed one out. What have you done today?

– MD

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