Tuesday, September 16, 2014

9 months on, 9 months off

I realized yesterday as I was bent upside down coaxing volume into my limp postpartum locks that on the morning of Evie's 9 month birthday, exactly 9 months to the day of her arrival ex utero, I felt like myself. And I was so grateful.

My eldest son punctuated my moment of epiphany by wandering into my bathroom, looking at my washed and styled hair, cocking his head to one side and announcing: "You don't look like my Mommy. Why did you do that to your hairs?" 

It's called a curling iron, son. And your future wife can thank me for setting that bar niiiiiice and low.

When Joey was a baby I obsessed over the concept of "nine months on, nine months off" and was fanatical about trying to coax the nearly 60 lbs I'd gained off my petite frame. I couldn't fathom a future where I walked around borderline obese, and I lamented the boxes and boxes of White Cheddar Cheezits I'd thoughtlessly tossed back while cooking my plump firstborn turkey. Jillian Michaels and I did hard time together most afternoons, and I tried my pre baby pants on once a week, crying in defeat when they wouldn't ascend any further than my hips.

When I finally arrived at the magical number (not even on the scale, but in the pants) I promptly got pregnant a second time and resigned myself to more of the same, only with 100% more gym dedication. I still gained 50 lbs, but I worked out 6 days a week and I was definitely a "fitter" second time preggo. And you know what? The weight came off a little easier, too. But both times I spent a good amount of my post partum "recovery" period doing anything but recovering. Mostly I vacillated between binging on tortilla chips and sticking to a strictly-regimented Weight Watcher's plan which imperiled my milk supply and left me feeling guilty and anxious. (Disclaimer: WW is probably a good fit for lots of people! But for me, with my history of eating disorder, it was a match made in body shaming hell.)

This time has been different. This time I've been more aware that yes, it's frustrating to be bigger and softer and slower than "normal," whatever exactly normal means anymore, but that it is, in fact, temporary. I've spent more time enjoying the baby and less time bemoaning the body. Do I still bitch about my love handles to my sister and cry on the phone to my best friend about my pants size? I mean, absolutely, but it's not the all-consuming focus that it once was.

I wanted to share with you guys some things that I think have helped this time around be my most pleasant postpartum period, mental illness aside.

First, I bought a new wardrobe. Not like a new, new wardrobe, but I went to a couple cheap stores and picked up a 2-sizes-too-big but fits just right right now pair of dark wash, high rise jeans and a plethora of flowy, forgiving tops. I also kept my Blanqi locked firmly in the torso position for the entire 4th trimester, and I was happy. And so were my sprung out hips.

There's nothing more depressing (too me, anyway) in the sartorial realm than shimmying into a big-ass pair of blown out maternity jeans while your 3 week old voms on the bed beside you. Nothing quite like it. Do yourself a favor and retire those belly banded beauties as soon as you check out of hotel hospital. (Unless you had a c-section, because I've heard they're easy on the scars. But otherwise I really can't fathom a reason to put yourself through that.) Old Navy and Walmart are pretty much everywhere, and you can score yourself a $15 pair of skinnies to get you through the dark times.

Second, set measurable, realistic fitness goals, not weight loss goals. My FitBit and the step-counter app I downloaded were invaluable tools that helped me hit my 10,000 step per day target starting back in the spring, and they helped me reacquaint my tired mommy body with physical activity not involving pushing or lifting. On the (many) days I didn't get any further than yoga pants, I at least had some hard evidence for the work I'd put it.

On the matter of physical fitness, it helped me tremendously to retrain my brain to see activity as directly correlated to overall wellness and success in mothering, not only as a means by which I might attain blue jean nirvana. Once I stopped seeing "working out" as some vaguely punitive means by which I might become hot one day and started realizing the real, tangible benefits of physical activity on my energy levels and domestic acumen, something clicked for me and I wanted to work out. Not just to have "worked out," but I craved the actual process instead of obsessing over the desirable end. Game changer, big time.

Finally, I embraced the stupid expression. At least internally. Sitting in Mass with a gassy newborn and catching sight of a skinny friend a few rows up, bouncing her 3-week-old on a slender hip? 9 months on, 9 months off.

Seeing on social media that your college roommate just ran her best ever half marathon time while her 3 month old watched from the sidelines? 9 months on, 9 months off.

Standing in the dressing room at H&M with a 7-month-old sausage strapped to your chest, trying to translate European sizes into US and feeling a stroke coming on when you realize your current size? 9 months on, 9 months off.

Tugging in vain at the zipper on your favorite cocktail dress while your 14-month old tugs at your suddenly shorter hemline, impeding your preparations for a long-awaited date night?

9 months on, 9 months off was just a number, after all.

You were never actually going to *get* your pre baby body back, anyway. Because that body was transformed and transfigured by new life. And no amount of low carbing or tread milling or denim shimmying can erase those effects.

But know this mama: there is a day in your future where you will see your altered and perhaps slightly haggard reflection in your bathroom mirror and you will feel like you again, promise. It might take a few months longer than you expect, and it might happen on a totally different timeline than you envisioned, but she's in there. You're in there. I promise.

And happiest 3/4's birthday to my petite principessa. You're certainly not the size your mama envisioned that you would be today, Genevieve, but you are utterly lovely to behold, and you're super easy on your mama's back.

Silver linings, right?


  1. I needed to read this today. Thank you.

  2. Hurrah! And thank you and God bless you.

  3. I needed this too. Stepping on the scale last night while 21 weeks pregnant was a poor decision on my part. Today has been a struggle. This post puts it all in perspective. Thanks Jenny :)

    1. I had a check up yesterday at 18 weeks, looked at the scale, and proceeded to ruin my husband's night by bawling about how much I'm gaining. I hear ya!!

  4. For someone who has never been good at math, there are certain numbers I will NEVER forget and I can always do quick and painfully accurate calculations to figure out how far away from those numbers I currently am. What the heck? Thanks for all the gentle, motherly reminders. ;)

  5. I love this post..and I love all your posts about body image and weight.

  6. Thanks Jenny- love this post! Love the mantra 9 months on....

  7. Great post. And H&M ... I went in there last month and vowed it was the last time ever. Maybe I'll buy some of their shirts online but standing in that dressing room with those pants and the willowy teens in the next stall over was an experience I don't want to repeat!

  8. Trying not to be so hard on myself because I ate like a beast for 9 months and honestly, enjoyed every last morsel. I'm actually giving myself a year before I panic. (It only took me 4 months PP to get to that point.) So, 9 months on, 12 months off....

    And I'm slowly coming to terms with the fact that I may never fit into my size 6 jeans again.

  9. You look beautiful! And you are so right about the pre-baby body never reappearing again. I remember after my first one, even after I lost ALL the weight and a few pound beyond that and there were STILL pre-baby clothes that never fit right again. Another thing people don't tell you....! :)

  10. Thank you for the blunt honesty and the positive outlook!

  11. Sigh. I really needed this today.

  12. Such a great and timely post! I'm on the homestretch with pregnancy #5 and already trying to give myself a pep talk about the fluffy months ahead.

  13. Well. As someone who has been trying deeeesperately not to gain "too much" to time around, and was doing a darn good job until a month long illness and SUMMER got in the way... Thank you. I still have 10 weeks until bebe #5 arrives and my body image is already taking daily (hourly?) hits. Offer it up, offer it up. All this vanity should be out to some kind of use, amiright? Why not releasing souls from purgatory?

  14. It is so challenging when the measures of "health" or "fitness" like weight or pants size that you went by for years gradually become unreliable indicators of actual health and fitness! I'm so happy that you have been able to shift your focus to true wellness!

  15. Love this and thanks for posting!


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