One of the hardest parts of pregnancy, for me, was what came after. I don't mean the hormonal roller coaster ride or even the depression because, let's face it, those are horrid beasts all on their own. Right now, I'm talking about the weight that's still there when the baby is long gone. There are basic rules for talking about postpartum weight; rules that, if not followed, can change a new mothers entire outlook on postpartum life (and beyond).
I've struggled with my weight since I went through early puberty, around age 9. Once my breasts developed, the fat just accumulated in pockets throughout my small frame. By my eight grade year, my weight ballooned to 200 pounds. I hid behind clothes, and food, because I didn't know how to navigate my low self-esteem. It was an endless cycle. The summer before my freshman year, however, I found my mom's old bike and started riding. I dropped a lot of weight and went into high school feeling more confident than I ever had (which, sadly, isn't saying much). When I look back now, I wonder how I could've been so concerned with my weight when I know I was smaller than I thought I was. I wish I could go back to my 16-year-old self and tell her she's beautiful, so she could accept and love her body regardless.
Then, when I finally began to accept myself, I became pregnant (and we all know what that means in regards to weight). Both of my pregnancies changed my entire body makeup. I gained so much weight with each respective pregnancy, things never fully went back to "normal" again in terms of my body shape. Those first few postpartum weeks were spent doting on my new baby, only sporting my maternity clothes that still fit. At some point, I started feeling how unhealthy I was, and decided to "get fit." I had no idea that no matter what I did, because my body had undeniably changed, I couldn't "fix" what I thought I needed to "fix." I could exercise and I could eat healthy, but I couldn't lose some of the "trouble spots" or, honestly, boost my self-esteem from the inside. I was down on myself and, as a result, I parented accordingly (i.e avoiding going into public).
Eventually, I discovered my love of running. That's the pivotal point in which everything about me finally shifted for the better. But for many years prior to that self-discovery and body acceptance, I struggled with snide comments about my size, my clothing, and the dip in confidence that resulted in ridiculous remarks about my post-baby weight. Postpartum life is hard enough without being made to feel less than. If everyone could follow the following basic rules, maybe more women could learn to accept themselves (and much sooner than I did).
Rule 1: Don't Ask Why I'm Still In Maternity Clothes
News flash: maternity clothes are ridiculously comfortable. They're stretchy and forgiving in all the places I need them to be and they kind of feel like home. It's about all the comfort I have within myself at the moment. I don't feel like me and I wish I could fit into my other clothes, but I can't. If I'm already beating myself up over what I look (and feel) like, please don't add to that. Thanks.
Rule 2: Don't Offer To Go With Me To An Exercise Class, Please
I'll sign up for an exercise class when I want to. I won't tell anyone about it, and I'll probably want to go alone. This isn't how everyone feels, but it was definitely how I felt (and still feel, actually). Trying to lose this weight is a personal journey so, to be honest, there's probably not a class I'll be stepping into until I feel more comfortable in my skin. That's what DVDs are for.
Rule 3: Don't Offer To Give My Diet A Makeover
Just to be clear, there will be no making over of anything in my refrigerator or cabinetry unless I deem it necessary. While I totally appreciate the sentiment, I'm not a drastic kind of gal. I prefer baby steps to unhealthy crash diets. If the way I eat isn't working for you, perhaps you should find another postpartum mother to "help."
Rule 4: Don't Ask Me What I Weigh, Even Subtly
There has never been, and will never be, an appropriate time to ask what I weigh. Not before I'm pregnant, not when I'm pregnant, and not after my pregnancy has ended. The number on the scale doesn't define me as a woman or mother and I sure as hell won't let another human being make me feel less for weighing more.
Rule 5: Don't Tell Me How "Bloated" You Feel
While there's nothing I love more than hearing about my thin friend's weight struggles, I'd rather forgo that conversation while I'm trying to manage my own path of bloat and discomfort. I don't want to sound self-involved or like I don't care, but I'll be honest — when I'm depressed about my postpartum weight, I probably don't care and I probably am a little self-involved (and rightfully so, in my opinion). Try me again once I've lost some of the weight and feel more confident.
Rule 6: Don't Compare [Insert Celebrity] To Me
I don't appreciate being compared to anyone, honestly. While your intentions might be good, the constant measuring of women against other women is just exhausting. So, whether it's a plus-sized celebrity who is the pinnacle of body positivity, or a new celebrity mom who "bounced back" in a week thanks to trainers and professional chefs and whoever else she has helping her, I'm not interesting in hearing about how I "look like them." I'm not those women.
Rule 7: Don't Make A Mental Note Of How Much Food I'm Eating
I will eat whatever it is I feel like eating, and without so much as a car as to anyone's judgement on the matter. So, if attention begins to wander to my nachos or pouchy post-birth belly or whatever, you'll get the side-eye and I won't feel sorry about it. Just let me do me and you do you. Deal?
Talking about weight to anyone is a tricky line. You have to be sensitive to the person's needs and realize it's not your place to say anything at all, or make them feel like they're failing at life because of an arbitrary number on a scale. I want to raise my children to have healthy body images and not to shame or judge others based on how they look. I know this starts with me accepting me, no matter what stage of weight I'm in and, truthfully, I'm still working on it. But knowing what to work on is half the battle, right?