Beth Loster / Madewell

The Jeans That Saved Me Postpartum

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Let’s be very, very honest about this — pregnancy and childbirth change your body. Regardless of what tabloid headlines about celebrities’ post-baby bodies and Instagram #fitspo posts might tell you, the reality is that your body’s going to look and feel a little different after having kids — which means your clothes will probably look and feel different, too. Luckily, you don’t have to wear your maternity jeans and your partner’s ratty old college sweatshirts forever (unless you want to!). Mom Jeans is Romper’s guide to helping you figure out your postpartum wardrobe during the first few months postpartum and beyond.

After the birth of my daughter, Melby, I spent two days in the hospital in a truly disgusting robe that was only tenuously covering my body, while a barrage of medical professionals asked me impossible questions, like "When did you last feed your daughter?" and "What is her middle name going to be?" Eventually I was able to answer; they took a picture of my husband and me beaming with our newborn glory, and they released me to hobble out to the backseat of my car, where I sat beside this impossibly tiny creature I had grown in my body.

Once home, I pulled the requisite, totally appropriate move of wearing (now laundered) robes and sweatpants for as many hours of the day as possible. When you're sleep-deprived and wearing disposable underwear, pride really goes out the window. I'd put on leggings, a maternity tank top, and some mascara when we had visitors and hoped I looked infinitely more put together than I felt.

Photo courtesy of Beth Loster

I kept my box of pre-baby clothes carefully tucked away in the basement. One day, about a month postpartum, I felt pretty good in my body, so I optimistically extracted the box of clothes from their hiding place. I pulled out my favorite before-Melby jeans — the ones I'd worn when I was sure my body needed so much work, that I had so far to go in my health and fitness journey — and I couldn't even pull them over my thighs.

Anyone who's had a baby knows this was a ridiculous attempt in the first place. Logically I knew my body was healing; organs were literally still shrinking and shifting; body fat needed to exist to supply my body with enough energy for breastfeeding. I'd said from the get go that I wasn't going to try to "get my body back." I understand the premise of reclaiming your body in some form after it existed seemingly only as an incubator for new life. I knew I'd want to exercise intensely again, to let my heart rate get high, to push myself, and, yes, to lose some of the weight I incurred from several months of eating endless boxes of peanut butter Puffins with almond milk. I also knew my body couldn't, shouldn't even, unknow the incredible feat it had just performed.

The experience of growing and birthing a child was not something I wanted to erase from my body's memory. That made me stronger, more resilient, and more powerful than any number of squats I could do.

But I also just wanted to wear some real pants.

I waffled a long time about buying new clothes. I kept lingering on that idea that soon — surely so soon! — my clothes would fit again, and I didn't want to waste money on something I'd only use for a short time. Some of my dresses and tops I could manage, even though they looked less flattering than I'd like, but the infant constantly in my arms made ill-fitting clothes much more forgivable. Jeans you just can't fake though, so I conceded and bought a pair of cheapie jeans. Within hours of wearing them, they'd expanded to seemingly twice their original size and were sagging at the crotch.

My crotch didn't need any more torment. I tolerated them for maybe a week before they made me totally insane, and then donated them.

I kept thinking of my dad's words to me as a child. I was always heavier than felt comfortable; I was always yearning to look like and be someone else. When I fretted about what size I was wearing, my dad would say to me, lovingly, understandingly, "You've got to clothe what you've got." It was his gentle way of acknowledging that I maybe wanted to be different, but insisting that I recognize where I am. Whatever body I am in at any given moment is the body that needs clothes and food and movement for the day. It is the body I can choose to love or reject, but wishing and waiting doesn't change anything.

I took my baby girl to my favorite store — the one where jeans cost over $100. I don't like them because they're expensive, I like them because I know they fit me well, they look good on me, and, thank heavens, they don't sag ten minutes into the day. The woman who just pushed out a baby deserves to feel good about who she is right now, I told myself. For me, that was wearing a pair of pants with a zipper that fit.

Melby cried throughout most of the experience. I took an awkwardly long time in the dressing room, as I attempted to pacify her by hurriedly feeding her behind the curtain. Shopping is no longer glamorous as a mother, but we survived and I left with a new pair of jeans, two sizes bigger than pre-baby.

Photo courtesy of Beth Loster

Melby is seven months old now. I exercise almost daily and eat pretty darn healthy. Still, my wild splurge are the only pants I have that fit. I can't say I'm in love with my body. I get self-conscious and critical. I dream of wearing the clothes, half of which are still in that basement box, that I enjoyed before becoming a mama, but I also recognize that my body has done something amazing.

It created the human I love most in the entire world, the one who now reaches for me and nuzzles me and laughs when I kiss her own sweet rolls at her sides. I don't want anything "back" that existed before now. I want this moment, this girl, and, if it's part of the deal, this body, too, just exactly as it is. This isn't a resignation. I still want to get stronger and feel healthier, whatever that looks like. But if that's slow and it means buying some "mom jeans," then I'm glad I bought the nicest pair I could find.