The Truth About Our Postpartum Bodies Is Sometimes Shocking

BreastfeedingAmanda Hirsch is a blogger and writer who has published a book on motherhood called Feeling My Way: Finding Motherhood Without Losing Myself. It's the kind of book that every new mom should be reading and Hirsch has a blog, to boot.

In honor of Mother's Day, she has shared one of her favorite posts with The Stir. Please see below:

NOTE: I realize I've probably opened myself up to some unsavory traffic by writing about my boobs, but I couldn't write about new-mom-body-image without mentioning them; so -- if you're only reading this because it came up in a search for "boobs," I'm sorry to disappoint you, there are no pictures or exciting descriptions here. Unless you find descriptions of spit-up exciting. In which case, you're worse than I thought.



Motherhood isn't a glamorous business.

I just walked into the bathroom and thought, "Ugh, what's that horrible smell?" Then I realized it was me, thanks to the spit-up cascading down my shoulder onto my arm.

Madam, what's that scent you're wearing? Ah, yes -- eau de spit-up.

Losing the Baby Weight

Everyone comments on my baby's adorable rolls of fat. They are kind enough to refrain from commenting on my less-adorable rolls.

On good days, during good moments, I take the long view: it takes 9+ months to gain the weight of pregnancy, so it makes sense that it would take that long to lose it.

But then I step into the dressing room of a hip Williamsburg, Brooklyn boutique, and dress after dress won't even fit over my boobs. They say breastfeeding burns a kajillion calories a day (that's a precise figure) but the trade-off is that my boobs weigh a kajillion tons (that one's an estimate). The other day, as we were walking to the movies -- our first foray with a babysitter since Baby was born 3+ months ago -- I turned to Jordan and said, "I finally understand why they call them 'jugs.'"

And then my jugs and I jiggled and galumphed down the lane, atop my jiggly belly, which sits atop my ever-lean-legs. I'm like a top-heavy, pornographic stork.

Hip, hip, hooray!

When I'm feeling more Zen about things, I think: this beautiful body o'mine birthed this beautiful, healthy baby. And aside from some lingering sciatica pain that is slowly driving me insane, I made it through this whole escapade healthy, too. I may not feel glamorous, but I feel feminine, and powerful. I'm able to breastfeed, and Alison -- who's in the 97th percentile for height and weight -- is thriving. Like I said: I'll lose the weight. My body will regain its pre-mommy shape. I'm exercising and eating right (for the most part) and I just need to be patient.

Style Matters

In the meantime, though, my poor maternity clothes are nearly threadbare. The two bras that fit are frankly begging for a day off (no rest for the weary!). Thank god for the cheap nail salon around the corner -- $28 later (when I can make it there, between work and childcare and falling asleep on my feet), my painted nails give me hope that my more glamorous self can still make herself known.

Last week I got a haircut. "I'm thinking of growing it out," I told my stylist, Jane, who I will forever love for giving me the best scalp massage ever when I got my hair cut six days after giving birth. "You know -- it's easier that way. Less maintenance." (I've had short hair for years and am tired of paying for haircuts every 4-6 weeks.)

"Ok," she said, "but don't turn into one of those moms who puts herself on the back burner. Style is still important."

Is it? On the one hand, of course not. Not at all. Not compared to health, or family, or friends, or all the other meaningful things that make the world go 'round.

Don't knock it til you've tried it And yet, maybe prettying ourselves up does matter. I have friends who donate makeup and luxurious lotions to homeless women; my mom gives people a Kiehl's gift basket after they have surgery. These little touches -- while certainly not taking the place of food or shelter or medical care (duh) -- can put a very real spring in a person's step.

Style is about fantasy. And while I'm all in favor of living fully in the real world, I can't find fault with pretty dreams. "Fake it til you make it," they say -- and they are wise. Style lets us present ourselves to the world the way we wish to be seen. It's artifice in service of authenticity. Just like finding the right words lets us express ourselves, finding the right colors and haircuts and fabrics lets us make ourselves known.

I'm thinking of ordering a new v-necked black tshirt from the Gap to replace the one in my drawer that has a wad of old gum stuck to it; oh heck, maybe I'll buy two. It's a long way from the pages of Vogue, but it'll put a spring in my step, for sure.

Were you surprised by aspects of postpartum changes?


Image via planet_oleary/Flickr

Read More >